Understandable, you may say. After all, the TV screen is basically something that is viewed -- mostly, but not always -- in full-screen video mode, and almost always without the requirement to actually do anything.
But of course, all this is beginning to change. We now have interfaces on our TV that we are meant to use, not merely view. Indeed, with many of these, it is critical to the success of the company providing that interface and the associated service that interaction occurs as frequently as possible.
It started with the advent of interactive program guides, and has now progressed through pay-per-view services to interfaces on DVRs and the various VOD offerings now available.
While various initiatives have been undertaken by industry bodies such as CTAM to determine some degree of uniformity of things such as nomenclature and iconography, usability testing itself remains in its infancy in the TV market, often done too late in the process to be of serious value before an application is launched, only to inform the first redesign (maybe).
In addition to the content-related services and menus, there is a patchwork of interactive applications that make additional advertising information available to viewers, should they be sufficiently motivated and if the call to action strikes a chord. Which in turn raises the question: how usable will your interactively enabled ads be? Although we are familiar with the concept of copy testing in advertising through long experience, the whole question of how advertising works in terms of its pure design and functionality is something we have yet to come to grips with.
It will, however, become an inevitable -- and to many, unwelcome -- part of the advertising production process. And it won't be any good claiming there is no time to fit it into already tight production schedules. Time will have to be made. As anyone with any experience of interface usability testing knows, the interface is the brand. If your brand gives me a poor user experience as a result of design that is not sufficiently intuitive, then I've just had a negative brand experience. And if you accept that experiential marketing has any validity at all, you'll understand why that isn't a good use of the ad budget.
Of course the upside is, a positive user experience that reinforces or exceeds the expectations set up by the call to action has the potential to pay back the kind of dividends any advertiser wants -- positive brand impact, enhanced recall, data capture, etc.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the world of TV advertising will not be waiting to embrace the cold, hard discipline of usability as readily at it will ultimately embrace the creative potential of interactivity. Which is a pity, as in this context, the only purpose of usability testing is to make good creative great.