5 Ways to Improve the iPlayer

iPlayer LogoI wrote up a review on the BBC’s iPlayer a few days ago. I admit that I took a fairly negative standpoint, but didn’t provide any real suggestions for improvement. At this point I’d also like to point out that I admire the BBC for what they are attempting, the UK has been behind the times when it comes to online content delivery for some time, especially when it comes to video and the BBC. I just think that the implementation they have produced leaves a lot to be desired. So here I present my top five ways to improve the iPlayer.

  1. OSX Box with a red cross through itOpen it up – Yes, this is the obvious one but I’d be negligent if I didn’t point it out. Of course, you could argue the BBC is being negligent by making it an issue in the first place, and that’s an argument I’d throw my weight behind. It is such a shame that the iPlayer is Windows only, it really is. The BBC had the opportunity to take the moral high ground on this issue but didn’t. I’m also worried that the noises currently coming out the BBC on this issue, aren’t entirely positive. Certain sources are saying the aim is to get a version out for OSX and Linux in six months, this isn’t the case. The only official word says there are six monthly reviews. There’s a big difference there. It’s also worth bearing in mind the amount of time it took to get the Windows version up and running, a full two years.
  2. Simplify (or remove) the DRM – I am willing to accept that DRM may be a necessary evil. I personally think the current implementation of DRM is way off the mark, not just for the iPlayer but across the entire industry. Unfortunately, vendors saw that they could lock content down tighter than ever before and went over board. How they can justify putting putting more constraints on a downloaded file than there is on a CD is absurd and deeply flawed. The BBC’s iPlayer DRM is flawed for a completely different reason. It’s utterly confusing. You have multiple expiry periods to deal with, that change when certain actions occur. I know DRM and it confuses me, the non tech savvy are going to have an uphill struggle trying to understand it.
  3. Single Sign-On – Quite why the BBC force you to link your iPlayer account to a BBC.co.uk login, and then make you sign on twice is beyond me. Is the technological challenge of only allowing certain BBC.co.uk account holders access to the iPlayer insurmountable? Despite the fact that many other sites have segregated areas for certain users (e.g. pro areas). Not only do you have to sign on twice, but you also have to complete the forms to create the accounts and remember the logon details.
  4. Better, more consistent interface – I’m really over the whole “three windows just to watch a video” thing with the iPlayer. For me, it’s a complete failure in interface design. Considering every page is essentially a web page with various embedded objects, why do you need three separate windows?  A start would be giving users working links to easily navigate between the pages. Forget about all the fancy gradients and Web 2.0 colour schemes, why didn’t they spend any time actually thinking about usability?  Although the BBC just generally seems to be more about style than substance these days.
  5. A Full Screen Capture of an iPlayer videoOffer streaming – What year is it?  2002?  We all have broadband and companies seem to have the technology to send us content of a decent quality quickly, see Joost, so why can’t the BBC?  Considering the vast resources and piles of money extracted from the British public, streaming is the least they could do.  I don’t like having to wait for shows to download before watching them, I don’t like having to plan my viewing an hour before I actually do it,  it really defeats the purpose of delivering content over the internet.

I can think of quite a few other failings of the iPlayer, and other sources have also been fairly critical of it.  And rightfully so.  Those of us located in the UK are forced to fund the iPlayer through out license fee, they could have at least delivered something decent and at the very least, something that can be accessed by all computer users.  Can you imagine the uproar if the BBC suddenly announced their TV channels would only work on Sony TVs?

Have you been “lucky” enough to get in on the iPlayer beta?  What are your thoughts?  How could they improve it?  Drop a note in the comments.