Latest MySky (HDi) update

The latest (and heavily publicised) MySKY (HDi only?) update was released today.  Oddly, our update was applied around 2 p.m. – the currently showing program was replaced by a very ugly notice that the system was being updated.  I can’t understand why the update wasn’t deployed during the night (e.g. 4 a.m.), when the number of viewers must be significantly lower.  What if I had really cared about the program that was showing?

My initial reaction was very negative.  After it was pointed out (via Twitter) that many of SkyTV’s mistakes are correctable via new options in the settings back, I’m slightly less negative, but it’s still not an improvement.  This is especially frustrating considering that the UI is so terrible, and has been ever since MySKY was introduced about five years ago (I’ve had MySKY since just after the launch).  Being told that they know about the many problems and fixing them isn’t possible until the hardware is revved doesn’t inspire any confidence at all, since the problems existed with the original MySKY and certainly were not fixed when the hardware was revved (with HDi).  Someone at SkyTV is responsible for selecting the hardware – if the platform doesn’t support creating a decent UI, then they should choose something else.

(Has anyone on the MySKY team used an Apple product?  Or even Windows 7 or a Zune product?  Would they recognise good UI when they saw it?  Do they have anyone that has any UI talent or experience?  If so, perhaps they could give that person a bit of power to fix things?)

The “what’s new” page has a feedback form where you can comment on the recent changes.  I encourage you to do so.  My comments were:

Planner Search

Sorting by time is a pointless way to organise the planner – it caters to people that don’t understand how to use a DVR properly (e.g. who are using it like they would have used a VCR). Sorting by A-Z is vastly more useful, because the typical planner task is either finding a specific program to watch (I always know the first letter of the name, I rarely know or care when it was broadcast/recorded), or browsing through programs to find something to watch (I don’t care what’s oldest/newest, I care what the program is).

The changes in this update make things worse in this respect. Although it’s possible to turn off the video and set the “search” interface to A-Z sort by default, you’re then in an interface where you have to go right/left to get to delete/keep. The planner should default to A-Z search, or at least have that as an option.

Confirm Delete

Although it’s fantastic that after 5 years the “tiny button right next to ‘don’t delete this’ deletes irrevocably” problem has been addressed, a confirmation dialog is (although common) generally the wrong UI decision to make. Users (a) get into habits of just ok’ing such dialogs, decreasing their value, and (b) are less willing to try things out. It is almost always better (and certainly would be here) to simply make any action reversible (i.e. have an undo delete).

Preview

The preview in search seems completely pointless. I almost certainly know what the program is based on the title, and if I don’t, then starting to show the program isn’t going to help. This is exacerbated by the fact that with the “automatic” buffer setting the preview generally starts with the end of the program that was on before the program that you’re looking at.

It *would* be useful to have an episode name & number (where applicable) in the main planner screen (e.g. to distinguish between several episodes of a kid’s program that is played out-of-order), or to only show each series once (and selecting it goes into a submenu where specific episodes can be selected; this is common in other interfaces where screen space is limited). Showing the synopsis in search helps with this, but takes up a vast amount of space (only five rows of text – even on a huge screen!), and comes with the annoying and loud video.

Positive

After five years, the guide finally shows an indication of which programs are scheduled to be recorded.  This feature was present in the old Sky Digital system (which didn’t record, but did allow you to schedule reminders), and it’s amazing that it’s taken this long to restore it.  However, it ignores series-link, so it only highlights the next episode.  It would be nice to get the feature right.

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