I mentioned in my last post that the design of the NPR News app was based largely on ideas and suggestions from a panel of NPR listeners and heavy iPhone users. Immediately after launch, NPR ended the project precisely where it had begun: in consumer research.
Through structured interviews and hours of videotaped close-ups of people playing with the NPR News app, we discovered several ways to improve the app. Because we failed to provide users with the ability to pause and skip ahead within an audio piece, our early testers were occasionally frustrated by the listening experience. We also learned that the distinction between news you read and news you listen to, once so clear to us, was lost on users. Our listeners also helped us see that the playlist, while intuitive, was hard to manage for certain tasks.
In the hours that followed our release, we continued to track and learn from the comments in the app store and in our twitter feed. A couple of users discovered an error in the way some articles display, and we heard, time and again, of the need for better audio controls.
Scott Stroud, in our user experience group, assembled the comments into a list of recommendations for our next version of the app. Some of the improvements, such as a more intuitive playlist interface, will take a major code rewrite that may not be available until later this fall.
But our listeners also helped us to see a few ideas for improving the app that would be relatively easy to implement. Here, then, are the features slated for release within the next few weeks:
- Pause button - While listening to a piece, users will be able to pause playback and return to the audio later, exactly where they left off.
- Audio Scrubbing - Also while listening, users will soon be able to skip ahead to a particular place in an audio file.
- Sharing - Want to share NPR stories with your friends? We're adding support for Facebook and Twitter, as well as a way to send stories via the iPhone's native email application.
Listener comments from the iPhone app release will also help us to improve the design of the other apps we have in development. Michael Frederick, a developer at Google who is leading our Android project, has created an intuitive player experience that seems to be in line with user comments and with the recommendations from our user experience group.
The Symbian Foundation has also listened intently to the comments and recommendations from NPR listeners, and they're focusing the bulk of the effort for their upcoming NPR app on creating a fully-featured audio player.
As you're making your own list of improvements, please share them with us. We really appreciate those five star reviews, but we also appreciate your suggestions for improvement, because they help us know where to focus our efforts.