The expert’s guide to building an entertainment app

Whether it’s seeking answers, wishing to discover new things or making decisions, today’s consumers turn to their mobile device for help. Their primary source of information is either a quick Google search, the brand’s website, an app or a YouTube video. Among such instances are video-driven micro moments where content ranging from entertainment to how-to videos are watched — either in a specialist app or on YouTube.

In this context, specialist video-on-demand apps from entertainment brands have been on the rise of late. Increased penetration of smartphones and 3G/4G networks and an explosion in content are the driving forces behind these developments.

With over 1500 apps in our portfolio, including several video streaming apps for well-known entertainment brands such as Viacom18, Sony LIV, and dittoTV, we’ve learnt a few things along the way. Here are a few tips that we would love to share:

Design is everything

The dictionary defines design as ‘a plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is made’. In that context this quote is often repeated:

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs

To ensure that the app is designed for a pleasurable viewing experience here are the 9 principles that you must take care of.

  1. While designing your app, condition your mindset to revolve primarily around user experience. Not just business goals.
  2. During your feature brainstorm, arrive at the most important features using process of ‘Knowledge — Understanding — Action’.
  3. While designing UX, focus on familiarity. All your users are already trained to operate apps based on their device’s platform (Android, iOS, or Windows).
  4. Users tend to get confused with multiple controls on a video player panel. Use fewer interactions on the video player to give users an immersive experience.
  5. Maintaining an aspect ratio helps in resizing the video and its contents from a small screen phone, to a tablet and to a desktop.
  6. For users, content is at its heart. While designing the UI, keep decorative elements very subtle. Heavier design elements can either compete or totally overpower your content.
  7. Conduct user testing on every milestone / stage of the app design process.
  8. Crafting the user experience with the mobile first approach will help in deriving the most important and necessary core features, useful to the user.
  9. Integrate the app with analytics to offer personalized curated content based on their interests and usage pattern.

The role of technology

Developing a robust video streaming app means you will have to work with both front-end and back-end elements of development.

Back-end development

It’s the core of the app. Users don’t see it but this is what makes a VoD app usable. A typical video-streaming app would have the following back-end components:

  • CDN — If you want to deliver your multimedia content with minimum latency, choosing a right CDN is key. Factors like cost, features, performance, security and customer support must be taken care of before proceeding further.
  • CMS — CMS is that component of the app using which you manage contents of your app. CMS enables addition, removal and modification of contents without needing any technical expertise.
  • API — API provides interface between server backend and app front-end. APIs can be implemented using SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) or REST (Representational State Transfer) architecture. Most mobile apps use REST APIs with JSON (Java Simple Object Notation) format data. Poorly designed APIs may result in performance issues.

Front-end development

It’s the bridge that connects all the elements of the app. This is where the components of the app are presented and user interaction is enabled. The typical components you would come across while developing a VoD app are:

  • Native vs Hybrid — The apps can be either developed using native SDKs or using a hybrid app development platform. Since entertainment apps require high performance and rich UI/UX you should take the native approach.
  • Video Player — Videos constitute a major part of the content for entertainment apps. Both iOS and Android platforms provide native players supporting the basic streaming capabilities. But based on your app requirements you can also opt for open source players like Exo or third party players like Kaltura.
  • Push notifications — Push notifications provide quickest way to reach your users. Push notifications can be integrated using third party solutions like Amazon SNS or a custom notification system can be built into backend CMS
  • Analytics — Consumers generate ample amount of data while browsing through the mobile app. Based on the data you can customize the content, push notifications, search and other behaviors.
  • Payment Gateways — Based on the platform, you need to figure out the right option to provide the best user experience. Some of the payment gateways like Citrus Pay offer native SDKs to integrate the solution to your app, whereas some like CCAvenue offer endless levels of customization (checkout in native language), which can be really useful in targeting tier II and tier III cities.
  • Beta testing and crash tracking — To ensure that you are developing an app that is loved by the users, you need to hand over your app to beta testers so you can get an external opinion on its features and functionalities.
  • App bundle size — Smartphones have limited amount of storage space and data, which means that as an app developer you should keep your app lean. Do a thorough checkup of your project and remove any unused code that it might contain.

Download a free e-book: The experts guide to developing engaging entertainment apps from here.

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