Skip to main content

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 the application.

Whether this design is intentional or due to the natural constraints of a small screen, it works. Not only is the desktop design less pleasing, the inconsistency in the look and feel (across channels) makes it difficult to learn the overall Slacker model. They should strongly consider a more consistent design across channels! In addtion to simplifying the desktop UI, another improvement could be a small, simple app (similar to mobile) available from the web browser - like Pandora One.

Overall, when building music applications in different channels, designers should look first to small screens as inspiration. The simple design of mobile applications (like Slacker) can help them translate to a great user experience on a larger screen.
Update: Evolver.fm has written about a new Slacker mobile UI here...http://evolver.fm/2010/10/27/slacker-app-pandora-spotify-iphone-android-blackberry/#more-364.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Google Doodle tribute to Les Paul

In honor of (what would have been) Les Paul's 96th birthday, today's Google Doodle is an interactive, recordable, electric guitar. Paul, after whom the Gibson Les Paul guitar is named, was one of the first electric guitars and he designed one of the first solid body electric models. He is also one of the few artists with a stand-along exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame . The Google Doodle, found at google.com , is typically an illustration created for one day to (among other things) celebrate a holiday or the birthday of someone famous. You simply hover over the strings to strum and create a song. A record button lets you save your song and send it to someone and you can even play back your own song while playing over it (like the overdubbing Paul made famous in the '40s). Click on the Doodle? Well, that will show you search results for Les Paul. Several music fans have recorded their own songs today including this one - 'Hey Jude' by The Beatles. Easy to u

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

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 use