As good as Google is a steep, nearly impossible, hill to climb. User friendly, intuitive, works with a flow that users want—these are difficult, but obtainable goals. Look and feel are just as important.
I suspect few would disagree with this general statement.
The trick is determining what users want. And then there is the challenge of implementation.
I’ve spent the last 20 years dedicated to that very pursuit. You’d be surprised to know that there are reliable techniques to arrive at these solutions. However, far too many companies develop products without resort to UX research.
So help us out.
What do you like/dislike in the Octave prototype? Why?
What would you do to make it better?
About 10 years ago I thought hard about to deal with the metadata for classical music (the largest part of my music library). I constrained myself to using only the basic metadata ‘headings’: Artist, Album, Album Artist that were widely used (e.g. iTunes). While retaining “album’” as is for jazz, world and popular music, I redefined album for classical music in a format that I rigidly applied. Basically ‘album’ becomes ‘work’ including the composer name and type of work thus:
[composer] - [work type] [specific work] : [qualifier (optional)]
A couple of examples: Beethoven - Symphony No.5 Puccini - Tosca: Arias
To streamline searching for a classical work I defined several sub-genres of classical music thus:
Classical - early, Classical - baroque, Classical - classical, Classical - romantic etc
Since committing to this approach my library has grown from 30k to 95k tracks (80% classical) and I’ve had no problems in use (currently MinimServer + BubblUPnP for control).
Incidentally the majority of my listening is planned along the lines “I think I’ll listen to a Mozart piano concerto” so I need no typing and very few ‘clicks’ to start playing the music. Expending a lot of effort on the best search method should be a low priority, if the library can be properly organised.
Completely agree with the previous comment about drop down list with checkboxes - not practical.
The interface could be simpler, in my opinion.
if I am on an album view, when I use the search box, I would like to simply see a selection of albums, and not be presented with another view with a choice of artists first. This seems pretty basic, being able to refine what you have on the screen and not be presented with an entirely different result.
Perhaps this full search result page could be an option. Also, a larger search box would be nice.
In each view, where are the sort options? If they are there, they are not obvious. Please include a sort by date added (most important feature in my opinion).
The easy access to different filters at the top of the page is good. Displaying the entire alphabet seems like a waste of space. I would rather simply have the ability to scroll automatically by simply typing a letter in my keyboard.
I often select one album and then want to see other albums by the same artist. There seem to be different ways of doing this. The “go to artist” link is the worst, as it defaults to a list of all artists and then you need to open up the artists name, and then change the display to a grid if you want to see it that way. I like the way Roon works with those links, they are much simpler.
Another way to see all of an artist’s album from the album view is to right click on the album’s image (or press and hold it on a tablet) and open up a new browser window with the link. The way that new page is presented, with the album tracks on top and other albums by the artist is nice, but accessing that view should be simpler (or configurable as a default action when selecting an album). I am not too keen on the fact that the default action when you click an album is to have the tracks appear as a sub-window in the album view.
Now let’s say I open up an album on the album view, then click on the “go to artist” and display the artist page. When I go back to the initial album view I am positioned at the top of the album view and not at the same page position I was before. Very annoying to have to scroll back down the page…
I really like the bookmark option in Roon. I get that this being html pages I can bookmark them in my browser’s favorites, but I would prefer having bookmarks directly accessible within the Octave page.
Honestly, I am a little disappointed with the interface. I would not switch from Roon at this point. EDIT: this statement is a little harsh. The interface is nice, and I think a few simple changes could make it much better. Here are my suggestions:
- replace the alphabet with an input field where typing anything will simply restrict the current display. I really like the way this is done on the DoubleTwist CloudPlayer app, for example. The full search function can be kept in addition to this
- in the album view, keep the one click display of tracks below the album, but add the option to open the album window where you get the tracks displayed, the list of other albums by the same artist, and the similar artist display. Perhaps a small button on the top right of the album icon could be added?
- same thing in the genre view. There should be a one click option to open up a new window with the display of all albums corresponding to each genre
It’s looking great! It’s pleasant to look at and quite intuitive to use.
I’ll have to see how Discover actually works in the wild but I like the idea. Roon’s had some public (on their public forum) issues with their ‘Radio’ feature and it’s improved but still has some issues. So Discover is one of those things that needs to be out in the wild for best feedback.
I like the non-destructive queue/history when playing a new album, something that only recently came to Roon (finally!)
Hopefully in the ‘now playing’ screen we’ll also get some good album recommendations that can actually reach out to the libraries of streaming services. Roon still doesn’t have this with their Tidal integration but they have said it’s coming (obviously). So if you can have this running out the gate, together with other streaming services, that would be amazing.
So far I’m impressed! And that’s coming from a hardcore Roon guy
I’m on vacation with family this week so I haven’t had time to really play with the prototype on a laptop. My first impressions on my iPhone are not enough to go on.
What’s critical is that UX research involves research—with real users, not based on my opinion. It is a structured approach and best when done in a natural setting (ie where users would ordinarily interact with Octave). This approach is often referred to contextual inquiry or ethnography and is rooted in social science observational techniques. My background is a PhD in anthropology.
This weekend when I get home I’ll offer some feedback.
You have outlined an approach which looks as it would be wonderfully productive. How would PS Audio incorporate this approach?
Very good feedback and suggestions and I concur.
One general question regarding slapa‘s meaningful suggestion to include date sort:
won’t Octave be customizable regarding views by the user?
Another powerful thing Roon provides that Octave would need to do is access from any computer device (laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc) to control your music. Although I understand Octave is meant to run on a dedicated chunk of hardware, PSA will need to make access to that hardware available via any reasonably powered device with reasonable resolution. IMHO that capability is a must have.
What does one bookmark from within Roon?
Regarding sorting, I can see the value of sorting by most recently added. I would also like to be able to sort by date of the recording.
I have bookmarked my favorite artists, to access their albums more easily.
Sorting could also be by album name, artist name… this is what is typically found in music players.
Got it. Thanks.
If I bookmarked my favorite composers and performers I would have thousand of bookmarks.
We weren’t planning on more customization than what you see in the GUI. What more would you want? One of our goals is simple and easy.
Thanks for the feedback, Paul!
In my case it would be the demand for custom, multi-categorized views. I sent some screenshots in the early phase. It’s e.g. by album, label, genre, bitrate, artist, album, latest addition in various two-step cascading combinations. E.g. „by genre-by label then album“s listed“.
These kind of views are much quicker to navigate and find successfully than just one-step cascading views or complicated searches by logic operators or similar.
Some of this is already here. Just click on the Collection link in the upper menu and you get these sorting choices:
Click on any of the choices.