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Windows Media Player, or: Usability Going Down the Hill  (View post)

Pierre S [PersonRank 10]

Saturday, July 9, 2005
16 years ago

Think again (or rather, stop thinking – the WMP doesn’t reward it).

>> It's done on purpose.If you stop thinking,you then rely on Microsoft.You need it,otherwise you're lost.
That's the thing i'm seeing in France:people are less ans less intelligent and experienced as the school level is lowered each year to meet 80% of graduation at the Baccalauréat(the Abitur,for u Philipp or the A-Levels)
Who makes profit from the crime?
-the governments that can use people's feelings instead of people's mind
-the medias who earn money selling some ""available time in the consumer's mind" (dixit the ceo of TF1,a right-wing channel,much less than Fox News,though)

All relies of the fear of the unknown,of the FOSS,of the nasty african killing bees,of the raper that will murder your kids at the corner of your street an so on and so on.
If you don't use WMP,you'll have to think!But can you still?

(Sorry,i'll go to the kitchen take my red pills to be nice and not to bite ;-D)

Michael Griffiths [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

Disclaimer: I use WMP10 regularly.

As I read through, there were quite a few "WTF?!?!" instances; places either where you were wrong, or I couldn't understand what the hell you were talking about.

To some extent, that's because I've used WMP10 for months and know its UI. Still, I can't remember being confused as to how to do something when I first started using the program.

Most of it is laid out in an entirely logical manner – to me at least. There's a definite organization to the program, and it obeys consistent rules. If you know what those rules are – either intuitively or via experience – then you're fine.

I've avoided giving specifics because I don't have the article open in front of me – but a brief example. I fail to understand your problem with the dual Play/Pause button and the greying out button. It's a "WTF?!?!" moment for me. It's not that I disagree – I simply can't comprehend what the hell you're talking about. :-)

Perhaps you're used to different UIs on media players. But I, for one, find WMP10 exceptionally easy to use.

Thanks;
Michael Griffiths

Nisarg Kothari [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

I don't know why you're so against skinning, as long as the default interface is familiar. The user <i>chooses</i> to aply another skin, which means they've seen and liked the skin they chose to apply. As a power user, I prefer choice over handholding, but the option to skin is only a headache to developers, not to 'normies'. Although I haven't addressed your other points, I think they're overblown. Finally, the old 6.4 interface still exists, with the relevant WMP10 features integrated. I don't see the big deal here.

mj [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

I couldn't agree more. Basically every incarnation of WMP since 6 has been an abomination in terms of UI.
Thank God it is still possible to use the old 6 interface within Windows. I have stuck with this UI, becuase I can't bear to use the new one.

Caleb E [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

WMP has to compete with other "cool looking" programs though. Look at any popular media program and you get a crap UI. Personally, i have my menu bar on because cool design is good for about five minutes, but a good UI is good for the life of the program. The play/pause button never really bothered me because thats how it is on hardware too (mp3 player, walkman, VCR) but what really bothers me most about the UI is the text bit that shows "song" "artist" and bit rate, etc. its worthless though, because if your looking for a specific bit of information you have to wait for the stuff like "synching 23%" and the "playing 128 K bits/second" the only thing that logically should go there is the song title, but they have 3-4 other pieces of information that i never need to see.

sami [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

I don't agree at all with you Philip.

In my opinion, WMP version 10 is a major improvement of WMP version 9 in terms of usability.

Still, it's lacking an option to turn off balloon tips when you mouseover playing-list titles (for instance to remove a track from the playing list --try it). Balloon tips can be useful to show what a non-standard button will trigger, but these ones are a major annoyance ... to me.

BalloonTips & ActionsOnMouseOver : please give us a chance to turn them off.

