Recently, Audible upgraded its iPhone app. It has not only changed visually, updating the graphics to be more in line with the flat and minimal look that is currently trending in design, but it has also made a few changes to its functionality, leading to a better overall user experience.
Although the Audible app has various different functions, its main purpose is to get its users into, and listening, to audiobooks in the quickest and most efficient way possible. This is achieved in the new version by simply resizing and repositioning a few of the main buttons, illustrating that small, but well thought out changes can make a vast difference for users of the app.
The first really noticeable change as one enters the app, apart from the new look, is the repositioning of the navigation to the “play” screen. The previous control had comprised of a standard iOS “last played” arrow button in the top right corner, which neither stood out or gave the user any information about which audiobook was currently being played. Abolishing the standard tab navigation, and introducing a custom tab bar at the bottom of the screen, has allowed the introduction of a large central button, which not only stands out, but also contains a small thumbnail of the book’s cover. This has made the navigation to the “play” screen more obvious, informative and easier to tap, thus getting the user back to their audiobook as efficiently and quickly as possible.
The original play screen had a selection of different controls: some useful, some less so, all roughly the same size. There was also the ability to hide the secondary controls, by tapping and dragging, however all this did was allow greater visibility of the album cover, in itself a useless piece of functionality. In the new build this has been removed, everything has been stripped back and an essential question has been asked: “What does the user want to do most on this screen?”
When listening to an audiobook on the go there are several answers to that question. Playing the audiobook will, of course, come as the highest priority, but skipping back 30 seconds is also essential, for all those times when attention is lost while on the move. Adding bookmarks for quick reference later, or to remember positioning when dozing off at the end of a long day, is also important. These three controls have been made the focus of the screen, with the play button as the largest central control, immediately tappable, without thought, as soon as the screen is entered. Other useful, but lesser controls, like setting timers and viewing chapters and bookmarks, have been positioned neatly under these, still easily accessible, but not drawing attention away from the main buttons, or allowing for mistaken taps. Some controls have been removed all together, including the volume scrubber, which – with the devices hardware volume control – was never actually needed.
Other minor changes to the app have also been implemented to improve the overall UX. The removal of the large refresh button on the original library and news pages is an obvious improvement. With the back button taking up the left corner and the “last played” in the right there was no room in of the navigation bar for a universal refresh control button on the original app, but with the introduction of the now commonly used “pull to refresh” and the repositioning of the last played button to the tab bar, space has been freed up on both the main screen and in the navigation bar. This leaves room for the choice of library category, which was originally a whole separate screen, a new delete button, allowing less advanced users, who don’t know about swipe to delete, to quickly delete multiple books without having to enter each one, and the settings, a button that never warranted its original position on the main tab navigation of the original app.
The addition of a “download all parts” of a book button, and an expandable, rather than drill down, news articles screen nicely rounds off the collection of additional functionality included to make using the Audible app a better experience all round.
Eli Newman, Creative Director