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The Home screen offers the usual — live TV channels and on demand content organized in a grid of icons. The top-level categories (Home, Shows, Movies and Networks) enable users to easily switch between different views of the Home screen. Links to Guide and Search make it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for, if browsing doesn’t suffice.

Overall, the Home screen is utilitarian, but nothing special. Much like with cable TV, users still must sort through a junk pile of mediocre content, albeit with a nicer look and feel. Indeed, these interactive, Internet-based cable services are vastly superior to the user interface found on most cable boxes. Unfortunately, navigating the grid of icons using the Siri remote feels clunky (only in this app) and it’s easy to overshoot categories. Try tapping the Touch surface instead of swiping, however, you may still experience latent UI responsiveness.

The grid of Home screen icons offers content sorted into categories such as What’s On Now, Watchlist, New Shows, Returning Shows, Catch Up, Featured Movies, Kids and other categories. It’s a mashup of live TV and on demand content, with arbitrary and unconventional categories. This seems to be the new way of information architecture for video apps — cute categories with meaningless titles. “Feel good” movies, anyone? You may need one after browsing DIRECTV NOW.

You can relaunch the Home screen by swiping up on the Touch surface, providing quick access to Shows, Movies and Networks. Each of these screens are subsets of the Home screen. Let’s take a look at what they have to offer.

DIRECTV NOW Shows Screen

DIRECTV NOW Shows Screen

The Shows screen offers the ability to browse TV shows organized into indistinct and arbitrary categories that may confuse users. Can we please stop doing this? Categories include Real Competitive, Teen Time, Alternative Animation and Comic Relief. The latter category is a perfect example of what I am talking about. At face value, Comic Relief may seem to be stand up comedy performed at the Comic Relief charity event. The reality is that it’s a hodgepodge of comedy.

These cute, yet ambiguous, categories seem de rigueur these days. What’s wrong with clear, concise categories, such as “stand up comedy” or “sitcom”? What does Real Competitive even mean?!? Unfortunately, you must browse through these ambiguous categories to find what you’re looking for, making it even harder to sift through the garbage pile of contemporary television (the very reason I cancelled cable).

Although DIRECTV NOW is getting the brunt of my criticism, this “clever” categorization scheme is widespread. Apple’s infamous TV app makes full use of the adorable, yet imprecise, category nomenclature. It just makes it even harder to find good television. (continue…)

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