Category: Miscellaneous


Posted by – September 6, 2014

Crunchyroll is, according to their About page, “the leading global video service for Japanese Anime and Asian media.”

Their content is great and they have made some nice deals with the various big-name media companies, giving them the ability to simulcast content and make it available earlier than anyone else.

With that in mind, you’d think they would put some of their money into usability testing…

I’ve been using CR for a few years now now, both via the web and their Roku channel. While the Roku experience, especially, has never been very fluid, the latest changes have been absolutely insane.

Since CR is available on so many different platforms, they are trying to consolidate it all into a single experience. I get that. I don’t agree with it, but I get that. Still, you can’t simply take away features and impose non-intuitive design choices simply because you don’t want to hire the development talent needed to manage multiple code paths…

There are standard ways to make an interface on Roku (see also: Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc.) Unless you are somehow in contact with the spirit of Steve Jobs, don’t try to come up with your own standards.

Here are just a few examples of what I mean:

Old Layout:
* Queue
* History
* Browse Anime
* Browse Drama

Pretty straight-forward.

Once in the Queue, the show’s thumbnail image is displayed along with a symbol denoting if it’s a new episode. Clicking into a show displays all of the available episodes, with the selection defaulted to your next available episode in that series. Once the show starts playing, fast-forwarding shows scene thumbnails so you can easily see how far you are, which allows conveniently skipping the intro theme, recaps, etc.

New Layout:
* Queue
* History

Even more simplified. I’m not sure why History was kept instead of Browse, though. Queue has shows I’m currently watching. Browse lets me find new ones. I can’t think of a single time I’ve needed to go back to an episode I’ve watched months ago, so I could watch it again. But whatever…

Once in the Queue, the thumbnail of the current episode is display, along with a symbol designating it as the latest episode (this is one of the only improvements I’ve noticed). Clicking into the show immediately starts playing the current episode. There is NO option to view the next episode in the series once you’ve finished the one you are on, without closing and reopening the entire app. Fast-forwarding requires holding down the button and only a progress bar is displayed… and since getting it to stop at just the right point is quite difficult, I end up needing to wait for a segment to buffer and start playing before I can decide if I went too far or didn’t go far enough.

The Browse option which was previously part of the main menu has now been tucked away in a hidden menu (why?). The menu choices are listed at the top of the screen, but the Up arrow doesn’t go to it. Instead, you must press the Play button on the remote. Think about that for a moment. You are on an episode. And you hit Play… which doesn’t play the episode. It opens a menu. ….wow. Anyhow, that brings up an on-screen menu giving you a choice between browsing anime, browsing drama, or going back to the main menu. I can’t even begin to fathom why they arranged things like this. Could you imagine Amazon, Netflix, or any of the other streaming video providers not wanting to make it easy to find additional content…?

Lastly, and this is sort of a minor gripe, the Back button works as expected everywhere in the CR channel except on the Home screen. Normally, it would exit the channel and return to the Home screen on Roku. Instead, it does nothing. It doesn’t even tell you that you must hit a separate button to go back to the Roku Home screen. Ugh.

Having to exit and relaunch the app or manually search for a show by name using all sorts of convoluted key-presses just to see more than one episode in my list completely defeats the entire purpose of a Queue. (CR calling it a ‘Queue’ rather than what it really is, ‘Favorites’, is a rant for an entirely different time). I live out of the queue. I almost never browse for new shows until the ones I’ve been watching end. I prefer new simulcasts rather than old shows from the early 90’s. If they at least fix the horrible user-experience for the Queue, I might not be completely satisfied with CR on Roku but at least I won’t be disgusted with it.

Do. Not. Like.

I’m not alone, either. There are around 40-pages worth of user complaints on CR’s forum post about the latest update. And it sure was nice of them to ask for feedback after rolling it out to everyone…

I have cancelled my subscription to their service for now. If the Roku app hasn’t had the major issues fixed by renewal time, I guess I’ll just be spending a bit more time catching up on my Amazon and Hulu episodes instead.

I’m happy to throw money at quality products and services. To have a frustrating experience, though — especially when the previous version of the product was fine — I refuse to spend a single penny on that.

The Bank Who Cried Wolf

Posted by – August 28, 2014

USAA Alert

The design choice for their alerts, however, seems like it has an issue… It’s a shame, too, because USAA has a rather decent design otherwise (as far as banks go, I mean).

Would it really have been that difficult to go with a subtle blue icon when there are no alerts…? I would love it if they changed the icon color (and message bolding) only if there is an urgent alert. It would be much more noticeable that way.

