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Buying gear on Reverb

A couple of weeks ago, I wanted to buy an inexpensive stand for my acoustic guitar. I was already familiar with Reverb, which is an online marketplace to buy and sell music gear. Without knowing much at all about guitar stands, I did a search, landed on their site, and within several minutes I was able to research and purchase a new stand. From the helpful information about different stands to the last step of the checkout process, the user experience was great

After Googling 'guitar stand Reverb', one of the first results was a super helpful article on Reverb titled, 'The 6 Best Guitar Stands for Every Budget'. It listed all with all of the comparative specs I needed right on the page (saved me from having to look at each stand's page). Knowing my budget was small, I selected the On-Stage XCG4 Classic Guitar Stand. The price was right, the design was simple, and reviews were good. There's only one I caught that could be improved - when I curiously tried a sim…

An arpeggiator made with SVG!

Before attending the An Event Apart 2017 conference in Chicago last month, I didn't know much at all about SVGs, or even what an arpeggiator was. One of the speakers, Chris Coyier, gave a fascinating talk about the possibilities of the vector image format. And some of the examples he used included things like logo animation, shape morphing, spinners, art.

He even had a music example - an arpeggiator created on CodePen by Jake Albaugh.

If you're interested, there's a great article about arpeggiators here. In short, an arpeggiator is commonly found on a synthesizer, and 'provides synth players with an easy way of playing complex synth parts via simple chords'.

Besides being built entirely with SVG, Albaugh's arpeggiator (which you can interact with) has a good user experience too.
Areas of the screen are clearly labeled and the bright yellow color stands out for selected items, The screen is laid out well - you select options in each section and finally simulate …

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 …