A Better Channel Listing Design

December - 2015

TODO: This is one to work on and polish up. Right now, it's just a collection of ideas/snippets.

A great quote, attributed to Admiral Grace Hopper, has been making the rounds:

The most dangerous phrase in the language is, "We've always done it this way."

Examples abound. Sometimes the result of institutional inertia. Sometimes because no one took a step back to look at what they were working on. TV channel listings are a great example.

In the pre-historic days of fewer than ten available channels, sorting by number worked just fine. They'd fit in a single view and it was easy enough to remember the entire set. Before switching channels showed the network along with the number, it was even helpful. But those days are long gone. With hundreds of channels (in multiple definitions) the old layout has outlived its usefulness. Finding a channel on a system you're not familiar with is tedious and time consuming.

These designs were also helpful

Now that we have hundreds of channels across both standard and high definition, that design needs to go.

The most important aspect of a channel is not it's number, it's what network or station it provides.

The number sorted design breaks down with hundreds of channels. Never mind when some are in both standard and high definition.

Sorting channels by number worked fine in the pre-historic days when there were only four of them. They'd all fit on a single page and it's easy enough to remember the channel on each one.

That design breaks down with hundreds of channels. Never mind when some are in both standard and high definition.

The only reason I can think of for why today's cable box and DVR listings use that approach is the

Now that we have hundreds of them

In the pre-historic days of only four channels. Listing