As a designer, I always look at the design of things, especially user interfaces. Recently DirecTV updated their user interface in dramatic fashion. It’s very different than before. I could call it an epic fail, except that I hate that term.
It’s an Epic LEARN.
There is a forum thread on AT&T (who now owns DirecTV) about the “upgrade”. Here are some before and after pictures and analysis.
Ok, the first thing, what do you notice? It should be the contrast ratio. The blue UI is bright and easy to read. The font size is large and the coloring is designed to stand out. In the dark UI, the font is thin and gray and small. Also, the ON states are much harder to see.
The person who designed the dark UI is 25-39 years old. Any older and they would have learned (first hand) that people over 40 can’t see as well as they used to. I see this mistake in designers all of the time. People’s eyes degrade over time and there is a real benefit to clarity and contrast. Way too many designers are trying to make it look pretty rather than make it usable. If you are a designer or product manager, please make “readability” a primary requirement.
The Fade Sucks
Second “learning opportunity” is the giant black fade on the bottom of the screen. It’s hard to see in the screenshots, but it is extremely annoying. It flickers and hurts my eyes and more importantly, it degrades my experience of the thing its covering up. In the example above, why in the world would fading out the last item be helpful? When I am fast forwarding a show I recorded, the fade obscures part of the screen making it harder to understand when to stop forwarding. The fade is poor design. It doesn’t even look pleasing aesthetically.
Related to forwarding a recording, it used to be easy to understand the different states of a recording. There is the current position, but also where the real-time mark is. This is very useful when watching a sporting event a little later than everyone else and you want to understand how much more before you catch up to real-time. In the new UI, its really hard to see that mark.
The UI (to me) feels slower. It seems slower to boot up and slower to navigate. It used to be snappy and now it feels like each click takes forever. This is such a crucial factor in any interface. Speed is a feature. And right now, DirecTV regressed this feature for me.
What to do?
I am so disappointed in DirecTV, I am actually considering cutting the cord in favor of other streaming options or …(shudder) Comcast. I already get (and am happy with) my internet access from them. I will have to research options for cutting the cord.
Designers beware. If you fuck with the experience in a negative way, you will lose customers. You moved my cheese in a major way and made it worse. You will have to live with the consequences. I hope you learn from this experience.