How you can tell we’re in The Future: it’s now possible for a TV show to have an awful user experience
Another in my series of “comments I was going to post to a specific website, but I’m too lazy to make a new account at said website.”
Today I discovered an independently-made television series called Pioneer One based on a tip from the DailyWTF forums. The first episode is on YouTube, although– fair warning– it has awful audio with a continuous buzz throughout the entire episode. They’re funding it using the Kickstarter method, basically asking for donations for each episode, and they’re up to 4 episodes. This whole thing is actually pretty exciting for a number of reasons, but that’s not what I’m writing this blog post about.
Downloading an episode of Pioneer One is a terrible, terrible user experience. Here’s the post I wrote to stick on their comments:
This download experience is awful. Here’s a few problems:
1) End-users don’t know what to do when the video link downloads a .torrent file. You really need to make it clear that bittorrent is required, other than the little tiny banner at the header of the page, and the unreadable grey-on-grey banner on the top right. I’m sure you get kickbacks from them, but it doesn’t help that bittorrent also tries to install spyware… seriously, it’s 2011! So in addition to this site’s bad user experience, you also suffer from Bittorrent’s own bad user experience.
2) Even knowing it’s a bittorrent doesn’t help, since bittorrent downloads on my connection are about 5 times slower than normal downloads. Uploading and downloading at the same time kills my connection. Since you don’t have any normal downloads available, I’m going to have to wait hours for the three episodes I’m downloading. Amazon S3 costs… about as close to nothing as you can get. Please sign up for it and offer alternate downloads from it.
3) End-users don’t know (and shouldn’t care about) the difference between xvid, theora, and matroska. Fuck, I’m a geek, and I don’t even know or care. Just pick the absolute most popular video format (I presume .mp4, everything plays that from Xbox to iTunes to VLC to Zune) and offer the HD or SD download in it. Then add a note saying “if you have trouble playing, use [program you know works]” in case you encounter the one person in the world who doesn’t have a .mp4 playing program.
4) But seriously, just put a Flash movie player on the page. Again, it’s 2011. There are a dozen Flash video sites that will host this for you, and episode 1 is already on YouTube (albeit with awful audio, and unlisted so you can’t search for it.) Instant gratification is good.
I saw the first episode on YouTube. I came here to download the rest, because of the YouTube audio thing. It was way harder than it had to be.
I’m not surprised that any product made by a person who knows what “Theora” is has poor usability; at this point, poor usability is expected from open source fans. What I’m really surprised about is that it applies even when the product is a TV show and not a piece of software.
Usability is important. Seriously. Fix your website.