Managing Favorites on Hulu’s Mobile Apps

The Hulu interface differs in confusing ways between its desktop website, iPhone app, and Android app for managing your favorite shows.

Desktop Website

On Hulu’s website, it’s easy to “favorite” a show. You go to the show’s overview page and click the link with a plus icon and “favorite” label. Once a show is a favorite, the plus changes to a check mark.

What’s more difficult is removing a show from your favorites since the interface expects a user to understand that clicking the same “favorite” label will now remove it.

screenshot of Hulu's desktop website
Hulu’s desktop website

It’s not immediately obvious what adding a show to your favorites does either. You have to find the “Favorites” page by hovering over your account name, then clicking the “favorite” link in the menu.

Screenshot of Hulu's Favorites page
Hulu’s Favorites page

On the “Favorites” page, you can select what gets added to your queue automatically for any shows you’ve added as a favorite. I really like this feature. However, now that I use the mobile app exclusively to watch shows, I’ve had a very hard time figuring out how to manage my favorites.

iPhone App

On the iPhone, there is a tiny icon on the show’s detail page with no label and no feedback about what tapping it does. I already have Saturday Night Live added to my favorites, so I was really confused why it shows a plus icon instead of a check mark on my mobile.

Screenshot of the Hulu app on iPhone
Hulu app on iPhone

Tapping the plus icon takes you to a screen where you can add additional episodes, even entire past seasons, to your queue.

Screenshot if iPhone add episodes
iPhone add episodes to queue

I was left feeling very uncertain whether this show was still one of my favorites and if new episodes would get added to my queue.

An additional problem is that I had trouble finding my favorites list. There is a “Shows You Watch” icon on the navigation bar but this includes you anything you’ve watched, not just favorites.

After much digging around, I finally found the “Favorites” screen buried under the “Browse” menu icon > gear icon for “Edit Account” > “Favorites” link. Here I could verify which shows will have new episodes to my queue.

screenshot of Hulu Favorites options on iPhone
iPhone Favorites screen

Android App

By comparison, the Android app makes it very apparent whether a show is a favorite by providing a big “Add to Favorites/Remove from Favorites” button on a show’s detail screen.

screenshot of the Hulu app on Android
Hulu app on Android

What’s less clear is how to manage which episodes or clips from your favorite shows get added to your queue. The “Favorites” screen provides shortcuts to your shows only and does not have the same settings as the website and iPhone app.

screenshot of Favorite shows on Android
Android Favorites screen

Design Recommendation for Hulu

  • On the iPhone app, use the add/remove button concept too. Move the plus icon for adding episodes manually to your queue next to the list of episodes.
iphone remove from favorites button
iPhone design recommendation
  • On the Android app, provide a clear way to manage the way favorites update your queue.
  • On the website, again use two labels: “Add to Favorites” then change to to “Remove from Favorites” after a user adds it. Don’t expect a check mark icon to perform double duty. Here it expects users to understand that the check mark means a show is a favorite and that clicking it will remove it from favorites. That makes my brain hurt!

Twitter’s Mobile Site Sign In Form

Originally posted in 2014 to my personal blog. Twitter has since made some changes to its mobile form.

Today’s usability issue comes from Twitter’s mobile website sign in page.

screenshot of Twitter's mobile website sign in form
Twitter’s mobile site sign in page
My username was pre-populated because I have used the site on my phone before. I thought my password was also pre-populated, because the placeholder text Twitter uses in the password field is a series of dots, which look just like an obfuscated password.
Sign in form with password placeholder dots
Twitter’s password placeholder text

Thinking my password was already entered into the password field, I tapped the “Sign in” button. The page refreshed and I wasn’t signed in, but I didn’t see why, so I tapped “Sign in” again, thinking the site had a glitch.

 What actually happened was that I had not entered my password, and the error message on the page was located at the top in a light gray text, hardly noticeable, and resulting in frustration while I tried to figure out what was wrong.
screenshot of error message: Double-check your username and password and try again.
Error message at the top of the form

Two easy fixes Twitter should make

  1. Remove the dots as placeholder text from the “Password” field. They are not necessary and cause confusion. Placeholder text in form fields are harmful because it makes it hard for users to know what information they have already entered.
  2. Move the error message next to the field where the error occurred and make it obvious. By placing it at the top of the form, away from the “Password” field, and making it a light gray, it isn’t obvious for users.

In working on a quick mock-up of these improvements, I realized that Twitter developers likely added the placeholder text so that users would know where to type. Without the placeholder text, it’s not obvious. That said, adding placeholder text isn’t the best solution.

screen shot of sign in form with field labels to the left and error message incontext
Mock-up of changes Twitter could make to the mobile Sign In form

Though Twitter has made some changes, such as removing the dots as placeholder text in the password field, it continues to use placeholder text and the error message still displays above the form in hard to see gray text.

log in form without field labels
Twitter’s updated log in form

Welcome to Fishy UX

I decided to start this blog as a place to document and discuss some of the usability issues I encounter in the world, both online and offline. While I work primarily with digital user interfaces, it’s important to remember that much of those affordances are inspired by real world functionality.

The technical term for this skeuomorph /ˈskjuːɵmɔrf/ which is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues from structures that were necessary in the original.

The blog is for me to improve my critical thinking about interfaces and to flex my design muscle outside of everyday work, rather than simply for pointing out potential design flaws or failings.

With that, I wanted to post a link a submission I made back in 2007 to the now defunct ThisIsBroken.com.

Broken: Self-serve ice bag freezer warning

At my local Wal-Mart, there is an interesting sign on one of the self-serve ice bag freezers.

The sign warns: “Caution!!! Ice bag will drop from machine ceiling without notice!”

picture of an ice freezer