Roku SDK Documentation : Ideal Channel Features

While attraction and retention of users will primarily come from filling your channel with great content, the ability for the user to easily interact with your channel will create a delightful association with your channel and keep the user coming back. Easy interactions go beyond the design of the UI and into features and capabilities. Below is a list of capabilities that users expect and features that will enhance the value of your channel.

Finding Content

  • Browse
    • There are many different ways to organize and present your content. The key is to understand your audience and how they think about your content and how they would want to access it.
    • Your Channel can offer a mix of organizational schemes. For example, one or more of the time sensitive and personal schemes, plus one consistent and predictable scheme as a fallback:
      • Time based (Updated frequently):
        • Showcase or featured (E.g., Curated topics or content, but it must be updated frequently)
        • Time oriented (E.g., New releases, latest episodes, new this week, etc.)
        • Popular or trending (E.g., Algorithm based content)
      • Personal (Updated based on usage):
        • Recommended
        • Recently watched
        • Watchlist
      • Consistent and predictable (Updated based on library changes):
        • Logical or categorical (E.g., Genres)
        • Alphabetical (However, categorical browsing may be better/faster for large libraries)
  • Search
    • If your content library exceeds 200 items, then your Channel should offer users the ability to search for content.
    • Note, on-screen keyboards are tedious to use and so to help make it easier, we recommend:
      • QWERTY key layout which is great for physical keyboards when touch-typing is possible. For on-screen keyboards, an alphabetic arrangement is preferred.
      • Provide search results for every character typed in. So, to minimize typing, users can type until the result they're looking for appears. This implies that your Channel must return results very quickly.
    • Be forgiving with the input search terms
      • Don't force users to key in "The" (E.g., "Walking Dead" should work as well as "The Walking Dead")
      • Capitalization is not necessary
      • Allow users to input any word or part of a phrase in any order (i.e., Don't require the phrase to be input in order - the first word first, etc.)
    • Mixed search results (E.g., Combining movies and TV shows) are fine so long as you provide cues for users to tell items apart.


  • Once users have found a piece of content or finished watching it, make it easier for them to pivot to and find similar or related content.
    • For example, from the details page of a specific:
      • TV episode, make it easy for users to get to all episodes and seasons
      • Piece of content, make it easy for users to get to similar content (i.e., "more like this")
      • Piece of mainstream content, make it easy for users to see the cast and crew and pivot to a specific cast member's filmography
  • Pivoting is a great way to keep users engaged with a topic in which they've already expressed interest.

Content Bookmarking

  • When users find content of interest, provide an easy and fast way for them to find it again.
    • Common features that accomplish this include:
      • Adding an item to a 'watch list'; for episodic content, make it easy to add the TV series, not just a specific episode
      • A list of 'recently watched' items
      • 'Watch next' is great for episodic content (See below)
      • 'Resume watching' is great for unfinished content (See below). However, in order for 'resume watching' to work effectively, 'watch list' and/or 'recently watched' need to be offered as well.

Resuming Video Playback

  • Users may start a video and then stop it before finishing it. Your channel must make it easy for users to easily and quickly:
    • Find this recently watched video again
    • Resume playback from where they left off
    • Restart playback from the beginning of the video (Without having to rewind)
  • Since Roku users tend to own more than one Roku player/TV, it is important that the information needed to support this capability be server-based so that it can be accessed and used regardless of the playback device being used.
  • When resuming playback, be sure to actually start the video a few seconds back from the actual resume point (E.g., 3-5 seconds back). This will help users identify a familiar scene and acknowledge that the system is truly picking up where they left off.

Playing the next logical item

  • For any episodic content or playlist scenario, once the current video finishes, the system should make it super easy to watch the next episode or item in the playlist.
  • Many Channels are seeing an increase in viewing hours and general Channel stickiness when providing this sort of functionality.
  • This is usually done in one of two ways:
    • Auto-play
      • Playlist Scenarios: The Channel automatically begins playback of the next item in the playlist. In such cases, be sure the next video is introduced (E.g., Buffering or loading screen shows video title).
      • Episodic Content Scenarios: The Channel provides information about the next episode to be played and a countdown timer. Users can exit back into the Channel's main UI, or press OK to accept and start playback of the next episode, or do nothing and let the timer expire so playback starts automatically.
    • Play next
      • Content finishes playing and users are returned to the UI and offered an easy way to play the next item.
        • For example, users are returned to that content's details page which offers a simple option to play or go to the next episode, or go to the full list of episodes.
  • If your Channel offers episodic content, then it must show users which episodes have been watched already.
    • Typical solution involves showing a progress bar with each episode
    • Users can see if they have watched an episode completely, partially, or not at all
    • This is an easy manual way for users to see which episode to watch next

BIFs/Trick Mode

  • When users are rewinding, fast-forwarding, or generally trying to move within a video playback, they are effectively doing a search to find that right point to resume watching.
  • Rewinding or fast-forwarding blindly with only a time marker is no longer an adequate solution. Instead, the experience can be incredibly more effective and satisfying as a 'visual search'.
  • To that end, all video navigation must be visual so users can actually see/preview the video they are navigating:

Instant Replay

  • The ability to press a single button and have the system automatically skip back about 5-10 seconds and resume playback is a very convenient and loved feature.
  • Additionally, most use this feature because they did not hear a piece of dialog. Roku's closed-captioning's default setting is to show on instant replay. Activating instant replay enables the user to see/read what they may have not heard.

Simplified transactions

  • Requiring users to supply credit card information during your Channel's set up may cause some users to drop-out.
  • Waiting and asking users to supply credit card information right before a transaction (E.g., Movie rental) is a hurdle many are not willing to jump.
  • Obviously, you would be creating speed-bumps with either route, but there is a more simple and pain-free route for your audience; Roku billing makes it as easy as one-click to set up an account, maximizing the number of users signing up and transacting.