Pardon my ignorance - UI pitfalls as seen by a first-time XBMC user
#1
Smile 
Hi there,

sorry if this is something of a dumb post for a first time participant in this forum, but hey, I still hope it's useful for the developers to see where a novice struggled with the XBMC user interface.

I installed XBMC using OpenElec 3.2.4, my system has a MCE remote control. Everything installed and worked out of the box without a problem, kudos to all the guys who made this. My OE 3.2.4 came with XBMC version 12.2 Git:d1002b4.

The user interface looks great and is very appealing. However, I struggled to use it.

Why? Because it is not obvious how to navigate lists and how to enter into the next sublevel of a menu and back out of it.

You see, the MCE remote has a "Back" button (the "<-" below the "Rewind" button, see image), but it differs slightly from the PC keyboard's "backspace" and the keyboards "ESC" key behaviour.

Often, at least to me, it is not always clear *what* to do to enter a submenu or how to leave it properly. I feel lost and pressing "back", "OK" or arrow buttons on the remote does unexpected things.


Here are some examples of things I'd consider quirky. I'll split it up since the forum doesn't allow me to post 7 images in one article...

Image

Task: You're in the skin list chooser. Move to the "Get More..."-UI-button.

What I expected: Press "down arrow" on remote until the end of the list, then the highlight will jump to "Get More..."

Actual solution: Press "left arrow" to leave list, this will highlight "Get More..."

Additional weirdness: When "Get More..." is highlighted, one can use either "left arrow" or "right arrow" on the remote to go to the list above, but only "left arrow" will let the user leave the list to go back to "Get More...".

Image

Task: Choose a folder from the list

What I expected: Use "up arrow" and "down arrow" on the remote to choose an item, "right arrow" to enter a directory, "OK" on remote to finish the selection.

Actual solution: "up arrow" and "down arrow" will choose an item, but "OK" will enter a directory and continue the selection. To finish the selection, you have to press "left arrow" (?) to reach the "OK"-button of the user interface.

Task: While browsing a nested structure, return to the parent item (e.g. the parent folder)

What I expected: "back" on the remote. Oh no, that will close the dialogue. "left arrow"? Oh no, that will jump the "OK"-UI-button.

Actual solution: highlight "..", press "OK"

Additional weirdness: See "additional weirdness" above.

Image

Task: Leave the "Skin" settings, go to "Screensaver" settings.

What I expected: Press "back" on remote, go down via "down arrow" on remote to "Screensaver", press "OK" to enter submenu.

Actual solution: "left arrow" and "right arrow" on the remote will move between the vertical tab list and the tab's content, while "back" on the remote will leave to return to the "Settings" menu.

Image

Task: Leave this menu

What I expected: "back" on the remote.

Actual solution: "back" on the remote. Yay!

But here's what I did: Uh, now that I'm already thoroughly confused about the use of the "back" button, let's try the "left arrow" first. Oh wow, that opens a rather unexpected options menu!

Additional weirdness: That options menu will also open when pressing the "right arrow" on the remote, although the menu is to the left of the screen.

Image

What I expected: "back" on the remote, then move to the right via "right arrow" to "Plugins", "OK" to enter submenu.

Actual solution: "up arrow" on the remote, then move to the right via "right arrow" to "Plugins", "down arrow" to enter submenu.

Additional weirdness: Even while in the submenu, one can change tabs directly with "left arrow" and "right arrow". This is in contrast to the third screenshot in this article where you can't do the same in 90 degrees.

Image

Task: You were watching TV, now play a file from the local harddisk

What I expected: Press "MCE button" (green windows logo) on remote for main menu, go to Videos, choose video, play. Oh no, "MCE button" doesn't do anything while watching TV. Ok, then press "back button" on remote. Oh, doesn't do anything, too.

Actual solution: Press "stop button" on remote, main menu appears, now go to Videos and so on.

Additional weirdness: The PC keyboard's "backspace" key or the "ESC" key will show the main menu while watching TV, but the remote's "back" button does not. Why?

