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An image of the author: Kejia Zhu

Hold That Sound

Posted in by Kejia Zhu on 16 November 2010

Front

(This is the second post in a series documenting the making of our Android concepts. The first is over here. Look out for the third instalment tomorrow.) 

Hold That Sound started out from my laziness and frustration with downloading conference talks. My morning commute was the perfect time to catch up on them but the problem was getting the audio from the web onto my phone. It was annoying to have to deal with downloading the files, importing everything to iTunes then searching for the cable to sync the lot. I wanted to make this process as seamless as bookmarking a page.

This led my to my first sketch of how an app to solve this might work. I wanted to bypass any need for downloading to my desktop and simply pass the http:// link for the audio file from the website to the phone in one step.

First Sketch

Note: A few of the images refer to the app as “BlipSqueak”. I though it sounded app-ish and audio related but eventually I settled on “Hold That Sound” as a more descriptive name. 

Research

Looking into what was out there, Huffduffer was the service that immediately came up. It creates a personal RSS stream of the audio you tag on the web. Huffduffer does a good job of implementing an easy way to capture the files but there is no mobile component. To get the files onto my phone I still needed to connect via the desktop audio player.

HuffDuffer

There were standalone podcast apps that allowed wireless syncing, but this felt like an unnecessary additional step: one I doubt your average user would would go to the trouble of using. Rather than rely on two separate services, I thought it would be more elegant to roll them all into one.

RSS Readers

Define The Aim

“Make transferring an audio file from a website to mobile as seamless as possible.”

This was use case I set out to fulfill.

Use Case

Construct User Scenarios

To begin with, I started listing things that users might want to do and grouped them together into user scenarios. This helped distill down the key functionality the app needed.

User Scenarios

I had originally thought of having a web component like that of Huffduffer where you could view your queued files. The more I thought about it, making people register online and then download an app seemed a bit much. Instead the sign up process will be managed in app. The bookmarklet will be emailed to the user.

Prototyping

Paper UI

Using Post-its drawn to scale, I was able to quickly try out different arrangements and transitions, as well as get a sense of how the app felt in my hand. The limitations of size become really apparent once you have a thumb moving around the screen. I was able to explore some neat solution to these problems using transitions.

Since the app was trying to deliver immediacy, I made an effort to not bury functionality behind menus. The “Download” button is the most important in the app, so I gave it prominent position away from other buttons to avoid accidental presses.

Wireframing and Visual Design

Wireframing

Once the layout was finalised I began exploring different visual design options. Since the app is all about reduction and simplicity, I felt the design should have a limited colour palette and minimal texturing.

User Testing

I was able to do some user testing by uploading the static screenshots onto Droid phones. The feedback pointed out some problems with comprehension and certain colour combinations.

As much as I liked the white version, everyone thought the matte black looked pretty awesome. I think the strong contrast of the white text against the black really helps focus attention on the important areas.

Final Design

Final

Overall, I was really happy with how the app turned out. I’m surprised how close it was to my initial sketch. I think app this could really encourage people explore more audio now that the download process is condensed into one seamless process.

It was an interesting challenge designing an app aimed at creating new user behaviour. Now I just hope I can start using it soon.

  1. Default avatar

    Andy Bell

    23 November, 2010

    I really like this idea. Would it be possible to make this work with a standard Android MP3 player (I'm assuming there is such a thing) rather than creating a new one from scratch?

  2. Default avatar

    Stephen Pratley

    29 December, 2010

    Great post, I particularly like the lo-fi approach to paper prototyping with post-it-notes.

  3. Profile image?screen name=srhas

    Sam H

    16 November, 2010

    Long live the pen (and post it!)

    Great app - I would actually also have a lot of use for the 'reverse' also

    Ie recording content on my phone and syncing that with the same online account as Hold that Sound. But that is just my line of work I guess!

  4. Default avatar

    André Souza

    16 November, 2010

    Great write-up, man. I love how the idea of using the post-its to test the ergonomics of the UI elements was really nicely translated onto your designs later.

    And certainly "Hold that Sound" is a much better name. ;)

  5. Default avatar

    Andy Lawendel

    18 November, 2010

    Great concept, wish you can make it into a real app. Have you been scouting drivecast.eu, besides HuffDuffer?

  6. Profile image?screen name=kzhu

    kejia zhu

    18 November, 2010

    @Andre Cheers mate :-)

    @Sam H, I like your suggestion. It reminds me of how some people use AudioBoo as a dictaphone.

    @Andy, Thanks for your blog post. I hadn't come across DriveCast before. Will have a closer took

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