It's the little things that tell you when designers simply don't have a clue.
Way back in the mists of time that we used to call the early 2000s, I first subscribed to the Knology cable company for my Telephone, TV, and Internet services.
I no longer recall what service I used before, but I do remember how radically different and super-duper I found Knology to be by comparison.
All went well until about six years ago when we moved into a new house and discovered that the only TV service we could receive was via satellite from DIRECTV. One upside was that this was the first time we'd had a DVR (which I found to be amazing). One downside was that we had to get our telephone and Internet services via AT&T.
I have to say that the DIRECTV channel line-up and picture quality was superb. However, in addition to the fact that we kept on losing reception in the middle of a storm (which is, arguably, the time when you need it most), the combined AT&T / DIRECTV bill made my eyes water, and it kept on inching up year-by-year (the little scamps).
The end result was that, about three years ago, when the folks from Knology finally noticed that our subdivision existed and decided to offer service there, we decided to switch back.
Arrggghh! I generally try to find something nice to say about everything, but I'm struggling here. OK, to be fair, all of the folks who work for Knology with whom I have come into contact (in the service center, for example, and also the technicians who have visited our home) have been great (having said this, we still get only a very "blocky" digital picture in the master bedroom).
Also, the "look-and-feel" usage model of the Knology TV controller doesn’t come close to that of DIRECTV in any respect. For example, when we were watching a movie on DIRECTV, my wife (Gina The Gorgeous) used to enjoy the ability to find out which actors were in the film, and to then look up information on those actors (it kept her busy for hours :-) With Knology, by comparison, you are lucky to be able to work out what film you are watching in the first place.
Or, to take another example, if you were "fast-forwarding" on DIRECTV until you hit a scene of interest and pressed the "Play" button, the system would automatically rewind a little to compensate for your response time (or lack thereof). Furthermore, the amount of time the system rewound was a function of how fast you'd been going in the first place. Now that was smart. Suffice it to say that no similar capability is available on Knology.
Over time, and I say this with love, I've come to believe that Knology's user interface has been thrown together by a bunch of people who (a) don’t like each other and don’t talk to each other and (b) have never actually created (or used) a user interface before in their lives. It's the little things that tell you the designers simply don’t have a clue. Let's assume that you are using the TV guide, for example, and you click the 'Up' button repeatedly (often in frustration at the slow response). Now let's assume that you see a channel of interest scrolling by and you press the "Down" button... what do you expect would happen at this juncture?
I think any reasonable person would expect the control algorithm to say "Ah, the user has reversed direction, so let's immediately stop going 'Up'." (Actually, if you were scrolling quickly, it might be nice to automatically go one or two channels back 'Down', but let's not get carried away.) What actually happens is that the controller has stored all of your 'Up' clicks on a stack somewhere and it doggedly keeps on going 'Up' until they run out, at which point it starts executing your 'Down' clicks. Hopefully you didn’t click the 'Down' button too many times, or you will sit there with a little tear rolling down your cheek as the channel of interest scrolls by in the other direction. Give me strength!
I'm sorry. I see that I've started to rant and rave. It's been a long day. The point is that I just received a really chatty and friendly letter from the folks at a company called WOW! (www.wowway.com) who – I am informed – are now my "New Internet, Cable, and Phone provider, formally known as Knology."
I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details here, but the overall impression given by this letter is that they are jolly nice people whose main source of satisfaction is going to be to make me happy. Well, I certainly can't argue with that as a philosophy. Generally speaking, I think the world would be a much better place if more people made my happiness their goal in life.
The letter was signed:
Hugger, Mother, Keeper of the Culture
CEO and Chairwoman of the Board
WOW! Internet, Cable and Phone
I know it's silly, but how can you not trust a CEO who bills herself as "Hugger, Mother, Keeper of the Culture."
Quite apart from anything else, this letter was presented in such a happy and flamboyant style (unlike the dross one usually receives from big companies) that I find myself all enthused with great hopes for the future. So, am I easily pleased, or easily fooled?
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