Navigation for TV

TV devices provide a limited set of navigation controls for apps. Creating an effective navigation scheme for your TV app depends on understanding these limited controls and the limits of users' perception while operating your app. As you build your Android app for TVs, you should pay special attention to how the user actually navigates around your app when using remote control buttons instead of a touch screen.

This guide shows you how to build an effective navigation scheme for your TV app.

D-pad Navigation

On a TV device, users navigate with controls on a remote control device, using either a directional pad (D-pad) or arrow keys. This type of control limits movement to up, down, left, and right. To build a great TV-optimized app, you must provide a navigation scheme where the user can quickly learn how to navigate your app using these limited controls.

Follow these guidelines to build a navigation system that works well with a D-pad on a TV device:

  • Ensure that the D-pad can navigate to all the visible controls on the screen.
  • For scrolling lists with focus, D-pad up/down keys scroll the list, and the Enter key selects an item in the list. Ensure that users can select an element in the list and that the list still scrolls when an element is selected.
  • Ensure that movement between controls is straightforward and predictable.

The Android framework handles directional navigation between layout elements automatically, so you typically do not need to do anything extra for your app. However, you should thoroughly test navigation with a D-pad control to discover any navigation problems. If you discover that your screen layout makes navigation difficult, or if you want users to move through the layout in a specific way, you can set up explicit directional navigation for your controls. The following code sample shows how to define the next control to receive focus for a TextView layout object:

<TextView android:id="@+id/Category1"

The following table lists all of the available navigation attributes for Android user interface widgets:

Attribute Function
nextFocusDown Defines the next view to receive focus when the user navigates down.
nextFocusLeft Defines the next view to receive focus when the user navigates left.
nextFocusRight Defines the next view to receive focus when the user navigates right.
nextFocusUp Defines the next view to receive focus when the user navigates up.

To use one of these explicit navigation attributes, set the value to the ID (android:id value) of another widget in the layout. You should set up the navigation order as a loop, so that the last control directs focus back to the first one.

Note: You should only use these attributes to modify the navigation order if the default order that the system applies does not work well.

Focus and Selection

The success of a navigation scheme on TV devices is strongly dependent on how easy it is for a user to determine what user interface element is in focus on screen. If you do not provide clear indications of what is in focus on screen (and therefore what item they can take action on), users can quickly become frustrated and exit your app. By the same token, it is important to always have an item in focus that a user can take action on immediately after your app starts, and any time your app is not playing content.

Your app layout and implementation should use color, size, animation, or a combination of these attributes to help users easily determine what actions they can take next. Use a uniform scheme for indicating focus across your application.

Android provides Drawable State List Resources to implement highlights for selected and focused controls. The following code example demonstrates how to indicate selection of a button object:

<!-- res/drawable/button.xml -->
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<selector xmlns:android="">
    <item android:state_pressed="true"
          android:drawable="@drawable/button_pressed" /> <!-- pressed -->
    <item android:state_focused="true"
          android:drawable="@drawable/button_focused" /> <!-- focused -->
    <item android:state_hovered="true"
          android:drawable="@drawable/button_focused" /> <!-- hovered -->
    <item android:drawable="@drawable/button_normal" /> <!-- default -->

This layout XML applies the above state list drawable to a Button:

    android:background="@drawable/button" />

Make sure to provide sufficient padding within the focusable and selectable controls so that the highlights around them are clearly visible.