Saturday, February 23, 2008

Terrible Interface of the Week: Redbox

The wife, a friend and I are hanging out at our house this evening, and after watching all the Dirty Jobs on the PVR, and everyone else decided that they hated the Netflix I have, and didn't want to watch my Thai homage to 50s Technicolor. Plus, we needed ice cream. So, off to the Hy-Vee. And the video department is being cleared out. Now there's a Redbox off to the side: Besides being the only rental solution at the store, its something I had never actually used before so I couldn't resist. Home deck is not bad. Big, obvious choices with no gimmickry. So I click the obvious one, the "Rent a DVD" option. The expected screen comes up, with a list of movies... ...and that's it. There's no overall count of movies available, location in the list, search box... wait. There's no search box? Really, they seem to think that the limited selection (I didn't count, but like 50 movies) means they think browsing is enough. But its really no good. And the buttons are so generic, like any bad PINpad. It took me a good 15 seconds to figure out there was a 'next' button. If it was on the side, or had a big arrow maybe it would work. There is a minor ability to sort, but its not that great. There are two small tabs at the top to sort by release date or title (I guess, alpha, the default). They are small, the color highlight is vague (I got it, but a friend read it backwards) and they are hard to hit. You can get above it, so the cursor appears to be on it, but its not activated; that's a serious failure of basic design principles. The tabs are hard to hit at that target size due to the bezel getting in the way and casting a shadow, and the parallax error. Touch alignment isn't perfect. The scrollbar (used a few other places) is just as bad in the same ways. Perhaps my favorite is when you press the "Online Rental Pickup" option: There are clear, animated instructions. Unless you don't want that option. At which point you have to wait for timeout. There is NO back button of any sort. Nothing to get you anywhere else, to a help screen or anything that is available in the rest of the application. You'll note I don't comment on the payment, delivery and return processes. That's because we didn't rent anything. As I said, we were somewhat in the mood to get something to watch, but the inability to actually find anything but top-40 playlist items from the Redbox meant we didn't begin to consider getting anything from there. We actually spent time looking thru the clearance bin (from closing out the store video department) instead. Even not finding something worth buying, that was a more satisfying browsing experience. Aside from the selection, there may be something satisfyingly social about browsing movies on a scale larger than touchscreen. Have to think about that some more.


Anonymous said...

This consumer obviously needs to shop at a facility offering many, many titles. He should go someplace where a salesperson can give him the attention he requires. He is apparently not used to navigating through these electronic options, and requires things like "large arrows" to aid his attempt.
The red box is not for everyone. It wasn't intended to be. It is aimed at a select group of customers who would like to rent a popular movie quickly.
This describes most people who rent movies at grocery stores. They are generally not interested in browsing through hundreds of titles. This is a niche that does not, apparently, include the above shopper. Everybody doesn't shop at QuikTrip. Different people will prefer different things.
I thought that it was incredibly easy to navigate through the choices on the keypad, and it is kept very simple so that more people will feel comfortable with it. As the customer said himself, "There are only about 50 movies". That is why there are not a multitude of navigational options.

shoobe01 said...

Yeah, I like netflix. And have like 800 movies amongst my many queues.

Entirely aside from the small selection, and not being what /I/ usually want, this doesn't seem a good way to communicate or browse through what is available, to anyone, on average.

I am an interaction designer. I've performed and observed plenty of user studies, and seen lots of folks fail on simple tasks. Complaints above are based much less on my personal preference than my perception of how typical users might fail.

Take the list of movies. There aren't many of them. So, why display them like this? Why not a carousel, with a single long horizontally-scrolling list (think iPhone album art) or a text-based vertically-scrolling list, with a "Fisheye" (zooming) interface that reveals the cover and other details when hovered. Or... anything. Paginated views imply arbitrarily long data sets, but are not needed for known-small sets; those can take advantage of other designs more suited to

Every video store I have seen is organized around categorization. I presume there are about 10 comedies, 10 dramas, etc. so a terribly small and easily-scannable number of items in each of these. Impulse rentals would seem to fall even more into the categorization ("a comedy for tonight") so this also seems like something worth investigating.

I don't understand the QuikTrip comment at all.

David @ PostcardPerfect said...

Interesting analysis.

I agree that there is room for improvement - but I don't think I would classify the interface as "terrible".

Things like searching by category, find function, back buttons, etc. appear to have been left out purposely. The whole business model (pricing, policies, etc.) is organized around simplicity. I think this is merely an extension.

shoobe01 said...

I should clarify again. Its my personal blog, so I just post whatever I want; at work I am more careful... The method of discovery annoys me as a poor design decision based on the available dataset. Could be better.

The "terrible" bits are:
- Lack of back behavior from some sections
- Arbitrary arrangement/communication of functions on most screens
- Excessively small target size of some elements (tabs, scrollbars)
- Huge, wildly bad Fitts-law error in not placing edge items actually on the edge of the screen.

If I wasn't in the middle of something else, I might be able to engage my brain enough to challenge the simplicity concept. I sorta feel it might be a service confusing constraints with simplicity. Forget search as an actual requirement, its just what we were expecting to see when confronted with an apparently un-ordered list of box covers. Any number of other discovery methods (or designs presenting the current method) would have solved this.