Having a bright red exclamation with ‘Urgent’ written underneath, just to let me know there are no Urgent Messages seems like a really poor design choice.

Since it’s always red and has bold text displayed, I feel like this is simply going to train users not to pay attention to the alert window. If an urgent message every does show up, I doubt it would even get noticed.

Whirlpools Suck

Posted by – July 7, 2014

Toilet Flush

Though I didn’t see it listed in Urban Dictionary, perhaps “Whirlpool” is slang for a website that sucks…

I just went through the hellish process of registering my new appliances on Whirlpool’s website. What a fiasco!

It wouldn’t let me complete the product registration process because it apparently didn’t like Chrome… I mean, it did let me spend a bunch of time filling out info… it just wouldn’t let me submit it… I’ll assume it was something specific to my computer. After all, I can’t imagine a company wouldn’t fully test their site on Chrome, given the 40% browser market share it has these days. After switching to IE, I was able to finish the registration process… but it definitely left with a few annoyances… Maybe it’s just an IT-guy thing, but this stuff bugs me…

First, even though I was signed into a registered account, I was still prompted for my name, address, and email address each time… Even if people don’t add their address when setting up their account, the site at least should be able to pre-fill the name and address, right? Even without that, when I click the “Register another product” link when I’m done filling out that info, there’s no excuse for those fields to all be blank again… That’s just laziness, unless Whirlpool is concerned that my name and location are changing in between mouse-clicks…

Second, the purchase date requires a four-digit year. Are these guys seriously concerned about someone attempting to register something from 1913?!?!? Or maybe they think my dishwasher will still be chugging right along in 3013… Whichever the case, it was annoying…

Lastly, and this was the big one, I bought my appliance at Home Depot… Was that an option in the dropdown? No. Hmm… Ok… But let’s see what choices were available:

  • GIFT
  • OTHER – Builder / Remodeler
  • OTHER – Gift
  • OTHER – Retailer
  • Let me break this down for you… Home Depot has over 2000 locations in every state of the US and is also in Canada, Mexico, China, etc… They aren’t on the list, but some place called “Cowboy Maloney” is?!?!? Granted, they are up to 11 whole locations now… but I still think Home Depot would’ve been a better use of that slot… I don’t have the numbers to look at, but my gut tells me that “Nebraska Furniture” and “Western Auto” aren’t exactly making the same volume of appliance sales as Home Depot, either… But who knows…

    And while we’re on the topic of that list, I noticed “Gift” is listed. Since Whirlpool obviously understands that people may be receiving these appliances as a gift, why does the product registration form require the purchase price and date in order to register an appliance? Shouldn’t it be optional? Or are people just expected to be all, “Hey, thanks for that amazing new stove-top. It must have cost a fortune! You are so generous! Speaking of which… If you had to put a dollar amount on that generosity, what would it be? Oh, and I need to know the date you were generous, too, please…. And that was in 2013…?” Oh, and what’s the difference between “Gift” and “Other – Gift”?

    I just don’t get it…

    A Rift in customer satisfaction

    Posted by – June 14, 2013

    Trion Prophecy

    Trion Worlds recently made a post alerting players that their MMORPG game “Rift” had transitioned away from the old subscription-based model and would now be free-to-play.

    I hadn’t logged into my account for years, but I decided it might be worth checking out. After logging in, I was faced with a screen saying that — for my protection — my old security questions had been removed and I’d need to change my password due to changes in complexity rules.

    First off, my original password already met the new complexity rules, so I wasn’t pleased when I was forced to change it anyway.

    Next, I was greeted with the following list of Security Question choices:

  • What was your favorite childhood toy?
  • What was your childhood nickname?
  • Where did you and your significant other first meet?
  • Who was your first employer?
  • What was the name of the place you purchased your first car?
  • What was the name of the hospital your first child was born in?
  • What is the middle name of your youngest child?
  • Your oldest cousin’s first and last name?
  • Where did your mother and father meet?
  • What was the name of your first stuffed animal?
  • If you could change your name, what would you change it to? (First and Last Name)
  • Who are you secretly in love with? (First and Last Name)
  • Your Movie Star Name (Childhood Pet Name + Childhood Street Name)
  • Your Alternate Universe Name (Significant Other’s First Name + Childhood Best Friend’s Last Name)
  • Your Fantasy Name (Movie/Book Character First Name + Childhood Street Name)
  • I don’t even know where to begin! So I might as well just start narrowing down my options.

