A few months ago Hulu released a new app design for mobile and TV devices. You probably were surprised and slightly excited when you first saw the new look and feel. I know I was. But after a few clicks and swipes, I hated it. Ironically, if you would have asked me 2 months ago which media provider had the best app, I would have said Hulu. Not anymore. And I know I’m not the only one who thinks the new Hulu design sucks. So the real question is not IF the new design is bad, but WHY is the new design bad?
I’ll use the BASIC UX framework to show why this design stinks. I created BASIC UX so that teams wouldn’t have to go through the painful process of testing UX design blindly. If anyone in Hulu product is reading, I hope this is constructive.
BASIC UX is a set of common principles that test something’s overall user experience. It stands for Beauty, Accessibility, Simplicity, Intuitiveness, and Consistency.
Is the new Hulu app design esthetically pleasing?
Yes! It looks great. You could take a screenshot of every view in the app and it always looks pleasant. So what’s my beef then? Well, Beauty is only the first principle in the list, and it take more than looks to make a product that is usable and useful.
With UX design there are tradeoffs that come with emphasizing one aspect over another. When Beauty is emphasized over other principles, you will likely have an app that is not as Accessible, Simple, or Intuitive as it should be. This is because to make things Accessible you have to limit your palette to fonts, colors, UI components that are easily consumed by those with lesser abilities. An over emphasis on Beauty also means that you might overlook the goal of making the user’s life easier — Simplicity. The same goes for Intuitiveness. If Beauty is the ultimate goal then you will not care as much if a user can easily learn the product.
This is likely the main problem here. The design emphasis was not on making a more usable and delightful app experience, it was to make an app that is nicer to look and esthetically gorgeous.
Can everyone use the new App?
Probably not. On my iPhone with accessibility features turned on it didn’t help with the contrast of text over the colored background. It also would not scan all of the menu options. That’s as far as I went with the accessibility features, but that was enough for a failure here. Other basic things were not great for accessibility as well; like the thin fonts and the weird way they show that an item is selected by adding an over-score line instead of a box or underline.
Does the new Hulu app design make the user’s like easier?
That is: Does the new design make it easier for user’s to achieve their goals (watch shows)? No. It is so frustrating. In the default view when you open the app you only see one show at a time. Hulu needs to take a few lessons from Spotify on presenting media selections. The “My Stuff” view isn’t as bad but it still only shows one title before scrolling on my iPhone 7. It is also much harder to navigate with the top level nav fading off the screen to the right and the bottom app navigation competing for importance (i.e. I don’t if I should first swipe through the top navigation or go through the bottom app options).
Bottom line here is that watching shows on the Hulu app takes more work than it did before the redesign. Even though the design looks simpler, the tasks are not simpler or easier to perform. If my goal as a user was to watch the content that Hulu tells me to then it would be a great design. But my goals are to quickly FIND the shows that I watch (list view with 4 on the screen, 1 show per row, not 2 at a time please), and discover new shows that I might be interested in (also a list view with 4 on the screen, 1 per row, not 2 at a time please).
Is the design/layout easy to learn?
Not as easy as it should be. Come on, we already know how to use a media app (Apple Music, Google Play, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pandora, etc..). By trying to go outside of that box esthetically, Hulu has tossed away all of the learned behaviors that users have from using these other apps. Remember people spend most of their time in other applications, so designers should leverage that knowledge when creating a new design. I understand that sometimes a mold needs to be broken, but that design decision needs to be well calculated and with the goal of a more usable product and a better overall experience.
Is the design consistent with itself and other systems?
Kind of, and no. Within the app itself things are pretty consistent and the style is thoroughly implemented; a list at one level is the same as other lists on that same level (Movies and TV Show; My Stuff and Search), and they all look nice. But outside of the app these patters don’t match up well with other media app designs — what I mentioned under “Intuitiveness”.
While the new Hulu app design looks great, it does not provide a better user experience. Thus, it needs another refresh. Perhaps they can keep the overall look and feel while improving on some of these other critical characteristics that make for a good overall design. My only consolation is that the Hulu’s website still has the previous design which, in my opinion, provides a much better UX than Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix.