Elisabeth Moss stars in the award-winning The Handmaid's Tale, part of Hulu's original content package. (Credit: Hulu)

As streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu gain the kind of power that's historically been reserved for the major TV networks, they must also figure out 21st-century ways to distribute and display their content. It's like trying to drive a car before it's finished manufacturing -- but if you can cross the finish line first, you may gain a crucial edge over the competition and create the design language we use for the next several years.

This week, in the midst of the Consumer Electronics Show bonanza in Las Vegas this week, Hulu (download for Android or iOS) is demoing some new features in its interface, including a beefed up programming guide and the possible demotion of its content recommendation system, in favor of hand-picked selections.

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TechCrunch reports that Hulu has begun testing a new landing page design where automated recommendations are replaced with "Hulu Picks," curated by staff like an Editor's Choice. The shows you already watch would be separated into an "Unwatched in My Stuff" section to help users distinguish. (The landing page is where users begin their experience every time they open the app.)

The evolution of Hulu over the past couple years has been a complex one, beginning with its integration of live TV in a 2017 redesign. Before that milestone, its appeal was in delivering network shows to you shortly after they aired, potentially saving you a lot of money on a cable or satellite TV bill, where DVR capabilities customarily come at a premium.

Hulu has arguably struggled to integrate live and on-demand content in a way that's intuitive for the average user to navigate, and one of the complicating factors may be the design of its landing page.

When Hulu debuted its integration with live TV content, it also did so without an electronic program guide (EPG) of any kind. Instead, on-demand and live content were blended together, which generated some criticism and confusion as users tried to separate things like a basketball game from previously aired episodes of a show that they wanted to catch up on.

During testing of the 2017 redesign, younger subjects did not ask for an EPG as often as older users did, which Hulu interpreted as a generational thing, as reported by Fast Company. However, as younger audiences are less accustomed to watching live TV in general, their lack of inquiry may have been rooted in their level of feature awareness, rather than their level of interest.

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Whatever the case, Hulu continues to walk back this decision, and its new plans for the EPG will expand the currently anemic offering from what's on right now and immediately thereafter, to all programming for the next two weeks. At the least, this brings Hulu's live TV navigation back up to parity with the cable and satellite companies that it competes against.

A full-fledged programming guide should also expand the utility of the service's DVR functions. The more content you can see, the better you can schedule your recordings.

Takeaways

  • Hulu is working on a new design for its main page that de-empasizes automated recommendations in favor of staff-curated content picks. The EPG or electronic program guide is also getting expanded to show you the next two weeks of a given TV channel's content.
  • These changes come in response to tests indicating that users had difficulty finding the content they were interested in.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.