"DVD Menu Design: The Failures of Web Design Recreated Yet Again"

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by DaveF, Jan 14, 2002.

  1. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    (I thought this would be of interest here, given recent discussions about animated menus, easter eggs, bonus features, etc.)
    Computer Usability Consultant, Donald A. Norman, has written an article describing how DVD menu designers have failed to learn the design lessons of website successes and failures.
    DVD Menu Design: The Failures of Web Design Recreated Yet Again
    The summary states:
     
  2. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Let's have a big AMEN from everyone!

    - Steve
     
  3. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    AMEN!!!
     
  4. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Hell yes!!!

    I'm thinking about my favorite recent release, Artisan's TWIN PEAKS series - my only complaint is the menus and for the life of me I can't figure out why they are so poorly designed. I won't waste your time with the details, but if you know this release, then you know what I speak of.

    On the other hand, CRITERION consistently gets it right. Their menus are always elegant, intuitive, and easy-to-navigate.
     
  5. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

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    Again, a big hand for Criterion in this field. The great thing is you're never more than two menu screens away from accessing any content you like.
     
  6. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Human Interface Design (or, lack thereof in so many products) has always been a keen interest of mine. It's amazing how much "they" fail to get right... and that not only goes for DVDs, but for car stereos and toasters as well.

    I recommend Donald Norman's book, The Design of Everyday things, published around 1990. Obviously, it's very short on computer info, given the date, but it's fascinating how badly designed a DOOR can be...

    My latest bone of contention in DVD design: Moulin Rouge. Anyone try to select a chapter yet?

    -Scott
     
  7. felix_suwarno

    felix_suwarno Screenwriter

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    it is not human interface design.

    i think it should be human and computer interaction, or HCI.

    i have a "minor" degree on HCI subject, and this thread is interesting.
     
  8. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I actually like many of the over-the-top, animated, "clever" menus [​IMG] Since I don't watch many movies repeatedly, I don't often get frustrated by any given menu system becoming tedious. But if you watch certain movies frequently, I can see how a unskippable animated transition would soon become annoying.
    And I can see how viewers can be confused or confounded by some of these menus. The recent "Wizard of Oz" DVD, IIRC, hids the "Play Movie" feature on a secondary menu. It took a moment to figure out how to play the movie at one point.
    The biggest problem I see is the lack of consistency in cursor movement. That is, will my "left" cursor button cause the menu item on the left to be selected, or the one on the bottom left, or perhaps nothing at all will happen?
    This says it well. From an Interveiw with Jonathan Ive, iMac designer.
     
  9. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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  10. David James

    David James Stunt Coordinator

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    I would prefer a standard list of choices appears on the first menu, which by the way should simply appear not make a long involved grand entrance. It seems play move, scene selections, audio (please place audio choices under audio and not languages or some other goofy choice), language, bonus features. Oh, and feel free to add a "Look how clever we can be" option at the bottom to show off all their menu design creativity. Oh, and as an aside, I may reconsider my opinion on the death penalty if they could guarantee me it would include people who add easter eggs. [​IMG]
     
  11. Anthony_J

    Anthony_J Stunt Coordinator

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    my menu pet peeves:

    1.) Movies that go directly into the film upon insertion into the player, forcing you to press "menu" to choose subtitles, sound options, etc.

    2.) When selecting the sound type (e.g. DD vs. DTS), some movies will start instead of returning to the menu, while others will not. Although I prefer returning to the menu, I'll take either way as long as they can make things consistent between most DVDs.

    3.) Counter-intuitive cursor movement. I don't care how the menus are graphically structured, up and down on the remote should always cycle through the menu. Left or right should be a shortcut to certain items, but never the only way to access a choice (unless the menu is structured left/right, instead of up/down). The really important thing here is to make menu navigation consistent within the same DVD.

    4.) I wholeheartedly agree, the Moulin Rouge scene selection menu is the worst, most inconvenient thing I have ever seen. It's barely one step above going through the movie chapter by chapter.

    5.) Menus that drastically differ from the movie itself in volume. I hate having to grab my control to quickly turn down the sound on a really loud menu, only to have to turn it back up when the movie comes on, or vice versa.

    I do appreciate animated menus and the cleverness of some of them (i.e., the Spinal Tap menu is pretty funny, as is the Holy Grail SE menu), but the way that some designers screw up ergonomics sometimes makes me wish for a plain menu with clear, easy to read options.
     
