Another of my favorite sessions from Interaction 13 was Trip ODell’s If UX Can Kill it Probably Will: Designing for the 70 MPH Interface. And what interface might that be? I had the fortune of making Trip’s acquaintance a couple days before his talk and learned that he has worked for both Microsoft and Adobe, but he wasn’t speaking of work he did at either company. He is currently at Audible, a company that I have a lot of respect for. He convinced the company that, even though their customers had a very high satisfaction rating with the existing Audible app for mobile phones, it had to be redesigned. That, in and of itself, is impressive, and the fact that the company put the time and money into the effort shows that they really do care about their customers.
What was so bad about the Audible app that it had to be redesigned?
This is what the old app looked like with all of the controls exposed. All the icons and the progress bar at the top could be shown and hidden with a tap on the screen. The volume slider and the row of buttons above it could be displayed or put away by dragging the ribbed tab. But let’s think about the use of audiobooks. As Trip pointed out, you almost always listen to them start to finish. You don’t skip parts, and you certainly don’t jump back to re-listen to a previous chapter. That entire row of rewind/forward controls, while useful when listening to music, are not only useless for audiobooks, but a source of extreme frustration. If someone is driving, or even walking, and they attempt to pause the book, but accidentally jump back to the beginning of the chapter, there is no good way to recover from the mistake.
Trip’s focus was use while driving, and he said that they determined that the play/pause button was the most important, followed by the 30-second rewind and bookmark buttons. Everything else could be minimized for non-driving use. The new design, which released this week, is a brilliant example of simplification done right.
There are a number of other laudable improvements to the app, and it’s getting rave reviews. I want to congratulate Trip and his team on some outstanding work. They should submit it to the IxDA Interaction Awards next year.