The SliceView Guide and Discover: A User Story
In software development, many projects start with something called a “user story,” where the developer or product manager or whoever tries to insert themselves in the mind of a customer. From there, they try to answer questions about a service, figuring out how to solve problems by thinking about how the customer would want the problem solved. If you want to learn more about the general idea, the wikipedia page on user stories is pretty decent.
A Thorny User Story
With that said, I’m not here to talk about what a user story is. Instead, I’m here to talk about the HDHomeRun patented SliceView Guide, which is a reimagined take on the traditional programming guide. How in the world did we come up with it? What kind of user story leads to the SliceView Guide?
We start with a simple question. How can a person browse the program guide without driving anyone else watching TV nuts by intruding on the current program? The traditional program guide solves this in 2 major ways. First, there’s a slide up mini-guide that shows maybe a channel or two. Second, there’s the picture-in-guide format, which provides a full sized guide and a tiny little box where the video keeps playing. There are also less popular methods, like background play, where the video plays behind the guide. This is a Kodi feature. Or there’s the right swipe mini-guide, which split screens the video with a small guide on the right hand side.
The problem with all these options is that they are all still very intrusive. They take up a lot of screen space and they inevitably distract from the current program.
The Slice Guide Solution to this Thorny Story
What we came up with was a guide that only takes up the right edge space, an area where very little happens and which is often intentionally left empty in case the show needs to be cropped for 4:3 screens. Such a guide is so slight and small that it’s almost invisible if you aren’t looking for it.
Then, when browsing any particular channel in this guide, we focus exclusively on that one channel. In addition, we add a search bar that will actually hide even more channels, so the right side column can be even smaller.
And so we had our user story question, and we had our potential answer. After developing it, we found evidence that our efforts resulted in exactly the success we were hoping for. Numerous customers have told us stories about how kids or teens or whoever will call up the Slice Guide and NEVER PUT IT AWAY. They’ll either start watching something and forget the guide is even there, or they’ll watch something and constantly keep navigating through the guide, sort of like the modern version of the kid who rapidly clicks through all the channels without ever stopping on one. For these customers, the guide is just part of the screen, like the ESPN or CNN ticker.
The SliceView Guide Doesn’t Solve Everything
Unfortunately, as with every user story, there are issues we failed to account for and there are people unhappy with our solution. These people appear to fall into two main camps: those who simply dislike change and are used to the standard grid guide, and, perhaps more seriously, those who feel the standard guide makes navigation and search faster and more efficient.
We can’t do much for the people who prefer a more traditional guide other than to create one. But those people who feel the Slice Guide doesn’t do a great job finding new content are exactly right. It doesn’t. However, we’d argue that the traditional guide doesn’t either. The traditional guide forces you to look around for all the best content, hiding it days and sometimes hundreds of rows away in weird groups created by random channel frequencies for Over the Air TV or business executive random decisions for cable. Surely there is a better way to find content than that?
Which is where Discover, another tab in the HDHomeRun app comes into play. The point of Discover is to get rid of all that arbitrary channel nonsense and present all the best new shows and content that you’re actually interested in. Unfortunately, for a long time our Discover tab just wasn’t very good. To search from hour to hour meant constantly zooming down and down and down. It was easy to lose track of where you were and it was frankly quite difficult to really find anything.
But that’s all about to change. We have just recently open our new UI update to beta review. You can check it out right now, if you want. And we are excited to say that the new Discover tab really refreshes and renews content browsing.
The first thing we did was to reorient the Discover tab list to be a little more like a traditional guide. Instead of needing to navigate through 60 or 100 shows just to get to the next half hour, you can hit right a few times on the first row, and proceed immediately to the next half hour. This means the new, most interesting content available at the top of every half hour is ALWAYS at the top of Discover Now, ready and waiting to be found.
You can also discover the biggest shows, movies, and upcoming sports, of course. And one nifty little feature we recently included was the ability to find a list of all the content on any specific channel. For example, if you type in 10.1, you’ll get all the upcoming shows on channel 10.1 at your fingertips.
We’ve always found the traditional programming guide frustrating, because it did a lot of things, but it didn’t really do any of those things well. We think the Slice Guide and Discover, working on concert, will eventually have the ability to far outpace a traditional guide. But for that to happen, we need your input. Join in the conversation the forum. Take the new UI for a test drive. Let us know what you think works and what could use improvement.
We’re always open to new and interesting ideas. For example, searching by channel number came straight from user feedback. So join us, and let’s get this conversation started!