Daily Archives: June 23, 2010

Blizzard Screws Up The Parental Controls Interface

The third and final post in this week’s “WTF Blizzard?” feature.

Previously I ranted about how they compromised the security of the parental controls page and about the new Real ID feature that just launched this week.

Now I want to proceed to the actual parental controls interface, which have arguably suffered from this round of updates.

Not that the old version of parental controls was a joy to behold.

But the controls, and its center piece, the play time grid, were  clear, functional, and intuitively easy to use.  I was worried that I would have to describe it in detail, since it no longer exists, but Google images always provides! (Thanks to the similarly named blog, The Experienced Noob, from which I borrowed this image.)  So lookie:

The Old Play Time Grid

Green meant your child could play, red meant they could not.

You could easily click on any of the half hour increments to turn them on or off.  You could also click and drag your cursor across a range of increments, changing them all in a single pass.

It was simple, but that is what a tool like this should be.  No additional instructions were supplied or required.

Now there is the new grid.

The New Play Time Grid

At first glance you might actually prefer this new grid.

It looks a bit like one of the calendar views in Microsoft Outlook.  (That is familiar to far too many of us I fear.)

And it is easy to see the time ranges and durations once you have selected them.  The clarity of presentation is as good, if not better, than the previous grid.

Selecting the actual times though… you know, using the tool…

Here is a tip that you haven’t necessarily improved the user experience:  You need to explain things that previously needed no explanation.

I won’t quibble about the fact that the instructions, which are next to the grid, refer to “the time slots above.”  That is easy enough to fix. (I won’t pass up the opportunity to point it out however!  It supports my conclusion!)

No, it is the fact that time selection works in a different and not quite so intuitive manner that gets me.

Gone is the toggling on and off of half hour time slots.  Not that you would want to, since the vertical size of the time slots is eye-strain small.  You will miss your desired half hour increment often.

Now you have to click on the starting time and drag your cursor to the ending time all in an action that reminds me very much of pulling down a window shade.  It seems easy, but you often have to repeat it to get your settings just right.

And, if you are like me and sometimes set multiple play times for a single day, you’d better read that final tip.  Somebody at Blizzard decided that multi-select editing rules were appropriate, so you have to hold down the Ctrl key down while you select additional time slots for a day.  If you forget to hold down that key, your first time slot goes away as soon as you start dragging out the second one.  Oops.

Finally, make sure you don’t accidentally click on the wrong day.  Once you click on a day, you are stuck with a half hour selection that you can only remove by navigating away from the page without saving, then coming back to start over.

The half hour that would not leave

This also means that once you have a time slot selected for a given day, you will always have a time slot for that day unless you use the “clear schedule” option, blank out the whole grid, and start over again.  Ctrl-select was fine, but you couldn’t give me Shift-select for delete Blizzard?

Not a winning interface update.  Remember, they felt that having password protection for this page was too complicated, but somehow this grid selection method was just fine!

Okay, maybe you do not use parental controls and do not care.

And maybe “screws up” is an over-statement when referring to the whole parental controls interface.  Much of it remains exactly as it was before, with the time grid being the major change, even if the time grid is the major feature of the page.

But we are speaking of Blizzard, the company for whom “polish” is the alleged watchword.  And this interface update is clearly one that could have used a bit more thought before being released.