… is LIVE! If you’re in a hurry, head here to download it – if not, read on…
It seems like only yesterday that we sent out a survey to help guide our next phase of work. As you can see from the image below, the results were pretty clear:
The large red segment told us loud and clear what the majority of our users wanted most – a desktop player. This was, to be honest, a bit of a surprise to us. We’d talked it through at Tuna Towers at the start of the project, and our conclusion was that a browser-based app was best – nothing to install, cross-platform and with access to the widest range of users (i.e. pretty much anyone with a Flash-capable web browser).
Why would users prefer a desktop player? Well, perhaps on reflection the reasons aren’t entirely inexplicable… after all, a web app in a browser is a different animal to an app installed directly on your desktop, running separately from the hurly-burly of your web browsing. Sure, there are advantages to web apps and they offer many of the features that a native desktop application can, but it just isn’t the same. It’s hard to put on finger on exactly why – it’s only small stuff like multiple tabs being a pain and the ‘feel’ of the web browsing environment – but these small differences add up.
So we got to work designing the player itself. We started with a big list of features and ruthlessly pared them down to an essential set of requirements that we all agreed on. These were:
1) Play, pause and volume control.
2) Browse and search for stations via genre.
3) Display station name, track/artist and cover art, where available.
4) Store and retrieve presets.
5) Tray minimization and hotkey support.
No more, no less – that was it. So, we took these 5 simple requirements and after digesting them in the belly of the Tuna for a good while, this is the design we settled on:
(For image copyright reasons, here is a link to the track shown above)
Now of course there is always room for ‘just one more feature’*, but every feature increases complexity and development time, and affects usability. Focusing on only these core features meant that we could spend lots of time getting them right. We don’t rule out adding new stuff in future, but the foundation is the most important thing – there’s no point having an app with social-network integration, genetic-algorithm recommendations and spectrographic visualizations if it’s a pain to browse radio!
However, this is by no means feature-complete and final – the player will almost certainly evolve over time. But each step in this evolution will be very carefully considered, and be driven by what our users request – we’ve set up a separate feedback forum, so if you’d like to see something added, head there and let us know.
Anyway, enough preamble… it’s live and available for download from this page. It’s Windows only currently, so if you’re on a Mac you’ll need to stick with the web app for the time being, or you have the option of creating a Fluid app if you’re so inclined.
* Such as the EQ controls, which were sneaked in by Chris