Task: Turn on de-interlacing for live TV

What I expected: Go the XBMC settings, look for video settings, turn on de-interlacing. Oh, it isn't there. Then look in the Live TV settings. Oh, it ain't there either. PVR plugins? Nope.

Actual solution: Start Live TV, open menu, highlight "film roll", then look for the setting. Now this is well hidden!

Image

Ok, maybe it's the skin's fault. So let's try another. "Bello". Oh, this is really weird to navigate with arrow buttons only.

Task: Go to "Music" settings

What I expected: Press either "up arrow" or "back" on the remote to enter the tab headlines above, then move to "Music", then press "OK" or "down arrow"

Actual solution: Press "left arrow" to enter tab headlines above. (Huh?) Then move to "Music", press "OK". "Down arrow" will cancel and return to "Appearance".

To sum up, a suggestion: It would be cool to have a simple, standardized path to walk through nested menu or directory hierarchies. So that browsing via buttons is consistent among different UI elements throughout the application. I'd like to see arrow buttons for browsing, "OK" to enter the next level down the hierarchy and "back" to go up to the parent element of the hierarchy, but that's just one possible way to do it.

Thank you!
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#2
You may want to read this http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=153416 unfortunately it seems to have gone nowhere.
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#3
Yeah there is some gui weirdness as you describe, and it sometimes makes more sense in other skins where things are set out differently. You get used to it. Always difficult to translate a gui system where people are used to having a mouse to a system where you only have arrows and limited buttons.
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#4
Nice, honest feedback. Thanks!
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#5
(2013-12-03, 22:17)nickr Wrote: Yeah there is some gui weirdness as you describe, and it sometimes makes more sense in other skins where things are set out differently.

So this behaviour is defined in the skin? And that's where it could be changed?

Quote:You get used to it.

Well, I'm not kidding, but I'm also testing XBMC so that my mum (74) gets a nicer set top box than what her overly complicated "smart" TV offers. The user interface right now isn't mum-friendly, at least not to mine.

Quote:Always difficult to translate a gui system where people are used to having a mouse to a system where you only have arrows and limited buttons.

Yeah. But isn't a 10ft-UI defined by not using a mouse?
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#6
(2013-12-04, 11:47)hhzz Wrote:
(2013-12-03, 22:17)nickr Wrote: Yeah there is some gui weirdness as you describe, and it sometimes makes more sense in other skins where things are set out differently.

So this behaviour is defined in the skin? And that's where it could be changed?

Quote:You get used to it.

Well, I'm not kidding, but I'm also testing XBMC so that my mum (74) gets a nicer set top box than what her overly complicated "smart" TV offers. The user interface right now isn't mum-friendly, at least not to mine.

Quote:Always difficult to translate a gui system where people are used to having a mouse to a system where you only have arrows and limited buttons.

Yeah. But isn't a 10ft-UI defined by not using a mouse?
hhzz,

In defense of myself and other skinners, most of us are working on these skins on PC's and testing on the same beast from about 18" away with a mouse. Sometimes we forget that the interface is meant to be view from 10' using a remote. While my skin was mentioned above as one of the better ones for navigating with a remote in a sensible manner, I'm sure there is more that could be done in my case.

So the thing you can do is to let the author of your favourite skin know that there is an issue and where it is occurring. Most of us would be happy to fix issues of this type, as witness to another user a few months back pointing out that we used "Show ..." and "Hide ..." type settings strings in our settings menus. The users point of choosing either one , but not both as it was not clear what we were trying to tell the user was acted on by most skinners fairly quickly.

Thanks for the heads up, I will certainly be going over my skin to see if there is anywhere that this issue could be fixed.

Wyrm (xTV-SAF)
If required a FULL debug log can now be submitted from the skin in settings->skin settings->support. Or follow instructions here if you can't access skin settings.

