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.

9 thoughts on “Blizzard Screws Up The Parental Controls Interface

  1. PeterD

    Ouch, that pun hurt :P

    The old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” really seems to apply here. The old interface was functional and intuitive and these “improvements” don’t seem to have added anything to it. If anything it seems to have made time slot adjustment harder than before, which is not what most people consider an improvement.

    It seems like modern day Blizzard sometimes changes things just for the sake of changing them so that their product doesn’t seem to be stagnating.

    My little guy won’t be needing parental controls for a good while yet, but it’s not hard to see how this new system is clunky and awkward compared to the old one. Why on earth have the ctrl-click selection interface? Why?! Why not simply let you select with the mouse, and unselect with the mouse by clicking the same spot again. How hard is that? Sigh.


  2. Gallaria

    As Winnie the Pooh says, “Oh bother!”

    What a pain in the tukkus!

    Maybe when certain a young lady goes to work at Blizzard, when she’s 19, she’ll fix everything ;)


  3. sid67

    Solution: Learn to parent more poorly. Then you won’t keep getting caught up about silly things like “child care” and “child safety”. When I was a kid, my parents gave me a chainsaw and an axe and said “just don’t use them in the house.”

    That said, you do need to caution some restraint. It’s like I told my six-year old daughter the other day, “Look, it’s no wonder you keep pissing the bed. You are always drunk! You need to lay off the whiskey and pace yourself with beer.” Right now it’s like four shots and she’s done. If she drank beer, she could last at least another hour or two.


  4. Pai

    The current WoW devs seem to be trying to fix a lot of things that ‘aren’t broken’ and ending up not actually improving things. Individually, most of these things are small, but the fact that they seem to be piling up is kind of worrisome.

    I know the ‘B Team’ is in charge of the game now, but I wish it wasn’t so obvious sometimes.


  5. Wizardling

    And don’t even get me started on the ‘improvements’ to the chat window. Now the input box appears below the text of other UI elements (Titan Panel in my case) preventing from being able to check my typing, chat windows are not saving their positions, I can only resize windows from one corner instead of any edge which worked really well previously, now every freaking tab now glows to let me know there are new messages… in /trade (so handy!), whispers from NPCs, etc. Gah! WTF would I want to know someone has said something else in /trade or /general? Plus the new tabs are widely spaced, yet fail to use all the room to display their name, leading to tabs called ‘Whisp…’. *sigh*

    What a fustercluck. What really galls me is NOTHING was broken. These are all ‘improvements’. *headdesk*


  6. John D

    I think it’s the Xbox guy working at blizzard that has done this(and all the other stuff that comes from 2.0), the colour scheme on the new scheduler, it has that xbox flair to me.
    It’s not the only silly thing that is coming, for example there are no chat channels in SC2. A logical thing to leave out… for an XBOX that can’t use keyboard/mouse.

    PS. Why on earth did they go from a horizontal arrangement for days to a vertical? Do they do UI design on portrait oriented screens instead of landscape?!


  7. SynCaine

    Fairly obvious whats going on here: Blizzard has yet to see someone else do this to ‘borrow’ it, and we are seeing what happens when Blizzard gets original (WC Stories, Ghost anyone?). Hopefully for you, SW:TOR has parental controls, and right before that game’s release Blizzard will get around to this.


  8. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    My own theory is that control over this changed groups.

    The original parental controls were for WoW, were embedded in the WoW account admin panels, had the WoW site look and feel, and were simple and functional. The WoW team built them and owned them.

    Now, however, they are part of, so that team felt they needed to make it look and feel more like their product, which isn’t really a product… yet. And they went and “improved” it, interested primarily in how it looked I would guess. And it certainly looks better.

    The functionality, the ease of use though… The security hole for those of us who bought into the authenticator model and the half-assed functionality of the new time grid… well, it just shows that they cared more about the whole thing being the right color.


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