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Showing posts from 2010

Slacker and the inspiration of small screens

Slacker is a great, genre-based internet radio application. Similar to Pandora, it delivers songs to the user in a random order (vs. on-demand listening applications like Mog and Grooveshark) and offers all sorts of customization and social networking features. In contrast to Pandora, the mobile version offers caching of music for offline listening (very cool!).

Slacker also has a strong presence in channels like IPTV, mobile, desktop and (most likely very soon, to compete with Pandora) a version for the car. However, in terms of user experience, the channels differ.

The desktop UI is clunky and cluttered with several calls to action on the main 'player' screen - they cram everything in into one view and it's not clear where to begin. Meanwhile the mobile UI is pleasant, simple and provides only the major functionality on the main screen. It is a minimalist design with very few buttons and choices for the user to make; other less-frequently used functionality is deeper in th…

The new look of The Big Takeover

The Big Takeover is a 30-year old, bi-annual music magazine written and published in NYC by the enthusiastic Jack Rabid. It includes some great record and concert reviews and is an important voice in the independent music scene. More than anything (at least for me), it's THE place to discover new music. The BT website is a good companion which features the one of the main revenue drivers: subscriptions to the magazine!

The homepage just underwent a redesign that drastically improved the layout. The page now uses clear section headers (Concerts, Recordings) which logically match the main navigation options and the use of white space helps users to direct their attention appropriately.

However, it's not clear why the navigation is placed above the ads away from the content. Although the location of Search meets expectations, the navigation should be closer to the content. Moving the navigation below the ads (suggested wireframe below) would create a more efficient experience for…

Using 4AD's search wheel

4ad is a British independent record label that began in 1979. Its former and current artists include the Pixies, Lush, The National, Bauhaus and Pale Saints. If that's not enough, the website is full of video, streams and downloads of their latest music from the homepage and flexible navigation including a prominent search box and a right-panel rolodex style for finding artists alphabetically and chronologically. There is also an interactive wheel used to search by artist or year. However, some components of the wheel are unclear and not useful.
Without any instruction, the wheel immediately suggests (by changing the mouse pointer from arrow to hand) that you can click and drag to a particular year or an artist; a corresponding white (or black handle) lets the user find specific information efficiently while a red handle (the 'Randomise Leaver') selects random artists from their catalogue. But the purpose of the red rectangle that contains some sort of number is not cl…

Redesigning the MySpace music player

Originally a major competitor to Facebook, MySpace has evolved from a being a place for 'friendships' to an important site in digital music. Like Facebook, artists can create profile pages for fans to follow but artists can also embed songs into a music player for fans to listen to. This functionality has really opened the door for discovering new music (especially for new artists who don't have a label or a means of distribution and marketing). However, MySpace's music player (above) suffers from some usability issues including small controls and an inefficient screen layout.
When advancing through a song, users have to move a very small slider control that requires unnecessary precision. An improved, larger control would be much easier to click and drag than the current small rectangle shape. Also, the two-row layout of songs in the artist's queue is inefficiently designed. A maximum of only five songs can be listed in the queue at one time and then users ha…

The MOG slider

MOG is a social networking site for people obsessed with music. In addition to connecting users with similar music tastes, they can create blog posts and manage their own profile pages. The site recently launched MOG All-Access which provides (for $5 per month) unlimited artist radio and on-demand listening (choosing any song you want at any time).
After searching for and selecting an artist or song, the music player launches containing one of the best features of the MOG user experience - a slider control that lets users narrow or expand the variety of an artist radio station. Initially, the slider is positioned all the way to the left playing only songs by that artist but, by moving the slider to the right, it incrementally increases the amount of similar artists in the queue. It works really well and gives users effecient control over their music while letting them also discover new artists.

Streaming KEXP on the iPhone

KEXP-FM is a listener-supported radio station in Seattle specializing in alternative and independent music. People (including me) listen to the station from all over the world and, recently, they launched their application for the iPhone. One thing I really love about it is the ability to create playlists and add songs to favorites.These features create a unique experience not available while streaming from the KEXP.org site.
Despite the great new features, the relationship with iTunes is familiar and frustrating.Similar to other iPhone music apps including Wilco's, clicking on 'Buy on iTunes' from the Song Info screen abruptly ends the stream and takes the user to iTunes providing no clear way to return to the stream. The inability to 'multitask' on the iPhone may discourage users from clicking the iTunes link knowing that their stream will end and they'll have to manually re-open the KEXP app.
KEXP could improve the app's experience by: warning the user th…