The British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust (BSLBT) commissions TV programmes made in British Sign Language (BSL) by Deaf people for Deaf people.
BSLBT has an extensive catalogue of programmes accessible via their website, but they wanted to provide their users with more ways to access their content.
Blue Frontier were asked to create a mobile app suitable for both phone and tablet devices that would provide users with access to all ‘BSL Zone’ content. In particular, they wanted to offer offline viewing capabilities and downloadable programmes.
The app has to cater to a range of age groups, with a variety of interests from Children’s shows, to Sports and Documentaries. Therefore, simplicity needed to be at its core, maintaining a consistent experience for all users.
The app was built to reflect the existing brand guidelines with extra emphasis on to the placement of interactive elements while maintaining established interface metaphors. The existing website has a strong colour contrast to aid readability and this is maintained across the app, also ensuring that flat design and monochromatic icons are utilised to indicate relevant ‘call to actions’.
The BSL Zone app runs on both iOS and Android platforms and is optimised to all screen sizes. The app supports landscape orientation on tablet devices with a content adapting to maximize screen real estate.
We built the app to work with the current BSLBT site’s content management system (CMS). This ensured that it utilised all existing programme information and categorisation.
The client wanted easy to use navigation so that it was accessible to more people with different ranges of ability. Upon downloading the app, no prior experience of app use is needed to begin watching content. You can begin playing a video in two taps of the screen. The most popular videos feature on the banner of the homepage, while the rest of homepage lists by category. Moreover, users can easily access ‘Recently Watched’, ‘Downloads’ and ‘Favourites’ from the menu. It also has the capability for users to download programmes which would then be retained on the device for 28 days.
The video player’s interface also makes the Subtitles button clearly accessible for users that want an alternative to sign language, or who want to watch it with family and friends who may not be fluent in BSL.
All videos are accessible via WiFi, 3G and 4G and, to compensate for poor internet connectivity, users can download their favourite videos and they will be stored on their phone for 28 days.
Programme and content information is retrieved from the server on app load (assuming that there is an available internet connection), and this is cached locally to ensure that the app responds promptly even without an active connection.
The download or streaming of programme content is solely dependent on the user’s connection speed, but as programmes can be downloaded and stored for local playback, a connection is not needed for subsequent playback.
Video playback is also optimised and makes full use of phones or tablets hardware with a ‘half speed’ playback option (if the device permits) to increase the readability of signed content.
A clean UI, and easy UX were key to the success of the App. Blue Frontier quickly got on board with these aspects and demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of the brief, following the design accurately. The App was produced on budget, to specification, and the initial user feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. With additional features and functionality in the pipeline, the UX is set to be further enhanced in the coming months.Richard Tidmarsh