Kevin Cheng  

Keeping it Real

January 9th, 2004 by Kevin Cheng :: see related comic

When your user experience is so bad that you have to apologize for it, you know you really struck a bad chord. I remember installing RealNetwork’s Real One player two years ago when it was first released. The installation experience permanently scarred me to the point that, whenever I saw a RealVideo format file, I would either curl up into a fetal position and suck my thumb or burst out in an irrational fit of rage, frothing at the mouth like a zombie in 28 Days Later.

We all experience bad interfaces every day but Real One was the first to boil me over beyond frustration into actual anger. Ever step of the installation was adding more fuel to the fire. For those that have been spared from ever going through the experience, I will try to recall what parts have escaped my memory blocks.During the installation of Real One, each step is like a minefield of offers to take over your computer. Statistics tracking, toolbars, desktop icons, start menu, taskbar menu, system tray, additional software, newsletters, media channels … the list goes on and on. After the third screen or so, when you’re completely fed up with telling them to get off your back, they show you a nice list of unchecked options for even more newsletters and other junk. The astute installer would notice that a scrollbar takes you to even more options beyond immediate view. When you scroll down, you get to see a handful of options that are checked. That was probably the point where I felt like RealNetworks was truly being deceitful and evil.

RealNetworks claims to have seen the error of their ways. What amazes me is that it took two years to do anything about it. It wasn’t as if the player itself was bad, just their installation process. When I install a program, especially one like Real One, I am probably installing it as a result of needing to view a RealMedia file at that very moment. The last thing I need is a huge barrier blocking me from watching the video or listening to the audio stream. All RealNetworks had to do was streamline their installer, not release a brand new player, and many people would have been appeased.

They illustrate a great example of not designing for the highest probable use case: user is at a website, sees a trailer or audio stream which they wish to view but require the Real One (or RealPlayer 10) to do so. The user has already decided to download and install your product. Thank the user by making it as painless as possible.

Enough about the past. In the next post, I will talk about RealPlayer 10’s installation and see how it measures up. If it’s as bad as the old installation, I may be doing a great public service by sacrificing myself through the ordeal.

One Response to “Keeping it Real”
belonging wrote:

It’s amazing how I manage to type so much here and rarely address that which I think about the most. This may stem from the fact that there is no answer or solution, or that it only makes me spin…

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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?