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The NW blog

Beyond the datasheet: The importance of a user-friendly IP camera web interface

October 11th, 2017 by Nathan Mount

importance of a user-friendly IP camera web interface

In the competitive IP camera market, manufacturers are always looking for ways to stand out from the crowd. With the clear majority already being able to deliver cameras in the highest resolution, an increased focus has been put on making improvements in other areas, such as camera-based video analytics, compression technology and low-light imagery. However, one area that we find proves to repeatedly be an issue for our customers is the usability of the cameras web interface..

Due to our vast experience serving different types of customers in multiple industries we know that the quality & flexibility of the web interface is still a crucial area to consider. So, to give you a better understanding of what you can expect from the web interface when you come to choose your IP camera, we have picked out four well-known brands to give you a short review of the experience. We have focused on how easy it was to use and navigate the different interfaces, the features available and how compatible they are with the current leading web browsers.

Axis Communications

Axis has set out to make the process of installing and configuring IP cameras as simple as possible, and this is evident through their web interface. Using a clean and straightforward design, you are provided with a live feed from the camera and a selection of options that cover features such as image output, stream setup and event settings.

When making adjustments to the camera settings, you are able to take advantage of handy sliders that make the whole setup process much more fluid. Plus, by having a constant live feed available as these adjustments are made, you can see how your changes are affecting your camera in real time.

Other notable features include: full remote Pan, Tilt and Zoom control for PTZ units, customisable privacy masks, H.264 support for live and recorded video (plug-in free) and video playback from the mounted SD card or connected NVR unit. By consolidating these features into 9 clearly labelled tabs, navigating through the interface is a breeze and allows you to make all changes in a single window.

Axis recommend that you use either Chrome or Mozilla Firefox when accessing the web interface, but it will also work on all other leading browsers such as Internet Explorer (11 or higher), Microsoft Edge and Safari. The interface is also mobile ready and fully responsive on all modern smart phones and tablets – great for when you require access ‘on the go’.

To see the web interface in action why not check out this short video from Axis:-


Sony

Opting for a simplistic design, Sony have organised features into three separate sections: live view, video playback and settings. This is a theme that continues throughout with Sony ensuring that all available options are placed in their own separate tabs – making them easier to find.

This approach is not without its problems. While navigating through the interface is an overall easy process, sections such as ‘Picture’ include many more fields than others and will require a lot of scrolling to be able to edit every option. On the other hand, sections like “Superimpose” only features one option, where it would have probably been more suitable being included in other sections.

Sony’s web interface gives you full control over the camera, with options such as image output, PTZ controls, event scheduling and audio settings. Overall using the system is a mostly pleasant experience; however, inconsistencies such as live feeds only being available on certain pages shows a lack in thought from Sony in regards to a user-friendly design. Sony also provide an easy to use video playback feature that lets you search for recordings between specific dates for viewing and to download to backup drives.

Regarding accessing the interface, Sony suggest that you use either Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox. Google Chrome is not currently supported.

Hikvision

Hikvision’s web interface mimics that of a standard website, with a main navigation bar at the top and a category list down the left-hand side. It’s use of whites and greys is easy on the eyes (if not a bit drab) but the small icons placed alongside each section is a nice touch.

Navigating the interface is relatively straightforward and it is easy to find what you are looking for. To keep the page from becoming too cluttered, Hikvision have split up each section into multiple tabs. This is an ideal way to keep the web pages clean; but in scenarios where there are lots of settings to change, it can become confusing when navigating back and forth.

Adopting a dropdown box system for initial camera setup helps to easily guide you through this process – providing only applicable options and limiting the amount of text input. When making changes to the camera image, a live feed is available which updates in real-time – albeit with a bit of a delay. Along with a host of other features such as smart-event scheduling and privacy masking, this web interface also has video playback with the option to download footage – handy for quick evidence gathering.

Hikvision strongly recommends that you stick to Internet Explorer when trying to access their cameras – allowing you to benefit from the full range of features that are available. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox (version 55.0.3 and above) are not currently supported. We see this being something Hikvision is going to have to change as other manufacturers offer support for many more major browsers.

Samsung Wisenet

Samsung Wisenet split their options into 3 separate large tabs, monitoring, playback and setup. Both the monitoring and playback sections use the same design with dark colours and minimal options, but lacks consistency as when you click setup the whole page layout changes.

The navigation menu consists of 5 expandable tabs and is fairly useable, but the settings on each page seem jumbled and out of place. It’s easy to get lost and it can be confusing when trying to determine how each setting will affect the camera. When making any changes to the camera settings you must edit and save multiple pre-sets. These pre-sets must then be assigned to each different profile – you can understand how issues can easily arise from this.

For scheduling edge recording and event capture, such as motion detection, Samsung use a colour coding system. For example, any motion capture is highlighted in blue on the timeline, so when you review footage you will be able to easily identify specific recordings. Video playback is available but if you wish to back up the footage to your hard drive will need to download additional software.

Samsung recommends that you only use Internet Explorer to access its cameras. While you can still use other browsers, you will find that certain features will not be available such as video playback on Google Chrome.

Kevin Bowyer – Technical Director at NW Systems Group

Kevin Bowyer

As technology and web browsers become more and more ubiquitous for managing the tools and services we use in our lives, the importance of having an easy-to-use interface is hard to underestimate. Even in CCTV systems browser-based access is important – over and above software-based configuration utilities – since, as we see every day, our customer base prefer configuring and maintaining their systems through the tool they are most used to using – the browser.

IP cameras comprise many technical concepts and proprietary terminologies so focusing on those manufacturers which provide access to the technical capabilities of a product in a clear, simple and mature manner is vital. Interfaces should ‘just work’ and we see this maturity manifest in Axis products most of all.


Final thoughts

Axis is the clear stand out when it comes user-friendly software interface. Axis’ clean and fluid design gives it an edge that makes us feel confident that even users with little prior experience will be able to get their camera up and running in no time. Plus if problems do arise, Axis also has great support documentation to help you through – something we can’t always say for other brands.

Crucially, the Axis camera web interface is the only one detailed above that provides an adequate experience outside of Internet Explorer. This often proves particularly important for installations numbering 5-10 cameras or less where edge storage, motion driven email alerts and access from non-windows devices is often required.

If you do need technical assistance with one of the manufactures mentioned in this blog or with any found on our store, then please contact us for free technical advice.

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