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An arpeggiator made with SVG!

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Ultimate Guitar's many Play buttons

In any UI, calls to action must be clear - represented either by intuitively labeled buttons, or instantly recognizable icons. When they're not, your users will have to do extra work to figure out how a feature works, how to get started, how to distinguish areas of the screen. This will cause them to hesitate, be confused, and simply take more time than needed to get something done. And they'll most likely forget next time they visit your app.

In the case of Ultimate Guitar, an excellent guitar community website which includes chords (and tabs) from 1000s of songs, the detailed view of a songs's chords have too many similar calls to action.



In the image above, notice the number of tappable elements that represent 'Play'. The first and second one (top of screen) seem to do the same thing - they briefly open a different, more robust view of the tabs, followed quickly by a modal asking me to upgrade. Not only are the options redundant but only the second one has a lab…

A site map for a music application

For the past several months, I've been working with the CHIRP Radio volunteer tech team to design a mobile solution that allows station DJs to plan out their weekly shows. At a high level, a DJ should be able to browse and select songs from a massive music library, and add them to one or more playlists, which can be used for their shows. The app also has functionality like the ability to read album reviews, view recent activity by DJs in the app, and review a DJ's profile.
A site map is an important artifact when designing any application or website. It shows how the overall navigation should be structured, can be used with end users to validate the taxonomy, and is helpful for developers as a companion to wireframes or mockups.
Below is a site map I recently created for the project. The highest level navigation options are lighter in color, while as the user navigates deeper, darker colors are used to represent those options. The coloring isn't necessarily a known best p…

What made Rdio's UX so good?

On December 22, Rdio finally shut down its service, a beautiful, on-demand music streaming application, which didn’t do anything extraordinary when it came to functionality - they had discovery, sharing, playlist management, and a mobile offering just like their competitors. But it was the user experience that set it apart from others like Spotify and Apple Music. Simple, organized, intuitive, and mobile-first.

Clean, simple UI - Screen density is often an issue with music apps trying to cram every piece of recommended content and social function on the screen at once. Rdio's beautiful, simple design (with plenty of white space and good use of color and typography) makes for a clean interface so users don't get overwhelmed with all of the options and content being shown at any given time. Users notice important things like calls to action since they stand out so well.

Well-organized - Things are where you expect, including a small set of persistent navigation options on the left…

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 …

Apple Music UX - why navigation to settings is a challenge

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 gener…

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 applicatio…