FAQ's located at :- http://kodi.wiki/view/Add-on:AppTV
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#7
Hey, thanks for the response. As I hope you noticed, the list of issues mentioned above was not meant as a rant. However, I think it could be helpful to do some UI testing with actual novice users (like your 74yr old mum) and watch them try to accomplish a list of tasks...

But again, so the behaviour of the navigation is defined in the skin and that's where someone like me could try to work on patching this?
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#8
Thanks for the report. I agree with a lot, but it might not be very easy to change. Have subscribed to this thread though.
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#9
(2013-12-04, 15:48)hhzz Wrote: But again, so the behaviour of the navigation is defined in the skin and that's where someone like me could try to work on patching this?

Yes, it's defined by the skin, more or less.
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#10
I agree with most of the observations. "You get used to it" is not a valid response. One should not need to learn how to watch TV. It should be straightforward and intuitive.

My pet peeve is the fragmentation of options to virtually secret submenus. instead of bouncing options between the contextual menu and the drawer,
- these should be consolidated to the drawer
- activated NOT by the left button, but by the button that now activates the contextual menu
- the existence of options should by visually indicated by the drawer tab.

Also, a contextual menu makes sense for a mouse based interface, but not for a remote control.
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#11
"You get used to it" was offered as a (valid) observation, and not as any kind of excuse. However if you change what is an established gui, those who HAVE got used to it will then have a peeve. "Why has X changed, I really got used to it ..."

What is this "drawer" you refer to? Personally I like the context menu, it is very - contextual!
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#12
The context menu is really only needed (rather, should be) for management and for situations where you are doing not-as-common functions, like selecting another player target (like UPnP), or pulling up full summary because you are on a view that doesn't show summary (though the default "select" action can be changed to show summary). Once setup, the average viewer shouldn't really need to access the context menu, especially when you look at the changes made in XBMC v13 Gotham. My family uses XBMC to get to the kid movies for the grandchildren (not mine, I'm the Uncle), and they don't even know there is a context menu.

I wouldn't mind some alternatives to the context menu, but there are a lot of contextual actions that make sense only when something is selected.

The sidebar/blade menu, on the other hand, annoys me. I think it could be improved upon so that it still informs while "closed", and maybe some other tweaks. Generally, yeah, I'm not a big fan of how things are hidden there, and I wouldn't mind seeing it replaced completely. View options that don't need to be changed all the time could be "hidden", but should at least be better labeled as something like "view options", so even closed people can easily find those things.

There are a few other areas where XBMC kind of "hides" things as well, so threads like this are great for identifying those areas.
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#13
(2013-12-05, 07:38)nickr Wrote: "You get used to it" was offered as a (valid) observation, and not as any kind of excuse. However if you change what is an established gui, those who HAVE got used to it will then have a peeve. "Why has X changed, I really got used to it ..."

What is this "drawer" you refer to? Personally I like the context menu, it is very - contextual!
I am referring to the drawer that slides out from the left in confluence. I find this fragmentation of functions confusing and unintuitive, to the extent that (despite having used XBMC for many months) I am still not used to these elements.

I think it is particularly valuable to pay close attention to someone like the OP, as the real test of usability for something like this is whether a new user is confused or whether his prior experience watching TV has educated him sufficiently to use it without frustration.

Don't get me wrong, by the way. I think XBMC is amazingly polished and exceeds many commercial products in stability and usability. I just feel that there are some goofy interface issues that wold be good to address.
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#14
Yes, that slider menu is one of the more irritating UI elements of the default skin.

It just makes no sense that it's there while there is a different context menu on the same page. It's also weird that both menus contain a subset of identical commands.
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#15
I've only been using XBMC for a month or so and, boy, I feel the OP's frustration. I tried a few skins, but finally landed on Experience 1080 as the most visually straight-forward. I've pretty much got the navigation down (had to smile about the deinterlacing option... took me forever to find that one).

But...could someone tell me how to return to a video/song playing in the background when I've inadvertently backed out to the main screen? I'm still stumped. Huh
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