Saturday, June 27, 2015

This Is My Jam - A Well-Designed, Responsive Web Application

This Is My Jam is a music app that lets users share one song at a time with others. If there’s a song that you absolutely love right now and want to the world to know about it (which I often do), you can select the song, post it to your page and tell the world ‘this is my jam!’. Not only is the app’s value unique but the user experience is good, specifically when it comes to choosing a new jam. 

First of all, the app is responsive, slightly changing the layout of screens according to users’ device sizes. This is important because it delivers a consistent experience from web to mobile (without having to learn or download a separate native app) while the folks at This Is My Jam only have to maintain one web experience that adapts to users’ devices (that is, they don’t have to manage a web AND native mobile experience and all it entails). 

And this isn’t just some responsive web site where the content shifts around - this is a web application, folks, and it’s not easy to do. Web applications (compared to web sites) have a lot more functionality sometimes needing to support complex end to end processes, playlist management, purchasing things, etc. - much easier to achieve on a large screen. That’s why most of the articles about responsive out there tend to talk about it in the context of content and not actually having the user do too much work.

This Is My Jam does a great job of getting the user through a somewhat complex process - choosing a new jam, which has a lot of options along the way including search, multiple styling options, and previewing/sharing to a social feed. And it uses casual (not system-driven) language along the way (like a button labeled 'Yes, Looking Good') that resonates and fits well with the fun in posting a jam. Well done!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cherry Red Records - Where do I look first?

Cherry Red records is an independent record label based in London. Established in 1978, the label is known for such artists as Dead Kennedys, Runaways, Everything But The Girl and most recently, Swervedriver. But despite the rich history of the label, the user experience of their website could be improved. 

Since elements on the homepage are styled similarly (color, weight) and the page is so information-dense, it’s difficult for users to know where to look first, where to focus their attention and where to find things. There’s so much to look at that the visibility of what’s important is reduced. And I understand the red color is a big part of their brand, but the page is so saturated that it makes things worse.

A redesign of the page would help, focusing on a more aesthetic and minimalist design, deciding on the most important information and organizing the page in such a way that the hierarchy is clear and user can find things quickly. For example, they should consider:

  • Consolidating the 11 main navigation items to 5-7, anything more has been proven to put a burden on people’s short-term memory, causing it to be difficult to remember where to find things
  • Combining related things like Offers, DVDs, Books, Vinyl under one new option called Browse (or Shop)
  • Removing the unnecessary Home option, as users expect to simply click a banner logo at the top to get back home
  • Moving some things off of the page entirely - for example, genres could be moved to the new Browse/Shop navigation option
  • Replacing the entire entire shopping cart area with a simple cart icon, light gray by default and when a user has at least one item in the cart, adding a number and turning the icon red
    • The change in visual state will get the user’s attention
    • Also, placing it directly below the main navigation area, a typical location on sites with a shopping component
  • Taking all of the social things (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), replacing them with icons only and moving them to a more familiar (and visible) top right of the page


These are just a few things that could help them improve the user experience of the Cherry Red's site.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Nick Hornby and the current state of local record stores

In an exclusive essay, Nick Hornby writes about the effects of the digitization of music on the local record store, the resurgence of the local record store and what it all means in the context of his famous (and my favorite) book, High Fidelity.

Check it out here...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bandcamp's checkout process - a very good design


Bandcamp is like an online music store for artists where they can sell their music or merch and promote themselves. Many artists these days are using Bandcamp to set up a unique site to distribute their music on their own, with or without the help of a label or major distributor like iTunes.

The design and structure of each artist’s Bandcamp site is very clean, very simple with clear calls to action for playing tracks, following the band and buying things. But where Bandcamp really excels is in end-to-end flow of purchasing an album (or two).

This past weekend, I wanted to buy the latest album by Pale Lights, a band from NYC (also recommended by The Big Takeover magazine). Directly from the band’s Facebook page, I linked to Pale Lights’ Bandcamp site from which I was able to quickly find the album. On the album details screen, I clicked the large Buy Now link. From the subsequent modal, I named my price (in the conveniently highlighted field) and could either checkout or add to my cart (by way of large, uniquely-colored buttons). I decided to add to my cart, the modal closed and a cart area appeared on the right column of the page - with a nice animation pushing some of the content down a bit. From there, the checkout modal guided me to Paypal and the rest was easy.

It gets better when you buy two albums (from different artists). First off, you must go thru the checkout process multiple times (I assume so the money gets in the right hands) - one for the first artist and another for the second. And you’d expect that after the first purchase, you’d probably have to get your bearings, navigate back to the cart and start over with the second one. That didn’t happen at all - after the first purchase, I was happy to get a confirmation, an option to download it AND a Last Checkout button to begin the final purchase. What could have been a painful experience resulted in a good one where the app guided me along the way through multiple steps.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Purchasing tickets for the David Bowie exhibit

I recently purchased two tickets for the David Bowie exhibit (David Bowie Is) at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). The exhibit looks brilliant - a retrospective of his career including costumes, artwork, photography, etc. And it's been getting rave reviews from folks like Rolling Stone and UK's Guardian. I've been a fan of Bowie since I was a kid - we even named our black lab after him!

However, purchasing tickets for the exhibit via the MCA's website was not great. Interruptions in the purchase flow made the process confusing and time-consuming.

I selected the October 24 date at 6pm, two tickets and clicked Purchase (fairly easy). Now, I'm a new user to the MCA site so I had to create an account. This interrupted the process and it wasn't totally clear why it was necessary.

I did it anyway, expecting to come back to the next step in the process, the cart. Instead, I came back to the earlier page to (again!) select the date, time and quantity. Although I remembered what I originally selected, how very frustrating and annoying for myself and other users to recreate their work.

And after selecting the tickets again, my next step was the cart. But it turned out that I didn't have to reselect the tickets after all - in the cart, I found not two but FOUR tickets. Obviously, my selection was duplicated and I had to then delete two of them, etc.

I can't wait for the exhibit but I hope users don't face the same issues with the user experience I did.