HBO Now - Good Content Doesn't Need Good Design Experience (?)

6 years ago from , Director of Product Design at Viacom

I've added the question mark inside parentheses because I'm not sure this is a fact (therefore a revelation) or should we, designers, open a discussion on it. Have you guys downloaded the HBO Now app? If not, I'll resume that for you, it's a MVP for high intend users, there is no experience, there is no UI, its a gallery with content. Probably because they are so confident their content is good that a good experience is not important. Thoughts?


  • Jordan KoscheiJordan Koschei, almost 6 years ago

    "No experience" is an experience. "No UI" is a UI.

    I haven't seen the app, so I can't comment on the specifics, but it sounds like "a gallery with content" is exactly what's called for if the intention is to showcase the content. The best design is the least visible; maybe that's what's happening here.

    15 points
  • Aaron NgAaron Ng, almost 6 years ago (edited almost 6 years ago )

    Totally agree with Jordan. I think there's lots of of design here.

    "A gallery with content" still has to be designed-- someone picked the structure, the navigation stack, the ia across search, descriptions, series -> episodes, how everything scales. It's intentionally clear, which is hard.

    I think "no experience" and "no ui" is just a reaction to their own visual style. They very consistently use stark black backgrounds, white text, and splash images from their shows across all of their services. It's their brand.

    5 points
  • brian andrichbrian andrich, 6 years ago

    The fact that you don't notice the experience or UI is a testament to how good the experience and UI is.

    5 points
    • Al Lucca, 6 years ago

      Do not agree, sorry. Not in this case.

      1 point
      • brian andrichbrian andrich, almost 6 years ago

        What don't you agree with? There's clearly an experience and UI, and in my opinion, they're both very good across all platforms. Your statement that "there is no experience, there is no UI" is quite frankly absurd, sorry.

        6 points
  • Taron GhazaryanTaron Ghazaryan, 6 years ago

    Just take a look at snapchat. The UX of that app is absolutely terrible, but the content is great so people use it and learn to overcome the burdens.

    4 points
    • Andreas Ubbe Dall, 6 years ago

      I don't know that the UX of the snapchat app is terrible.

      The main actions; sending and receiving snaps are quite simple and straight forward.

      1 point
    • Jeff CouturierJeff Couturier, almost 6 years ago

      There has been a lot of discussion/speculation about Snapchat's UI is intentionally obtuse. Younger users can figure it out and share tricks with each other, while the olds get frustrated and don't use the app. That tactic helps stave off what's happening with Facebook, where school age kids see FB as old and busted because their grandmother's are using it.

      6 points
      • Taron GhazaryanTaron Ghazaryan, almost 6 years ago

        That's an interesting theory, but I highly doubt the designers sat down and tried to balance out the difficulty of the app.

        6 points
        • JJ VerhineJJ Verhine, almost 6 years ago

          I believe it is less likely that the designers conspired to create a difficult experience, rather they have resisted the opportunity to clear up the ambiguity in an attempt to keep it obtuse.

          3 points
  • Amit Patel, 6 years ago

    I think you're looking at this from the standpoint of a designer and not the other way around. Most users don't refer to the way an app works or looks as UX or UI, they either like it or they don't. That's enough context to make something simple enough that there's nothing (from a regular user, non-designer) to dislike about it.

    You're partially correct on assuming its for 'high intend users' - it's HBO NOW, not HBO GO, not HBO.com an not the HBO that is derived from Cable providers. In that, they don't need to self promote, have any fancy on-boarding and for that matter, UI - the pretty stuff that makes the app users want to try to use something but eventually just delete it or stop using it altogether because thats all it is, pretty.

    I'm not too sure if Huge Inc was involved but they designed HBO GO and HBO.com, albeit in Flash, but the team that was involved provided a very honest design. They weren't trying to reinvent 'browsing patterns' or some new-fangled way of searching for a movie you like.

    I believe it's a good experience, not great, because it's not overly done and the app fits a market of Apple users who already don't subscribe to HBO.

    2 points
  • Shea MolloyShea Molloy, almost 6 years ago

    I've had a lot of trouble with HBO's mobile app before.... my guess is that they just have 0 user testing/design iteration. They're mindset seems to be "okay, it's up there!" and sometimes that's not even true. Could you post screenshots of HBO Now? I imagine it's quite similar to HBO Go

    1 point
  • Al Lucca, almost 6 years ago

    Interesting comments, thanks. I feel like I live in another planet.

    0 points
  • Eddie GomezEddie Gomez, almost 6 years ago

    Good content is a big part of the experience. What is not visible is also part of the experience and must be good to support seamless video load buffering and other viewing performance aspects while immersing the user with great content.

    Good Content DOES need Good Experience design, overall not necessarily eye candy.

    0 points
  • Calvin WilsonCalvin Wilson, almost 6 years ago

    I think for an MVP it's a solid, usable product. However, the experience for discovering content is totally lackluster. You really have to dig to see that the content offerings are HUGE.

    I mean hamburger menus for discovery??

    0 points
  • Sarah Arnegard, 6 years ago

    Of course there is an experience and a UI.

    As HBO Now is an entertainment app for accessing HBO shows, it seems they've designed it around showcasing their content.

    0 points
  • Jordan BrewerJordan Brewer, almost 6 years ago

    Or they are banking on their users knowing exactly where they are going?

    0 points
    • Al Lucca, almost 6 years ago

      That's why I mentioned "high intended users", I agree on this. But you can deliver more than a gallery even for this kind of users in my opinion.

      1 point
  • Yasen DimovYasen Dimov, 6 years ago


    0 points