The scenario: You are watching a recorded TV show from your DVR. You end up watching all of it, forgetting you can fast-forward through some parts.

I attribute this to a lack of an indicator actually on the screen. Most DVR boxes will have an indicator, such as "PLA", but often these boxes are not the focus of attention, and are overlooked.

How would you design for this scenario? What would be a great indicator without compromising the experience?

With any design choice, I would include an option to turn the indicator off completely, as this approach may not be desirable by everyone.

Here are a couple of designs I came up with:




  • Is this actually a real world problem? I've never encountered someone who forgot they were watching a DVR in their own home. In fact, my 6 and 7 year old kids are surprised when they can't pause a TV show when they are watching a TV without a DVR.
    – 17 of 26
    Jul 26, 2013 at 19:42
  • "Problem" is a bit of an overstatement. I would use "nuisance." I've seen it floating around forums/social networks/internet memes before.
    – Keiwes
    Jul 26, 2013 at 20:06

2 Answers 2


Maybe a light on the remote control?

Any solution which is too noticeable (such as overlaying information on the TV itself) is a distraction from watching the show, and thus should be immediately rejected.

The other solution is to detect commercials and automatically fast-forward (or notify the user that they can do so). Such solutions are only partially effective due to engineering constraints. Further, that feature receives no love by those whose revenue relies on advertisements.

Fast-forwarding is great as a feature to market, but ideally everyone (except the users) would prefer if nobody used it to skip commercials.

  • Thanks for the response. I didn't specify commercials, although they are mainly skipped over. I think a light on the remote control would have the same disadvantage as the "PLA" on the DVR itself. Do you think a design "overlay" is possible that would be indicative yet not distracting?
    – Keiwes
    Jul 26, 2013 at 18:50
  • @Keiwes: No. Any overlay (i.e., overlay on the tv screen itself) will be distracting. During regular TV watching, such an overlay would be a source of anger, akin to a prominent dead pixel on an LCD screen. However, such overlays are fine if integrated into an existing, user-acceptable overlay. Thus, showing such an indicator while the user is changing the volume is fine; the user is already partially disengaged from the show, and you're forced to show an overlay anyhow.
    – Brian
    Jul 26, 2013 at 19:28

See GIFs a couple of seconds. Both contains cues at the bottom.
More obtrusive: display periodically fading transparent progress bar. It is cue to jumps ability through forwarding. Also you can mark scenes positions on the bar.
enter image description here

Less obtrusive: just display periodically play symbol.
enter image description here

  • I really like the idea of the progress bar. This not only indicates that it was previously recorded, but it also tells you where you are in the show. I like the minimalist progress bar you have in the first picture (+1 for transparency), however, I think if it were flashing it might be more distracting than if it were always at the bottom.
    – Keiwes
    Jul 26, 2013 at 19:19
  • The display frequency is the subject to change. It could appear, say, once in 3 minutes, just as reminder. For the permanent displaying I'd did it narrower. Jul 26, 2013 at 19:24

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