My Biggest Pet Peeve With Media Tablets: The Damned Carousel

  1. Do you know the one thing I hate the most about the leading media tablets? It's not how they are locked down to the point where it harms the usefulness of the device; no, my biggest gripe is the poor design of the main menu.

Between the Kindle Fire, KFHD, and Nook HD+ I now have 3 media tablets, all of which shares a common flaw.They all have a home screen with a faux carousel which jumbles together all the content I have used, downloaded, or even happen to have available in my account.

On the home screen of my Kindle Fire HD I can see: all the books I've read recently, the music I listened to, and the apps I installed - all in a single messy pile.

I hate it. It keeps me from finding my most used apps and most read books. Unless the title in question was something I used last, it generally gets lost among the many other items in the carousel. And not only do my most used items get lost among each other, they also get bumped down the queue by other items from my account which I didn't want to download or use but were still added to the clutter by the the helpful souls at Amazon and B&N.

If you don't understand the problem, then let me explain with a question.

Tell me, do you keep your physical media (CDs, DVDs, books, magazines, mp3 player, ereader) all shoved into one giant bin?

Do you dig through that bin each time you want to use something again, while also randomly chucking in more items which just happened to arrive in the mail today?

That does not make much sense, admittedly, but apparently Amazon and B&N do think some users do manage their content that way. After all, that is the model which the damned carousel is based on.

I will grant you that it looks pretty, and the animation of the icons sliding back and forth is eye-catching, but the damned carousel also limits me to just a few accessible items on screen at once.

I'm looking at my KFHD right now and I can see exactly 3 icons, each representing an app or media I just used. That might be enough for you, but on any generic Android tablet I could pick 6 or 8 icons to keep on the home screen. My Samsung Galaxy Tab has app icons on the home screen, and all are apps which I tend to switch between frequently as the day goes by. The ability to switch back and forth makes the tablet that much more useful to me.

On the other hand, I'm sure some of you are thinking that I am just one user, albeit one who spends far too much time examining how I use stuff. There's a good chance that all the developers involved in writing code for the media tablets would know more than me.

That would be a good point if not for the fact that another device maker, one which is well-known for choosing pretty over functional designs, is not using the carousel on the home screen of their tablet:

I don't see a carousel on the iPad's home screen, do you?

I don't mean to set up Apple as the arbiter of good UI design, but if they did not choose the pretty option then it is probably not the right choice. They've been working on the interface for the iPad since before they started developing the iPhone. Do you really think they didn't look at a carousel concept and discard it?

UPDATE: One reader has pointed out that Apple has a patent on a carousel UI. This patent covers the current UI of Apple TV as well as the carousel which is optional in iTunes Windows app.  (That is not exactly a strong argument in favor of it being a good design.) And guess what? The carousel on the new Apple TV interface is a design that Steve Jobs rejected 5 years ago because it is a bad design. Funny, that.

If only other developers would make the same choice.

About Nate Hoffelder (11598 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

9 Comments on My Biggest Pet Peeve With Media Tablets: The Damned Carousel

  1. I also hate the carousel. One thing I do is remove everything as soon as I’ve finished using it. I keep my favorite apps in the favorites shelf but the carousel is empty at all times. Sometimes I’ll leave my current books in the carousel but that’s it.

    It’s a major pain to get it that way initially but well worth it once it’s done and a simple task to keep it that way.

  2. Another comment, I’m a huge Apple fan but HATE all my icons on the screen. It’s not the same visual as the carousel but just as distracting. I keep as much as possible in folders but it’s still a problem for me. I keep as little as possible on my main screen. I search for items if I need them.

  3. Agreed, I mean how hard would it be to add a feature that would let you create your own custom carousels (i.e. Mysteries, How-To, or what ever you want to group together) so you could make your own organization system that created more manage-able ‘clumps’ of content. See like a U.I. no brainer…

    • I didn’t see that, thanks.

      The thing about patents is that they are usually not awarded until long after the tech covered by the patent is in use (the USPTO works slow). If Apple has a patent then they’ve already used the tech exactly where they planned to. In this case it means they’re not planning to use it on the iPad.

      That patent also covers the carousel which is optional in iTunes, not the main menu. That is not exactly a strong argument in favor of the carousel interface being a good idea.

      And guess what? The carousel on the new Apple TV interface is a design that Steve Jobs rejected 5 years ago because it is a bad design. Funny, that.

  4. “Tell me, do you keep your physical media (CDs, DVDs, books, magazines, mp3 player, ereader) all shoved into one giant bin?

    Do you dig through that bin each time you want to use something again, while also randomly chucking in more items which just happened to arrive in the mail today?”

    Thanks for finally putting to words the annoyance I feel every time I look at my carousel.

  5. You can disable the carousel on the NOOK HD series.

    Settings > Application Settings > Home > Show my Recent Drawer

  6. Well, to each his own, I guess, because I rather like the carousel as it shows me what I’ve used last and makes it easily retrievable.

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