  12. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    I really like the menus that are the most difficult possible. That way I get a feeling of accomplishment when I successfully manage to get DTS flowing. When I try to get a subtitle track and then it reverts to spanish, I feel challenged to defeat it. Personally, I love to say "I'm going to give the menu another try. Pretty soon, I think I might actually get the movie to play!"
    That was sarcasm. I am both indifferent to menu design and occasionally annoyed. But I can easily see where you are coming from. Perhaps a DVD option for 'simplified menu' would be the key. That would abandon all the animated menus, easter eggs, and music from the menu in favor of the traditional static image and up/down cursor items. I would always choose elaborate menus, though.
     
  13. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    For starters, AMEN!
    But this in the original article was specifically of interest to me:
     
  14. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    Here be my guidelines for DVD design:

    1. If you must animate, keep it short (
     
  15. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    David Lambert: I'm glad someone picked up on the accessibility for the impaired item. I see that issue raised repeatedly at web-design sites. It would be interesting to see it applied to DVDs. However, DVD menus are small-potatoes compared to the design of consumer electronics in general -- I'd guess that someone with motor-function impairment won't be able to manipulate 95% of all remote controls or front panel interfaces.
    Scott Kimball: I want to echo one of your points:
    [rant]Absolutely never, under no circumstances, should the "Menu" function be disabled. I should be able to skip any animation, intro, warning, preview, legal advisory, or message from our sponsors and get the main menu. Always. Everytime. No matter what your legal department, image-consultants, or yippy pet dog tell you.[/rant]
    I do not have to listen to a 30 sec audio warning of the dangers of copying music everytime I listen to a CD. I should not have to suffer the video equivalent before I watch a move I own (or rent).
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] (And again I say [​IMG] )
     
  16. Andy Kent

    Andy Kent Agent

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    We generally do a standard along the lines of:

    Play Video

    Scene Select

    Languages

    Extras

    And yes, that's a "languages" menu. We usually don't have 5.1 audio, but we almost always have English and Japanese audio tracks, and English subtitles, or perhaps English subtitles and song subtitles. In fact, nowadays we generally just set it up as three options in a submenu: English, English with song subtitles, and Japanese with English subtitles. No sense in setting up two separate menus when it's really only one option to toggle.

    Of course, the audio and subtitle options are left unlocked, but the subs in particular can be difficult to navigate from the remote, given that the DVD spec won't allow specific naming of subtitle tracks. Our Plastic Little DVD, for example, has song subtitles, full English subtitles, and three different subtitle tracks with Jiggle Counter (yes, it's what it sounds like), for a total of five subtitle tracks plus off. And they're all "English"... But if you really want to watch in Japanese with no subs, or compare my sub job to the dub script, you can, you can. ;p Music video makers take note.

    One thing we do that a lot of our competitors don't is -read the player defaults-. My player is set up to start with Japanese language and English subs, so when I pop one of our discs in, I hit "play" and get Japanese language and English subs. (Caveat - I watch mostly anime; if all my live-action films did this too, I'd have to turn off a lot of subtitles.)

    We don't disable the menu button either. ^_^

    That said, I hate saying "never this, never that". There's always exceptions where something that's normally out there becomes a good idea. Heck, as far as aspect ratios, we've got entire shows that change aspect ratio as they go along. On the other hand, most anime is 4:3 to start with.

    Andy Kent

    ADV Films
     
  17. Michael Tucker

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    I believe I posted this link a while back in a thread discussing menus. I have always preferred having the movie start as soon as the disc is inserted into the player. Defaults such as DTS, DD, language, subtitles, etc. could be defined in the player so that each movie reads that information and plays correctly without any user intervention.

    If a menu is to be displayed, at least have the 'Play Movie' option selected as the default so that the 'Enter' button is the only thing needed to be pressed in order for the movie to play.

    I myself have no problem navigating the menus as I'm sure the majority of the membership here doesn't either, but I can't imagine having to explain to my parents how to get through the DVD menus just to watch a movie when every movie is set up differently.

    I don't care which method is chosen, I just wish it was consistent.
     
  18. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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  19. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Most DVD's don't have very difficult menus, IMO.

    Even The Abyss and T-2: Ulitmate Edition are a little hard to use, but you get used to it.

    Menus SHOULD be simple, but I welcome some snazzy looking ones.
     
  20. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    I would like to see a director request that the DVD of their film be done with NO menu whatsoever- have it play laserdisc-style. OK, maybe have a simple text menu come up when you hit the "Menu" button to change languages, but that's it.

    Another thing that would greatly amuse me is if someone had their movie start out looking like a DVD menu, so it would be shown even in the theatrical version!
     

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