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It’s better if people can drill down into a user interface featuring a well-organized hierarchy of screens. This is not the case with Hulu. It seems to have been designed by people with little experience with tvOS or user interfaces, for that matter. It’s hard to find good people in tech these days. Anyone working in non-coding aspects of technology tends to be woefully ignorant of technology as a whole. In a tighter job market, you often find people who write front-end code displaced into UI/UX design. They tend to be more aware of the capabilities of differing platforms and how to optimize user interfaces.
The funniest thing about the user interface is how they indicate selections with a line above the text. This is ridiculously unintuitive. Did they usability test this? If so, how could this get past usability? This design choice constantly confuses me, but they have applied it everywhere in the Hulu universe, including commercials and their website. Thinking different can be a good thing when it doesn’t involve negating conventions to the point of being unintuitive.
Unfortunately, Hulu had to do something, as Apple’s UI conventions are problematic, at least for Apple TV. By default, most tvOS apps don’t show that an element is selected. Sometimes the selected element is imperceptibly bigger. You usually have to rotate your thumb on the Touch surface, which does a 3D rotation of the object on the screen. Apple thought this was so cool when they introduced this at the keynote. I did too. Then I bought an Apple TV and reality set in. It’s really hard to tell which item has the focus on most tvOS apps. You have to rotate your thumb to tell where you are. They could have done this so many ways, but they chose a novel approach.
App developers have had to overcome this deficiency in tvOS and create their own user interface classes, instead of using the stock ones from tvOS APIs. For example, the new YouTube app indicates selected videos by animating them with previews. That’s very innovative, useful and intuitive. Hulu decided to do “overlining”, which is the opposite of underlining. It’s not even a word, because no one would do it in the first place. My mind keeps telling me that the item above is selected, because I am used to underlining. I’m not too old of a dog to learn new tricks, but there’s decades of conditioning to overcome. “Overlining” was not a smart choice.
Overall, Hulu’s live TV service is worth trying. I strongly recommend going for the free trial. That said, as it stands now, most people will probably cancel the service. Digital cable is still the best option for most households. In time, Hulu will get better. Not all of the deficiencies are their fault. Viacom is throwing a monkey wrench into all streaming services until they can figure out how to stream video themselves. They are currently testing their own platform. This isn’t rocket science, and streaming video is over 20 years old now. Viacom is big and inept enough to keep the future of television out of the reach of consumers. Hulu and other TV providers are in a difficult situation. The technology is here and has been for some time. We’re all just waiting for Viacom…
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