How to break your app
IMDB is my kid’s favorite iPad app. He loves exploring movie trailers, and I love seeing how he learns to negotiate a tablet UI. It took him months to really get it down (I don’t let him play much), but this morning I watched him blast through a perfect sequence of button & menu clicks to get to the Cars 2 page. At this point though, he now gets irrevocably stuck. Why? Because a recent IMDB update completely broke the app.
The app is now riddled with featuritis. You can see evidence throughout, but go to a movie page, and find the “Watch Trailer” button. The one with the “play” icon. What might you expect that button to do?
It used to display a popup to select the quality of clip to play, which was confusing, but at least the options all led to the same place. You could click any of them, and you’d always end up watching the trailer.
Now? The popup includes an option for adding the trailer to a playlist, which adds the clip to a list (accessible at the bottom corner of the screen). Clicking effectively does nothing. As an adult, I’ve adapted to this garbage, but watching my kid continually get sucked into this trap is starting to piss me off.
A button that specifies quite clearly with icon and text that it will play a clip should not be adulterated to do anything else. Period. Any objection you have is misplaced. It either needs to be placed ahead of playing a clip, or moved to a parallel flow. Once you arrive at the context of playing a clip, you are done. Get out of the way, and play the damn clip.
Is this why “simple” is so hard to execute?
An interesting experiment would be to try user testing your app with all the menu and button text scrambled. Does the app still make intuitive sense to users? To you?