Sunday, October 4, 2015

Bandcamp's login link is in the wrong place

When an application is intuitive, it typically has features that are simple to understand. The user doesn't 'have to think' when performing an action, completing work or navigating here to there. Things are located and work as users expect - and this is based on their mental model that develops by way of experience with similar applications.

Bandcamp is a great site for artists and users. As I've written about here, it does a lot of things well including a great checkout process for users to purchase merch.

However, I recently found the login link hard to find. When I did a Google search for 'Bandcamp La Luz', I linked directly to the band's Bandcamp page and was able to add their latest album to my cart.  I then wanted to login to the site to see what albums I had purchased recently but I couldn't find the login link. I expected it (based on experience with other sites) to be located top right of the page and was surprised when I scrolled and found it at the very bottom near several unrelated footer links. Meanwhile, in another browser tab, I did a Google search for just 'Bandcamp', navigated to the Bandcamp home, and the login link was located top right, where I expected. Why is it located one place here and another place there?

The login link should always be consistently located top right. It's just where users expect it to be. By leveraging users' mental modal, you create an application that's intuitive, where users don't have to think about where things are or how things work.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Apple Music UX - why navigation to settings is a pain

In the first of a series of UX reviews of Apple Music, I focus on navigation, one of the most important UI aspects of any music app. When we talk about navigation, we're referring to a user's understanding where of they are and how they predictably and easily get to various areas or features of an app.

First of all, I really like Apple Music for several reasons: the pictures of artists and large album art, tighter integration with iTunes, improved playlist management on mobile, Beats 1, the potential of Connect and other things which I may write about later.

But when it comes to the navigation, the app suffers in a few ways. I've read (and heard) about some issues with the overall navigation model, that it's difficult to remember where you are and how to get back to where you were. I've experienced the same thing - but I'd like to focus on a few specific things I frequently use: a new option that allows a user to see only tracks downloaded to the phone, and general Music settings. The former is brilliantly highlighted by Jonny Evans in a recent article via Computer World.

For the new option (accessible when My Music is selected), it's really hard to find. I access and change this setting a lot - I like to download tracks right to my phone so it's important to quickly and easily get to that setting to display only what's on my phone. Not only is it difficult to find (it's located under the list view switcher for Albums, Artists, Songs) - it can take a lot of time to get there. Since it's located at the top of each alphabetical list, if I'm in Artists, say around Slowdive or The Smiths, there's no quick way to get back up to the switcher - I have to scroll all the way to the top each time. 

Another music setting I change frequently is in the general Music settings on the phone - it's EQ between Rock (when i have buds in) and Off (in the car since I let my car's EQ settings take over). Currently it's just too many steps to leave Music, navigate to Settings, make the change, go back to Music, etc. each time. It's a lot of work not to mention it's separated from other music settings in the app like the one mentioned above and additional account settings located under the avatar icon. That said, it just makes sense to organize all of the music settings together in one easy-to-find place.

Since Apple seems to be introducing more music options each release - I would recommend a Settings menu directly in the Music app. I would replace the avatar icon (top left) with a gear icon for settings, and combine the current Account options with other settings discussed above including all of the Music settings for the phone. It's basically about reorganizing things - a change like this would require small dev effort while benefitting the user in a big way, allowing him to predictably and easily get to these areas of the app. 

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...