Redesigning its TV apps helped Hulu to grow viewing time by 30 percent

If you needed any more proof that design matters, take this: Last year’s redesign of the Hulu Plus app for smart TVs and connected devices resulted in an increase of over 30% in average minutes viewed on each of those devices, Hulu representatives recently told me at CES 2014 in Las Vegas.

Hulu started to revamp its connected TV apps last spring, rolling out the new UI on Roku boxes and the Wii U in May, and then bringing it to Samsung smart TVs and Blu-ray players in June. The new design introduced a number of so-called “trays” that correspond to the ways Hulu Plus presents its content on its mobile apps, and also offer easier access to the shows users regularly watch.

Growth numbers like these fit well in Hulu’s strategy to emphasize its paid Hulu Plus offering. The company surpassed five million paying subscribers in 2013, and the ability to view TV shows on the living room TV set is one of the main reasons why people subscribe to Hulu Plus. Half of all Hulu content is viewed in the living room, I was told by the company. At the end of 2012, that number was still at 30 percent.

At Gigaom, we have long believed that design is becoming a make-it-or-break-it factor as products and services go digital. It’s the reason we launched our Roadmap design conference, and it’s also why we have been reporting quite a bit about the challenges and opportunities in designing apps and experiences for TVs. As those experiences are being refined, I fully expect to hear more of these kinds of success stories.

If you’re interested in smart TV app design, check out the Making TVs smart article series I wrote a few months ago, and watch one of the videos I shot for that series below: [youtube=]