Code navigation for digital teletext

Posted on 14 January 2004 in Interactive TV, Television (No comments)

Pretty much ever since it was launched, people have been moaning about the lack of page numbers on digital teletext services like BBCi (press RED now else I'll send Jenson Button round).

Whilst reading one of the latest rants, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my line manager several months ago about shortcut based navigation.

The Issue At Button.

The "problem", for those that don't know, is that digital teletext services generally use a hierarchical, menu-based navigation system, kind of like the web.

On the web of course, you don't have to go through each menu to get where you want - if you know where you're going, you can simply type in the web address, or bookmark it, to speed things up.

Digital teletext services generally don't have this option - with a few exceptions. So everytime you want to use it, you have to start from the beginning and drill down.

On my DTT (or Freeview if you must use the marketting name, it's actually quite fast even if you're working like that, but on older boxes or on satellite, it can be quite a slow process. So the campaigners go, you want page numbers like they have on Ceefax. And indeed Sky Text and Teletext on 4 have both taken this approach.

And A Different Approach?

The idea was to do something a little different. At the minute on Ceefax, Football is page 302. It's a pretty arbitary choice of number - merely a locator in the teletext system. Page 2 on magazine 3.

What if the number was related to the place it was located to? Perhaps using the alpha-numeric keys on the remote?

Think American phone numbers, where numbers are often replaced by letters. We could do the same - so football could be 3668 (or FOOT). You could just tell the user FOOT and they could enter it in.

It's not without its potential flaws - after all, not every section would have one word names. What do you call Sport Headlines or News Headlines that wouldn't conflict (so you couldn't use HEAD) with each other, and that would make sense when you pressed it all out on your remote?

Problems aside, it's an interesting idea. If numbers have no logic, no meaning - why not give them some? Of course it's no good if you want to migrate a new user across from an analogue world, but for a new digital-only service with no learned behaviour.... Well why not?

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