Sami.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

Just to clear up things, I don't find WMP *hard* to use, I find it *harder* to use. It's smaller things showing the program at large may leave some frustrated. If anyone who said it has good usability can tell me how they find the lack of menus, the two rows of window icons, or the resize icon without resize action is good usability (all features which have been introduced during one or another version, but weren't there from the beginning), I'd like to talk about specifics. The general "I disagree" is only helpful in so far as it tells me someone disagrees, but I'm left clueless as to which part.

In general, the post was about usability going downhill at large, not just with WMP, but I wanted to choose one particular application as an example. I could've chosen at least half a dozen other popular tools (like iTunes, Real and QuickTime Player to name just some). WMP is badly designed compared to earlier versions, which shows that the focus is on making things look cool vs making them easier to use.

As for skinning, no, it's no big deal, you don't have to use it after all. It's just that it's apparently something Microsoft spent a lot of time thinking on, and this may be partly the reason why they've lost focus. Plus, there's a "default skin" not adhering to the OS standards; you may argue this is what makes the program more cool, but it also implies we need to re-learn *every* desktop application because the OS metaphor is out of the window. MS is setting a bad example for others to follow here.

As for the combined play/ pause button, that may be subject to discussion. It's not a big deal, I just found the old-style buttons easier to use. Especially with Quicktime, and especially when the movie is buffering. Here's how I download trailers: I chose a bunch I like, about every two weeks at http://www.apple.com/trailers/ , and then open a few to pre-load. I'm then doing something else while they're pre-loading. With the existing interface, it's very hard to do that, because movies will randomly play then without me being able to pause them right from the start. Also, I sometimes click the button just when it changed its behavior. I don't see the same problem with normal hardware like CD players because there's no buffering and download lags on a CD player.
*But* I can see that others don't object to those buttons and feel comfortable with them, so maybe it's one of those 50/50 interface decisions.

I believe part of why nobody gets *really* upset at the desktop usability crimes of today is that the software that matters is slowly but irrrevocably moving to the web... when I look at apps like Gmail, I find they're a dramatic increase in usability compared to older tools such as Yahoo Mail or Hotmail (or even Outlook Express on the desktop).

butty button [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

--Does its &#8220;pause&#8221; icon mean it will be paused when you click on it, or that it currently is paused?--

i would be able to understand your question if there wasnt any movement (eg pr0n vid) above the PAUSE/PLAY button.

the movement above the button is a major part of the meaning. context = meaning. thats what i mean.

:-)

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

Button, like I said, I was talking about instances where the video is currently buffering.

Kyle Andrew [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

what I find really frustrating is I find it really impossible to actually save to the player a web based tune or a radio station stream or radio station location id to the player.

Eelis E [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

Why Microsoft had to change the Radio interface from WMP 9 to 10 ???

In WMP 9 when you switched to the Radio, you got a page contains your favorite radio stations and a possibility to search for new stations. In WMP 10 I get a preconfigured 3 stations from Sweden??? (I live in Finland...) with no any option to search for new or do any changes. I found this same problem on other computers as well, so it is well deserve a "WTF!?!" title.

Ben B [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

The radio tuner is at this address, Eelis.

http://windowsmedia.com/radiotuner/MyRadio.asp

On WMP 10 you can access it by clicking on Guide, then Radio Tuner.

Julian at OddThinking [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

Philipp,

I agree with you that the Windows Media Player's usability is poor, and, yes, I think it is going backwards.

But in its defence, I don't think it any worse at following Windows UI conventions than many of its competitors. I parodied a few of the media player UIs – and how hard it was to perform the simplest of tasks – at: http://www.somethinkodd.com/oddthinking/2005/04/10/close-that-window/

Tarzilla [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

The two biggest problems I have in the post 6.4 era are someone decided that Ctrl-P (which requires TWO hands, or one with realy long fingers, to activate, especially on a lot of laptops!) is so much easier to use as the pause key instead of the big rectangular thingy on the bottom row.

Also don't tell me I can't play more than one video at a time, there are plenty of reasons to run more than one video clip at a time...(.. and don't involve pr0n) I don't care if these are the defaults, but Let-Me-Change-Them!

