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.
I applaud RealAudio’s recent effort to clean up their image by engaging the community directly — it’s like a page straight out of the Cluetrain Manifesto. Just imagine all the trouble they could have avoided if they solicited Slashdot for product feedback three versions ago. They would have easily side-stepped several years of ill-will, and probably held on to their incredible position in streaming media.
The things that Real did with their installation UI went far beyond being just “bad UI”… it was more of a “deceitful UI”, or a “foul, rank, and utterly insidious UI”. These sorts of interfaces are like the “dark side” of HCI. The same practices that we normally apply to make things easier and more understandable for the user, are applied in reverse to purposely confuse the user and force them to concede to our objectives.
Have any of you been forced to practice the “dark side” of HCI? If so, what were the circumstances?
As for Real… I actually hope they can turn this around. If connecting with users via public forums allows them to clean up their act, it will serve as a great example that a real dialogue with users can be a powerful tool for success.
I’ve installed RealPlayer 10, primarily to see if the installation is as poor as the previous version and whether the posters in Slashdot were accurate. Here’s a step by step of what I went through and my own thoughts on it.