Many televisions on sale today claim to be smart, but are they any easier to use? Although they may come with all sorts of options for connectivity and applications, they may also be confusing to consumers or unnecessarily difficult to navigate. So which ones are best in class? A new initiative aims to benchmark the usability of connected television devices and displays.

The main selling proposition of YouView, the latest connected television platform launched in the United Kingdom, seems to be that its digital video recorder is exceptionally easy to use, seamlessly linking broadcast channels with programmes delivered over broadband.

The irony is that it may well be used with a television that offers its own smart features and has its own remote control, navigation model and interactive applications. The same is true of other service provider platforms. The display user interface is competing with the platform user interface for attention and control.

Without one device or display that can do everything consumers want from their television, the overall user experience will inevitably be compromised.

A regular complaint that informitv hears about so-called smart televisions is that they are often awkward to use, which is the antithesis of what viewers expect from television. Many express a hope that someone like Apple will come along and redefine the television user experience, much as they have done with the smartphone and tablet.

Farncombe, a specialist digital television technology consultancy, is developing a range of tests to assesses the most common user journeys on connected television devices, the types of feature that improve usability, and poor user experience design practices that are best avoided.

The consultancy will combine its experience in technical compliance testing with that of its interface design practice WeAreAka. It plans to publish the results of initial tests in a new industry monitor provisionally titled The Connected TV Usability Index.

The aim to is to establish a benchmark for the connected television industry and consumers, by regularly reporting which connected television devices are “best in class” for a particular usability category. The first manufacturers are already signed up and Farncombe is seeking others to become involved in the programme at no cost.