DVD UI Assumptions (Query)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by gregstaten, Jan 2, 2003.

  1. gregstaten

    gregstaten Supporting Actor

    Aug 1, 1997
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    The following is copied, with permission of the author, from the DVD-L mailing list, a list for DVD authors and producers. I've copied it here in hopes of soliciting feedback from you all about what you've seen/experienced regarding using DVD menus.

    Were any of you all frustrated/confused by the DVD menus initially or have you encountered layfolk who were frustrated?

    I'm forwarding this post back to the author.



    Original message by Perry Pantoliano:

    I was reminded of an important UI design lesson over the Christmas holiday: Assume Nothing.

    I received the Lord of the Rings box set as a gift, which includes a map of the menu navigation structure. as i was looking it over, my father, [54 years old], asked e "What's that?" I explained that it's a diagram showing all the different parts of the disc - menus and special features and such. He looked at me, puzzled, and said "Menus?"

    Mom and Dad have had a DVD player for about a year and rent at least a couple of movies a week. they bought it on their own after friends told them that the quality is much better than VHS. I had nothing to do with this decision, having learned long ago that it's not worth it to try to introduce them to new technology if they're not ready on their own. In a year, it appeared, mom and dad have never navigated a DVD menu. I was in shock.

    So, i asked him how he's been playing DVD's all this time, to which he responded, "Well, we rent discs, so we don't get the special features. The disc just plays when we put it in." What he's describing is apparently the confounding process of placing a disc in and repeatedly hitting play until something happens. he said that he wondered why Play doesn't work right away and that sometimes "the disc gets stuck after a minute and keeps repeating itself until I hit
    Play a second time" [main menu looping after FBI warning and splash screens - first time he hits play is during the firstplay sequence and is probably ignored]. Apparently, he's been under the impression that there are two types of DVD's - those you rent and those you buy. the ones you rent don't have special features and just play automatically, with the exception of the annoyinf "stuck disc" problem [menu looping], and those you buy are somehow mysterious and
    expensive and complicated.

    Still somewhat in shock, i asked him how he had managed to watch all of the episodes on the Sopranos DVD box set I gave him for Father's Day last year. He said that they did watch it all and that they thought it wasn't really the whole season, because they remembered seeing more on HBO when it first aired. they had only watched the first episode on each DVD, completely ignoring menus. 4 episodes -
    short season, indeed.

    So, after locating their long lost DVD remote [they stashed it on the shelf, because they had just been putting in the disc and hitting play on the set-top], i gave them a quick lesson in DVD navigation. it was their turn to be shocked. My girlfriend was cracking up this whole time.

    Tonight, dad called to tell me that this weekend they had some friends over, who all got DVD players in the last two years. They all recounted similar experiences, not knowing for months or years that there are menus on DVD's, yet renting hundreds of movies, combined. in all cases, it was their kids who clued them in.

    So, there's some fundamental failure going on here, but I'm not sure where. I wonder, have any studies been done on this subject? it sure would be interesting to know how many people just haven't got a clue and see the menu as some sort of nuisance in the way of the movie.

    I've been giving this whole thing some consideration over the past week, and I'm glad all my DVDs default to the play buttons so that hitting play will go directly to the feature.

    I don't see how there's anything else we can do as authors - "how to work this disc" screens are a little like including driving instructions with a new car - too little, too late. if instructions come at the beginning they will annoy people like me, and they'll be ignored by the people who need them - just like the FBI warnings and distributor logos on movies. People don't usually read the documentation with the player, except to look at the picture of how to connect to a TV and stereo, if that. besides, it's usually translated from other languages so poorly that it makes no sense even to people who know what they're doing. Inserts in the Amaray case will be similarly ignored, and don't really apply to rentals - maybe a sticker inside the case explaining basic DVD usage? i don't know.

    still in shock
  2. Eric Meske

    Eric Meske Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 21, 2002
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    I just had a similar experience with my parents.

    They rented Spider-Man. They watched about half of it, when they turned it off to watch the nightly news. After the news they then spent over two hours trying to get back to the point where they left off during the feature! While relating this story to me at one point my mother said, "we finally figured out how to fast forward."

    I guess if you are used to watching VHS for that many years, the idea of a navigational menu on a DVD is a completely foreign idea.

    Regardless, the next trip home I'll have to hold a DVD 101 seminar.
  3. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

    Aug 23, 1998
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    That isn't that surprising. Most people are used to VHS, especially renters - you put the movie in, press play, and away it goes. There's not much you can do for these folks other than make sure "play" makes the disc play.

    There are a number of UI considerations that frustrate me, the most frequent is using too many menus for setup. A menu should require at least three options to be warranted, and the selection should be obvious - I don't know how many times I've gone to a language selection and not known immediately what the already selected option is because there are only two options.

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