Crunchyroll is, according to their About page, “the leading global video service for Japanese Anime and Asian media.”

Their content is great and they have made some nice deals with the various big-name media companies, giving them the ability to simulcast content and make it available earlier than anyone else.

With that in mind, you’d think they would put some of their money into usability testing…

I’ve been using CR for a few years now now, both via the web and their Roku channel. While the Roku experience, especially, has never been very fluid, the latest changes have been absolutely insane.

Since CR is available on so many different platforms, they are trying to consolidate it all into a single experience. I get that. I don’t agree with it, but I get that. Still, you can’t simply take away features and impose non-intuitive design choices simply because you don’t want to hire the development talent needed to manage multiple code paths…

There are standard ways to make an interface on Roku (see also: Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc.) Unless you are somehow in contact with the spirit of Steve Jobs, don’t try to come up with your own standards.

Here are just a few examples of what I mean:

Old Layout:
* Queue
* History
* Browse Anime
* Browse Drama

Pretty straight-forward.

Once in the Queue, the show’s thumbnail image is displayed along with a symbol denoting if it’s a new episode. Clicking into a show displays all of the available episodes, with the selection defaulted to your next available episode in that series. Once the show starts playing, fast-forwarding shows scene thumbnails so you can easily see how far you are, which allows conveniently skipping the intro theme, recaps, etc.

New Layout:
* Queue
* History

Even more simplified. I’m not sure why History was kept instead of Browse, though. Queue has shows I’m currently watching. Browse lets me find new ones. I can’t think of a single time I’ve needed to go back to an episode I’ve watched months ago, so I could watch it again. But whatever…

Once in the Queue, the thumbnail of the current episode is display, along with a symbol designating it as the latest episode (this is one of the only improvements I’ve noticed). Clicking into the show immediately starts playing the current episode. There is NO option to view the next episode in the series once you’ve finished the one you are on, without closing and reopening the entire app. Fast-forwarding requires holding down the button and only a progress bar is displayed… and since getting it to stop at just the right point is quite difficult, I end up needing to wait for a segment to buffer and start playing before I can decide if I went too far or didn’t go far enough.

The Browse option which was previously part of the main menu has now been tucked away in a hidden menu (why?). The menu choices are listed at the top of the screen, but the Up arrow doesn’t go to it. Instead, you must press the Play button on the remote. Think about that for a moment. You are on an episode. And you hit Play… which doesn’t play the episode. It opens a menu. ….wow. Anyhow, that brings up an on-screen menu giving you a choice between browsing anime, browsing drama, or going back to the main menu. I can’t even begin to fathom why they arranged things like this. Could you imagine Amazon, Netflix, or any of the other streaming video providers not wanting to make it easy to find additional content…?

Lastly, and this is sort of a minor gripe, the Back button works as expected everywhere in the CR channel except on the Home screen. Normally, it would exit the channel and return to the Home screen on Roku. Instead, it does nothing. It doesn’t even tell you that you must hit a separate button to go back to the Roku Home screen. Ugh.

Having to exit and relaunch the app or manually search for a show by name using all sorts of convoluted key-presses just to see more than one episode in my list completely defeats the entire purpose of a Queue. (CR calling it a ‘Queue’ rather than what it really is, ‘Favorites’, is a rant for an entirely different time). I live out of the queue. I almost never browse for new shows until the ones I’ve been watching end. I prefer new simulcasts rather than old shows from the early 90’s. If they at least fix the horrible user-experience for the Queue, I might not be completely satisfied with CR on Roku but at least I won’t be disgusted with it.

Do. Not. Like.

I’m not alone, either. There are around 40-pages worth of user complaints on CR’s forum post about the latest update. And it sure was nice of them to ask for feedback after rolling it out to everyone…

I have cancelled my subscription to their service for now. If the Roku app hasn’t had the major issues fixed by renewal time, I guess I’ll just be spending a bit more time catching up on my Amazon and Hulu episodes instead.

I’m happy to throw money at quality products and services. To have a frustrating experience, though — especially when the previous version of the product was fine — I refuse to spend a single penny on that.

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