    Favorite toy? Maybe I’m a bit of an odd-ball, but I don’t really recall having one. I was the type of kid who spent him time playing with the taking-apart of household items to see how they worked. I mean, I guess I could answer “screwdriver” for this one, but that just seems kind of odd… and I might not remember it next time.

    Childhood nickname? While I didn’t have one when I was growing up, maybe the other Rift’s players might. Even so, I’m sure most of them were used to make fun of the person’s weight, acne, glasses, braces, lack of skills with the opposite-sex (or presumed skills with the same-sex), and that sort of thing. Whatever the nickname, it probably isn’t something people want listed on their account…

    For the name of the place I purchased my first car, I have no idea what that even means. Like the name of the dealership? Who freakin’ remembers that sort of thing?!?!? A better question might simply have asked the make/model of the first car or maybe the year of it. At least I’d have a better chance of knowing/remembering the answer.

    For the first-born and youngest child questions, I have no kids… so I obviously have no answer for that.

    I guess I could choose the question about the oldest cousin, but not only does it require listing out my cousins and remembering their ages, but what about her last name? It changed when she got married. But I think she got divorced a year or two ago… So do I choose her maiden name? And, if I do, will I remember that I chose it later?

    Where my mother and father met is even more obscure than the car dealership question. At least I was around when the car was bought! Seriously, though, who actually knows where their parents met?

    Again, maybe I’m a bit of a weirdo, but I never named my stuffed animals when I was younger… and I certainly wouldn’t know the name of my first stuffed animal.

    I also neither have any sort of name-changing ideas nor do I have anyone I’m secretly in love with. And how are these even considered security questions? Let’s say you put in the name of someone who you are secretly in love with…. Great. But what happens in a year, two years, etc. when you’ve long-since moved on? When I was younger, I’d fall for a new girl pretty much every other week (or at least it probably seemed like it to others). They might as well ask the security question of “What did you have for breakfast this morning?” The general rule of security questions is that they should be based on the past — not the present or the future.

    As for the movie star, alternate universe, and fantasy names… That’s just asking way too much. It’s not cute, funny, or clever. It’s trivial, pedantic, and insulting. they also go back to my earlier point… A person’s “significant other” can change over time, which makes it a poor choice for use in a security question. Similarly, asking the first name of a movie/book character or a childhood street name isn’t specific enough… The character or street name that pops into my head today might not be the same as what I think of tomorrow.

    So… that leaves me with:

  • Where did you and your significant other first meet?
  • Who was your first employer?
  • Wow. Lots of options…

    I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t meet my significant other at my first job, though, or I’d really be screwed. They don’t allow the same answer to be used for multiple questions (why?).

    I really can’t understand why Trion — or any company, for that matter — would choose to shoot itself in the foot with such horrible security questions (and seemingly pointless rules, like those preventing shared answers).

    It adds a layer of unnecessary frustration into the user experience. When people have an issue and need to talk to Trion’s customer support staff, the last thing they need to hear is, “Ok, you have confirmed your childhood nickname was ‘Four-Eyed-Fatty’, but I’m going to need your Movie Star Name before we can continue….”


    Posted by – April 29, 2012

    I’m teaching myself C# (again). Learning another language can get frustrating sometimes.

    Going from the “Well, I know how to do it in the other language!” stage to “Oh, that’s right… I remember” part still takes a bit of time, but at least I’m going from VB.NET to C#.NET, so it wasn’t that different.

    Having a goal in mind definitely helped.

    My motivation behind picking up C# was pretty straight-forward… There was a poorly written plugin for PlayOn for Roku that I wanted to make my own version of. I mean, if an app’s going to scrape a website for free episodes of tv shows, it should at least do a good job of it! 😉 All of the examples I found were in C#… so I just sort of went with it…

    I made a lot of progress with my plugin and got over a lot of the initial hurdles that held me back last time. Most of it just required my getting used to the syntax differences from VB.NET. I can’t say I’m in love with the language, but I certainly don’t hate it anymore.

    The plugin is still a work in progress, mostly due to copyright protected media streams… but I like a challenge. I’ve decided to hold off until the next API release is pushed out (currently in Beta) because it should have better support for what I want to do.

    While the plugin is on hold, I’m teaching someone who has never do ANY programming to make some simple apps in C#. I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes.

    Not only does it help give me an excuse to brush up on my understanding of C#, but it’s fun being there to see those “Ah-hah!” moments when the person realizes that pretty much anything can be built (within reason, of course) and all it takes is effort and a bit of ingenuity.