Netflix: The Download Progress Bar is a Lie

Earlier this evening, I attempted to watch instant Netflix on my PS3. They been having problems lately, and on trying to watch a show, it got stuck in the middle of the download phase, clearly showing a download progress bar. I said, whatever, I’ll try back later when it’s less busy.

So here I am trying again, nearly 10:30PM local time, and it still doesn’t work. I notice that when I log in, I receive an annoying message saying I must go log in somewhere else, but logging in here seems to work. I’ve seen this before but ignored it.

I still can’t watch a show. It still gets stuck show the download progress bar. So finally I go out to the PS3 itself and re-re-login. Upon doing that it then informs me that I have to accept new Terms of Service. This is for the Playstation Network, not for Netflix. I do so, and guess what – it works fine, instantly even.

I don’t know if this is Netflix fault or Sony’s fault, but either way this is horrible usability: making it look like it’s working, showing me a download progress bar, producing a vague error message that sounds like it’s telling me to do what I just did (sign in), and making me accept Terms of Service for the second time in the last month or so.

Yes, that’s right, this happened before, just long enough for me to forget what the actual problem was. Horrible use of system status, unclear error messages, lack of memorability, they are really pulling out all the stops to violate as many usability heuristics as possible.

While I’m ranting, let me just mention that the newish PS3 Netflix client is a major downgrade. There are too many columns jammed in side by side, making it difficult to read the text. It also makes searching for a title very difficult: not all of the alphabet entry area is visible. If I had to hazard a guess as to why it’s built like that, I think they are assuming you’re on an HDTV. I’d like a downgrade to the old version, please.

Update: With the downing of the Playstation Network, I thought I’d completely lost the ability to use instant Netflix on the PS3. However, the same proceedure that failed before (trying to log in, then hitting the back button, doing this several times) works – for a while. Then you have to do it again.