Last night, I went to a local sports bar with my family to watch the Big Game between Stanford and UC Berkeley. While I’m ecstatic that Stanford won the game (20-13, ha! Take that, Cal!), the network’s information display made it very difficult for me (a very non-sportsy guy) to follow the game. The method used displayed very little game information, and the essentials were sometimes left out in favor of non-essentials. The network was Versus, and it was a big change from the one I’m used to (Big Ten, no pun intended).
For starters, the info was confined to a small box in the corner of the screen. The Big Ten network uses a full-width bar across the top. While the latter constantly displays the game clock, possession, yards-to-go, downs, play clock (even when not running), and timeouts remaining, the former displays the current quarter and game clock only, along with the scores and abbreviated team names, relegating information about remaining yardage, timeouts, and the play clock only when they are “relevant”; i.e., when they think they should be on the screen.
Having room for all game information, even when it’s not relevant, is crucial, in my mind, to the experience. Since we, the viewers, are generally paying to watch the channel (if at home via satellite) or have gone out of our way to watch (such as going to a sports bar, which we did), it only seems fair to optimize the display for our benefit. I didn’t see any advertising or anything of the sort in the place of where the additional information would be; it was just wasted space. The network just didn’t think very well about their display layout.
Granted, Big Ten’s display is probably patented or otherwise copy-protected, but that doesn’t mean Versus couldn’t come up with a better way to show game info. For example, do we really need to always know what quarter it is? Isn’t information on the current down more relevant? Why not move the quarter display to a pop-out section that shows up every few minutes, or have a “tab” sticking out the side of the box with the clock and quarter, and put down info, yardage, and ball position in the space formerly occupied by the clock and quarter indicators? That was my main gripe with the display. Also, three little dots in vertical rows on the outside edges of the box wouldn’t be too much, would they? Display the number of timeouts each team has left with those.
And finally, don’t keep moving the display! It was extremely irritating that the little box kept switching sides of the screen. I have little hope that someone from Versus will actually see this post, but perhaps in the future I’ll have enough influence to make people think about their interface designs. Or maybe we’ll all have moved to LCARS…