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This is a discussion of how to design a video website's UI based on a cell phone's features. I personally think that the UI should be based solely on the phone's screen size. A co-worker thinks that phones with more features deserve a more complex UI.

Consider our current design on the iPhone, which the co-worker judges as a weak phone. The channel listing is very simple. You tap a channel to play it full screen. Everything is similar to Youtube's app.

iphone channel listiphone video

The co-worker wants to extend our website to Android phones, which he judges as a phone with superior features. Because Android phones have a multi-threaded operating system, this allows one to play videos inline rather than full screen. The co-worker would like to have the video playing inline with the channel list on the right. This would allow for a a faster channel surfing experience - you can change the channel without stopping the current channel.

android channel

My beef with this Android mockup is that the channel list text must be made smaller to share space with the inline video. I'm worried that the channel surfing experience won't be as easy as the co-worker thinks it will. I suspect people will have to pinch-zoom and pan the screen a lot just to read the channel list text.

The bottom line question is: should video always play fullscreen on cell phones, even if there may be features on the particular phone to allow it to play inline? And by phone, I mean a normal hand sized phone, not any crazy gargantuan phones that are coming out these days.

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This article explains what multu-threading is: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… It is totally unrelated to whether video's can be played back "inline". The iPhone OS and their applications are multi-threaded by nature. How else could it allow you to play music while webbrowsing, allow you to play a video game, or install an app while using another app? –  Bart Gijssens Apr 13 '12 at 7:46

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I don't know how of a background in programming you have, but you might be letting your co-worker throw some (unnecessary) big words at you. Fact: iOS is also multithreading and multitasking, since version 1.0 circa 2007. So is Windows Phone 7. So was Windows Mobile 6.5 before it. And 6, and 5, and 4 before it. It's not a big deal and hasn't been for over a decade.

Whether you can play a video in-line or not has nothing to do with whether the operating system is multi-threaded. It's purely a question of user experience.

The way I see it, screen size should be the only determinant on how video is presented. Playing video in-line on a tablet makes sense because you have spare screen real estate. Doing so on a mobile phone does not sense.

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Are you saying that the iPhone has the ability to display on-page video but nearly every app developers chose not to for usability reasons? –  JoJo Feb 21 '11 at 2:43
2  
From a quick search on Stack Overflow, it looks like the iPad can, but the iPhone cannot; see stackoverflow.com/questions/2334898/…. What I was trying to say is that this is due to a user experience decision by Apple, and not due to any technical limitation. Witness FaceTime, which can play two movies at the same time, in different sizes. –  Hisham Feb 21 '11 at 2:55

Whether to use overview beside detail (OBD) or fullscreen content depends greatly on the user's need. Do they really need to see the playing video while changing channels? What additional value does it bring to see them both at once? Does the channel listing have enough screen real estate to actually be useful on a small screen? Is there still a way to view the video fullscreen? It's never a good reason to do something just while it's possible. At least not UI-wise.


As a side note, in LTR cultures the control flow should normally go from left to right, so the channel listing should be on the left, controlling the contents of the video player on the right. (E.g. on Youtube they got this backwards but I blame it on the interpretation that the list of related videos on the right isn't a "content browser" but only "exit links" to other videos...)

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So what's you're personal opinion? Does the average user want a channel list alongside video on a cell phone? –  JoJo Feb 21 '11 at 2:41

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