Rant: Hulu’s “Revolutionary” Interface


These days, every meeting I do, every casual conversation I have about online video, every tech conference I attend — Hulu comes up. At least twice. “Oh, the interface is such a joy!” they say. “Hulu has really figured it out!”

Well yes, I agree that Hulu is nice, and I use it often. But come on people, it’s a web site. With a lot of white space. And some gray text. Why is this so revolutionary?

I can only find two conclusions:

1) It doesn’t take much to make people happy.

2) Everything else sucks.

So come on, are you listening, competitors? Ripping Hulu’s interface off would be like opening up a new Microsoft Word document and typing in Times New Roman size 12. Why is it so revolutionary to just strip things down and provide a list of what people are looking for? Memo to struggling video sites and applications: If you can get your video to load when people press play, you might actually get some users.


Steve Mitgang

At nearly 10 times Hulu’s size, I would state with confidence that Veoh’s user interface points to an alternative way to watch and discover great content. You should check our brand new home page.


Sometimes the hardest thing to do is make a simple and elegant experience. Functionality bloat is what has made MSWord a nightmare. Web strategists are always trying to figure out how to shoe-horn more widgets into an interface as strategies shift from the day of conception to well past launch.

It is actually a lot easier to make a bloated complicated interface than a simple one. You can always add more crap onto a web page, but getting a dev or marketing manager to agree to let go of his/her “favorite use case’ is like pulling teeth.

Hulu seems to be balancing their content and functionality pretty well. The site changes and updates regularly. I wonder if they can make it easier and even more simple. Who really needs all those navigation options.

eric mortensen

I think Nelson might have hit upon something. Perhaps it’s not so much about the design. Maybe it’s about the familiarity of the content. Maybe it’s the comfort that comes from Hulu’s close ties to the old school TV experience. It’s hard to get lost or overwhelmed on a page full of shows that have been embedded in popular culture for decades.

It’s TV. Don’t Browse. Don’t Think. Just Watch. There’s a lot to be said for that. Airwolf might suck, but you’ve known that for 24 years. There’s comfort in that.

And now I have to get back to watching Hulu’s NewsRadio reruns (seriously).


If you were CBS or ABC, why would you want to sign a deal with Hulu? CBS has its content everywhere and ABC has probably the best quality video I’ve ever seen on their own site.

Hulu (read: Fox and NBC) takes a huge cut of the ad revenue and would have a disincentive to market content that Fox and NBC don’t own.


It’s elegant, it’s simple, and, holy smokes, it works!
Anybody who’s ever tried to put any kind of business together (how’s that for a sweeping generalization?) knows how big of an accomplishment that is.


Come on, Liz. The reason it’s so popular: 1. you don’t have to download anything; 2. the video quality is pretty good; 3. it’s free!

Sam Frank

CBS already completely copied Hulu for their HD site:

Why doesn’t CBS just join with Hulu so they can create a better destination site together?? What is the downside?

Nelson Mangrito

Hulu is great because it has great content on it, not stupid crap. It even has a few web series on it too, but they are good ones like Satacracy 88 and The All For Nots, so we are given a web site full of junk, hulu right now is the perfect video site, at least until cbs and abc get together and create uluh.com


i would agree. if it works, the quality is good and you have enough content, the viewers will come. just wait till the main video sites hook up with the XBOX’s and PS3’s (rumoured NetFlix and PS3) or any home media systems. thats when things will really get intersting.

Riff Khan

It is clean and content-centric… and yes it works to an extent. But what it lacks is that it is still not easy to share hulu content on social networks. A smaller but a more social site is: weareindia.tv


As much as I like Joost the UI is a pain in the Ass to use sometimes and has been ever since they started and the Joost staff I talk to say they are always trying to find ways to improve the client UI.

It seems that people like really basic interfaces but I think that if Joost where transfered to the TV with a remote with 3 axis functions it would work great like Linux MCE.

I dont like the Look and feel of HULU personally and still have myself using the search box to find content but it is perfectly suited to the desktop computer browsing experience but i dont know how that will transfer to the loungeroom and a remote.

Reality Byte

Sure, Hulu wasn’t designed by some art student with a graffiti fetish. What you see as a lot of white space, I see as clean, well-organized, doesn’t bash you over the head with Flash. Content is sorted many different ways for easy exploration or retrieval. We go there for the video, not the design. I’m not crazy about the grey type, but I can appreciate Hulu for what it is.

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