I wonder how many people out there are distracted by terrible UI design...

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I wonder how many people out there are distracted by terrible UI design...

Post by circuitbored »

I spent 25 minutes this morning trying to create a simple music playlist in Google Play Music on my Android phone, and couldn't help but think that many people every day are distracted by terrible UI design in modern-day applications on their phones. I wondered how many accidents happen because applications are so much more complex and unintuitive these days. I'd bet that the distracted pedestrians and drivers are often trying to operate music apps a good portion of the time when distracted pedestrian and driving incidents occur.

UI (User Interface) design is the basis of creating application controls and layouts for screens on web sites and applications just like the play and fast forward buttons on a music player. Back when you had a walkman, listening to music was simply plug and play, albeit very cumbersome. Then apple created a silly music player thing with a stupid and crazy click wheel and young consumers ate it up. Your parents didn't get it because they couldn't figure out how music was played on it.

In the past few years, it seems like we've taken several steps backward in terms of keeping applications simple. Something as intuitive to design as a music player should be a no-brain design operation, radios and music players have been around for centuries, but somehow a huge company like Google gets it wrong now... On a touch screen.

There are literally tons of other apps that handle the process of music playing/sorting better, yet it's a wild west in the app store when you need to choose an application. You may find an app that does the job well, but just as easily, you may find one that scans all your phone contacts and subscribes them to a black-market mailing list for mail order brides, or you may pay for it and lose everything on a simple phone OS update.

My main concern is about the default music player that comes with Android OS, from the monster company known as Google... It is bad. It has hidden settings menus, and a bunch of features that I really don't want or need like caching, cloud storage, and music streaming, and I can't ever turn these features off.

Finding a simple song I have stored on my Phone and adding it to a playlist requires much more energy and attention than it used to, and it's impossible to simply set a song as a ring tone, or to delete it from in the Google Play Music app, when I used to be able to do it back in '01 on my Blackberry curve.

A central philosophy in UI design was to minimize clicks to get to key functionality within an app. Another principle was to emphasize buttons based on their importance. Google has thrown these tried and tested principles out lately in their quest for market diminance because they made Android OS and they control what comes with it. This is bad, and I hope they feel bad about it. These design principles don't just go away, they are fundamental in ensuring return app usage, reliability, and brand loyalty.

Many other companies are guilty of the same practices, they make mobile sites that hide key functionality available on desktop (full size PC) screens. If google Play Music made a hardware boom box, there would likely be no giant volume knob, you would have to open the speaker to get to a play button, and to put a CD in, you'd have to register an account on a web site and validate it before doing anything with the stereo. They would also track every song you played, and have a mic on it to record your thoughts for targeted ads played between each song. Because Money.

Also, for the past 6 years "random" or "shuffle" on music apps seems to mean playing a limited pool of songs in the same order every time. As I said, I have an SD card filled with Mp3s, most of the music players can't seem to give me a unique playlist whenever I try a random setting. Not many people may have this problem, because many people don't collect music any more. Now music apps play a pool of songs from groups of music based on how the songs are stored on my installed memory card, or possibly because they are approved songs based on Goigle's business partnerships. Something is wrong when I select "shuffle music" on 10,000 songs, but I hear only the same 100 songs constantly when I play USB memory sticks in my car, often in the same order.

Too many application makers market software as freeware when it has intentional bugs and limited functionality, which is intended to encourage in-app purchases and upgrades for a price. This practice corrupts quality overall in application design. Maybe we should spend some more time ensuring that "random" and "free" really mean something great again. My music player also seems to only play the terrible pop songs I've saved most of the time as well, avoiding the new indie music I added today, for some strange reason... Hrmmm?

We're not far away from being manipulated towards not having individual choice in terms of the music we listen to, they're already taking headphone plugs away on our mobile phones, and you'll need to spend more money on your next purchase, amd buy headphones all over again because of that. As we get more and more into having software-driven lives, we need to take steps to make sure everything operates fairly and transparently, and that things do what they say they do.

Guys, I just have 10,000 Mp3s on my phone seperated by genre in folders. Can you make it so I can play them based on the folder they're in? My music is my music, it's a simple thing...

Music's hardware days were so much easier. Let's not lose common sense during the software development days... No offense.

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