Bad UX from Microsoft: Windows Media Player for Mac download experience

May 08, 2009

It’s sad that Microsoft keeps giving me bad experiences, despite having Bill Buxton and other wonderful people on their team. (Yeah, Buxton is in MS Research, not the “product”. Whatever. Still Microsoft.) My intent is not to bash them or anybody else just for the sake of bashing, but just now I came across something that made me again go just “sigh…” and shake my head.

So here’s the situation. I am trying to install Windows Media Player on my Mac. It’s not a bad piece of software at all for using Windows Media content on Mac. Yes, you can have Flip4Mac that integrates with Quicktime and is sometimes more convenient. Yet at other times, I’ve found Media Player gives me better experience, because it is Microsoft native so they have all the codecs and logic packaged up inside their own app and don’t need to interface with QuickTime.

So anyway. I google for “windows media player for mac” and get to this page.

Step 1. Flip4Mac and Windows Media Player for Mac downloading page

Ok, this is a pretty good page. It tells me there are two approaches for playing Windows Media content, and I pick the last link, Windows Media Player 9. Cool. I click on it and see this page.

Step 2. Mactopia page for Windows Media Player

Now this is starting to go a bit downhill. Looks like it jumped somewhere halfway in the page, but it’s still telling me about Office… err.. what? I want Media Player. Oh, in the bottom Products and Downloads section, looks like Windows Media Player is selected, so … where is the download link?

I realize “uh oh, this is not as easy as I thought. Time to switch my normal user hat for UX forensics expert”. And indeed, looking at what’s going on there, you see there’s a Details window where you can scroll, and you go down there… eureka. Some download links.

Step 3. Bottom of "Details" window

(Nevermind that it talks about it being released in 2003. I’m telling you, it’s actually a working piece of decent software.)

Ok, so you may think that you download the thing and it’s done, but no… you download a file, but it’s in some “sitx” format which my Leopard knows nothing about. So let’s see… there’s “How to Install”. What does that tell me?

Step 4. Installation instructions

Aladdin Systems? What is that? Of course there is no link. Sigh.. back to Google, and I search for “Aladdin Systems”. Well, that doesn’t give me much anything useful about Aladdin itself. There is Aladdin, but it has nothing to do with StuffIt. But there is Smith Micro, who I think made StuffIt, so hey, that’s great, let’s see where the link takes me…

Step 5. StuffIt landing page

Umm… what? Why am I seeing all these versions and there’s a woman talking to me? Which one is the right version? I thought StuffIt has a free version, but now I am not sure any more… all I wanted to do was play some Windows Media ;(

I wish this story had a happy end, but it doesn’t. I didn’t yet figure out the StuffIt page. I guess I’ll still find the right thing to decompress the strange archive and then I can finally use the app.