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The interface and user experience of HBO Max is fine. It functions well and getting from title to title is okay but there is room for improvement. A lot of its design is derivative of HBO Now, the predecessor of HBO Max, and while it looks sleek, it’s also pretty bare bones in terms of its own unique features. The central options are the “Max Hubs” which WarnerMedia put a lot of spotlight on.
(Source: HBO Max)
These serve the same function as Disney+’s menu tabs, taking you to a specific part of the service for each brand that WarnerMedia owns or has the license to and curates the content under that brand. Users will find the previously mentioned Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Studio Ghibli, Crunchyroll, etc. Yet, unlike Disney+’s tabs, the Max Hubs are not at the top of the site or app but are instead accessed by scrolling down to the middle of the page. That makes it incredibly inconvenient for anyone who just wants to get to a specific section of the service. Having it near the top with recommendations or highlights on new content being added would be easier and would drive engagement for that spotlight content. It isn’t the end of the world or anything like that but having options for a more user-friendly experience would have been great. Speaking of inconvenience, the way everything is laid out feels disorganized. It all comes to very small things such as listing older Looney Tunes shorts under season instead of years of the shorts were produced or not having a better organized list of Crunchyroll titles that have both subs and dubs or one or the other, because as it stands, while the content on hand is okay, it needs to be laid out better and have a much clearer focus. For example, instead of having a specific hub for just Looney Tunes content, why not have a hub for Boomerang, taking advantage of the branding for classic Warner animation content? Somewhere that you can have easier access to most, if not all the Hanna Barbera TV and shorts catalog while also having easier access to the library of classic Looney Tunes shorts. That would streamline searching and make it easier to find content overall. The search functionality also needs massive improvements, as services like Disney+ have subsections of various collections to narrow down titles in the search feature. HBO Max could benefit by offering a selected collection of titles in the search function while searching for shows or having tags labeled under the shows, allowing users to use general terms such as “Greatest heartfelt episodes” when searching, which would bring them to a collection of various TV shows that have the tag. As it stands, the search function is fine, but it would benefit from feature expansion to alleviate searching for one specific episode without using Google to find that specific episode. While on the topics of minor complaints the subtitles for Ghibli and Crunchyroll are hard subs. Personally, that isn’t a major issue for me but to those who may want to watch the Ghibli movies in Japanese with no subtitles unfortunately, you can’t do that. Thankfully, HBO Max runs well and videos load up quickly. The video quality is also good, being pretty comparable to HBO Now. Yet, at launch there is no 4K HDR support. While it isn’t a deal breaker and many movies and shows on the service wouldn’t feature 4K versions, having the option available would’ve been nice for those who have a 4K TV and want to get the most out of them. Additionally, the mobile app has download support which is so good to have, especially for users on-the-go. Videos tend to download well enough, although when I tried downloading The Amazing World of Gumball with the quickest download option, the video was out of sync. Meanwhile, downloading Seven Samurai at the highest quality, which took longer than the quick download, the video played as it should, with none of the footage appearing out of sync. That is a glaring bug and hopefully it’ll be patched in a future update, but for those who want to download content on your phone or tablet for viewing on-the-go, I’d say download under the highest quality and wait for the bug to be patched out. Overall, the mobile app works well enough. Video playback is quick and the quality is about the same as the web version. It did crash on me once but has otherwise worked fine past that isolated incident. Although as another minor complaint, there’s not a lot of customization for HBO Max user profiles, such as a lack of avatars for profiles. I’d like to see the option to use WarnerMedia-owned characters like Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, or even characters from licensed content like Totoro to customize profiles with. Instead, it’s simply a name with a different colored circle.
(Source: HBO Max)
It’s very basic and leads to it being very dull compared to services like Netflix and Disney+, who have a lot of customizable profile pictures to use. The lack of this gives HBO Max a very businessman-like approach of no fun, just simple and easy to understand. It works but it’d be way more interesting to have a lot of customizable features.