March 12, 2020

dLibrary Japan (user experience)

dLibrary Japan has been a work in process since it launched and still is. But, hey, that only means there's lots of room to grow! And it's improving at a reassuring pace.

To start with, the picture is great. dLibrary Japan streams HD video, much better quality than I ever had with Dish. The Roku app is snappy and easy to navigate. Though Roku replay button doesn't work, the "skip forward/back" implementation of FF and rewind works better than the typical VCR-style controls.

For example, HIDIVE uses the standard 2x/4x/8x/16x/32x FF/rewind UI, but especially with longer videos, its 32x isn't nearly fast enough. Also unlike HIDIVE, the dLibrary Japan login page has a "remember me" checkbox. Unfortunately, like HIDIVE, it doesn't remember you even when it's checked.

The home page borrows from the Netflix interface (a streaming standard of sorts) though it's a rudimentary implementation. There are a half dozen genre categories but no search function. Seasons from the same series often aren't grouped together. The queue can be bookmarked but not the landing pages for shows.

The Roku app employs a "Windows 8" design approach, with big blocky icons. The catalog can be searched from the app, giving the app better discoverability than the website. The biggest missing feature is the lack of a viewing history or any way to keep track of your progress in a series from the app or website queue.

In order to automatically queue up episodes in order, you have to turn on Auto Play in Settings and launch episodes from Continue Watching. It's a workaround that works well enough most of the time, but these history and queue issues are currently the Roku app's most annoying bugs.

Though with apps like Netflix suffering from feature overload, there is something refreshing about the sheer simplicity of the interface. In any case, along with better progress tracking in the app and a search function on the website, the genre list needs more subcategories, such as for the Taiga and Asadora dramas.

Considering how much the NHK World app has improved, with the VOD catalog and program guide now accessible from the app, I expect dLibrary Japan to keep pace as well. Perhaps NHK Cosmomedia can take the lessons learned from NHK World and dLibrary Japan and create a streaming triple play with TV Japan.

Related links

dLibrary Japan (background)
dLibrary Japan (content)
dLibrary Japan
dLibrary Japan Roku app
NHK World
TV Japan

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