The Horrendous Design of Streaming Apps

Have you found that streaming apps are a horrible experience? I am not talking about the content — I am talking about the aps that deliver the content.

My wife and I use an Apple TV for watching Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV+. We also use a browser for watching Formula One races, since that is only streamed that way (as far as I know) — and it is one of the worst: last time we watched a race it took me ten minutes to find the live stream page, and so we missed the start! But we have had a terrible experience in all of these apps, without exception. All of them, and all in basically the same ways.

It is like going into a carnival — a carnival with broken rides. It is not the calm experience that I seek. It tends to be highly frustrating, aggravating, and disturbing. Finally when we get to the content we seek, things are great. But getting there is a journey through a fun house.

Things keep moving around: you try to click on something and it suddenly changes and you end up clicking on something else. And these systems are all slow, so backing up is tedious, making every mistake costly and irritating.

Most of these apps default to playing the next episode, but I want to see the list of episodes so that I can choose — because they often guess wrong somehow. I hate it when they guess what I want to do. I want to be in control. Just last night my wife and I tried to watch something and I clicked on the show’s icon and it took us to an episode we had seen.

Even though you are logged in, they often cannot reliably remember what you have seen. That seems pretty basic, but these apps often get it wrong. Even worse, some of them have ambiguous symbols, like a check mark next to an episode and the episode is also underlined, or not. What do these mean?

If you watch an episode in someone else’s account, some apps remove the ability to start watching before that episode. That happened when my wife was visiting her mom, and they watched an episode of The Morning Show. When she came home, it would not let us go back to watch the episode she had already seen.

Sometimes the most recent episode is available in the browser, but not in the Apple TV, forcing me to go get my laptop and plug it into our screen. Really?

Also, the Apple TV needs a keyboard! I end up fingering in characters to search — so tedious! A remote control is not sufficient for a complex app.

But back to the app remembering what we have watched and using that against us, somehow, they can’t keep track of the series that we are currently watching: why don’t those all appear as a list at the top?

Every single app that we use is like this: Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, and Apple TV+. You go into the app, and I would expect the shows that we are watching to be listed right there, but they are not. Instead, there is a confusing array of suggestions. One of them might be a show we watched, but if you click it, it takes you to what they think is the next episode. That is not what I want it to do: I want it to take me to that show’s page — the series. Amazon does that I think, but the others do not. But importantly, they don’t reliably list “your current shows” — instead, they have a jumble of all kinds of things. Some of them are our current shows. We really just want to see the things that we have been watching; if we want suggestions, we want to ask for suggestions — not have them shoved in our face constantly.

The apps are slow like glue. Apple’s in particular — it takes forever to load the list of things they want to show me, while we watch the spinning circle as it accesses Apple’s servers or something.

Do these people use the things they design?

Thank goodness there are no ads — that would be a show stopper. The reason I pay for and use streaming is to avoid ads. To streaming services that are thinking about adding ads: if you add a single ad, I will say goodbye!

But for crying out loud, declutter your interface, and put me back in control. Stop shoving things in my face, with things whizzing by. It is very unsettling and is the very thing that I dislike about cable TV. Don’t become like cable TV!

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