Ian Boyd [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

i completely agree. And you even missed a few more UI sins.

WMP6 was, right out of the gate, bad. It's seek bar was about one-third the width of the player window. So i have less control on where i can seek in the two hour movie i am watching.

A couple more things...

If you "restore" WMP, so it hides it's second row of Minimize/Maximize/Close, you then cannot drag the window up to the top of the screen. It always trys to keep itself below the title bar of the program behind. This helps to reinforce the confusion about whether the X in the top right of WMP will close WMP, or the Windows Explorer window behind it.

Next, i want to get rid of the "Now Playing List", because my wide screen movie needs the extra space. i look for the little 'x' in the top right corner of the "Now Playing List" area. None there.
i can find a splitter, which i would think that maybe i can collapse it. Nope, it has a min width. So i see that the words "Now Playing List" can drop down, maybe there's an option to get rid of it in there. Nope. i tried clicking "Clear List", but that closed the video i was watching. Now i'll try hunting through the menus, of which the application has none. Oh wait, it does, i have to maximixe it first. (i guess Microsoft didn't want to comprimise the sleek look with functionality). View Menu, that's probably where the option to get if of the "Now Playing List" is.Ahh, found it.
   View -> Now Playing Options -> Show Play List

Kyle H [PersonRank 0]

15 years ago #

I use WMP mainly for music, and one of the biggest annoyances to me about WMP 10 is the Info Center view. When in the Library, the Info Center by default takes up almost half of the screen. You can slide the bar down and make the frame smaller, but there is no way to close it. Every time you click on an album, the Info Center loads what it thinks is relevant information. It offers tracks that I can download. I own the CD! Why the crap would I want to purchase tracks? This constant interaction with the internet can really slow WMP down, especially if you click on one artist and then immediately click on another, as the Info Center tries to decide which information to display.

Jim M [PersonRank 0]

15 years ago #

I pretty much agree wth everything that was said in the original article. Windows Media Player has got more and more unusable with each new version and these days I only ever use it if I absolutetely have to. Sometimes (i.e. increasingly often) I think that Microsoft are only obsessed with making their software emulate/better the look and feel of the Apple Mac interface – a strategy which they appear to be taking to a whole new level with Office 2007. They don't genuinely seem to care about usability.

The Media guide is of zero use to me. The "missing" menu bar is a constant annoyance. The Library/playlist thing is unnecessarily complicated (also why when selecting a group of files to play using Windows Explorer do you have to select the first one last?). And why on earth do applications like this have to have their own interal (and inferior) Windows Explorer-esque file browsing system? Talk about re-inventing the wheel. Just let us use Explorer.

I have my own my better (also free) software for ripping and burning CDs and DVDs, so the Rip and Burn tabs are defunct too. Also like Internet Explorer you can't uninstall it – if I don't want it on my hard-drive then why should I be prevented from removing it? And have you actually read the software licensing agreement – it practically allows Microsoft to take control of your computer without your knowlegde, whenever they want for whatever purpose they may wish. All of which combined with both my utter disdain for Microsoft DRM and the grossly inferior quality of the WMA/WMV audio/video compression codecs makes me see it as a wholey useless bit of software.

It can't even do the simplest of things properly. When playing a "playlist" it will pause between each track – just great when playing songs from a live concert. Also when using it to play CDs, should you pause it for more than 30 seconds, when you press play again it won't continue playing seamlessly. It plays for a second, then pauses for a second, before finally resuming playback properly. Incredibly annoying. Lastly as another person said, the inclusion of a link to buy the album that I'm playing – which I unsurprisngly already own! – is beyond stupidity.

I believe in applications that are fully stand alone and don't need the Internet to supply them with remote content in order to fulfill the applications "features". WMP is utterly bloated with Internet-reliant "fetures". All of which do nothing to enhance the usability or usfullness. And as for skins – what is the point? There simply isn't one.

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