Thoughts on

Making a better
radio experience

CLIENT: Norwegian Broadcasting Cooperation (NRK). The leading broadcaster in Norway.

Making a better radio experience

We Delivered Conceptual Work, UX/UI Design, User Testing & Development for NRK Radio.

Radio will stay the same.

Radio is ever-changing.

The Norwegian Parliament has decided to discontinue the FM band on January 11th 2017. We can appreciate the dilemmas surrounding such decisions. It triggers melancholy in some of us when new tech render old (apparently) obsolete.

We can imagine hearing the re-known Vebjørn Tandberg talking about Tommeliten in the 1930s *. Vebjørn saw the opportunity of letting everybody in Norway tune in on the air waves with his small mobile apparatus.


Tommeliten, 1933

* The company was founded by Vebjørn Tandberg as Tandbergs Radiofabrikk (the Tandberg Radio Factory) in Oslo in 1933. The company’s first radio was “Tommeliten”, and used only earphones.

Take a look at the Tandberg Radio Catalog

Read more on Wikipedia

The goal is the same for us as it was for Mr. Tandberg: Reach the most people through a usable and accessible design. The words we use today might differ from those heard in the 1930’s, but arguably we share the intent with those before us.

PERPETUAL PROTOTYPING

Throughout any project we want to try to sketch out different ideas and different directions quickly. It’s a natural part of any creative process.

We need different means of communication during the different phases: In the initial concept phase, when introducing sketches to the client, throughout the nitty-gritty design phase and, finally, when we bridge the gap between concept/design and development.

sketchWire


drawThink - gfx

Tactile prototypes helps visualize directions and establish concrete talking points internally and with the whole project group, giving everyone a better understanding of how the product is supposed to work. It also sparks great conversations – the imperative when prototyping is to allow adjustments after internal/external discussions. NRK knew the importance of this and was a great sparring partner throughout the whole project.

We use prototypes extensively. To test and adjust on different navigations, to pinpoint the feel of animations and ways of focusing transitions to emphasize the right information at the right time.

Design sketches out of Photoshop or Sketch is an OK conversation starter, but bring those sketches to life through After Effects or Pixate and you’ll get a lot more concrete answer from the next meeting.

The prototype below shows an animation of one of the iterations we did. We wanted to test how we could make the fullscreen player appear with different load times on different elements – and also how the activated element should behave when opening/closing the fullscreen player.

drawThink - gfx

Early conceptual prototype of a transition from front to fullscreen player.

time01time02time03


Keep in mind that prototypes also function as a communication tool that help all disciplines discuss different aspects of the project more efficiently.



RADIO KILLED BY NO-ONE

From the early days on, when families gathered around the radio in the living room, via the car chase until today when we hum to the same tune while cycling or skiing – on our own and together, radio has always had an important place.

Even though podcast phenomenas has been widely praised, and the NRK archive goes back more than half a century, we still appreciate the instant here-and-now, be-part-of-the-conversation-feel that live radio caters for.

familyTime

Now, when listening to radio or a recording of any kind we mostly do that off-screen. This is one of the qualities we appreciate with the medium – it gives our imagination an opportunity to respond and react to the audible.

NRK has made available a buffer that goes back 3 hours in the live broadcast. This gives us the opportunity to provide flexibility for the listeners, letting them easily shift between the here–and–now and the just-have-been. This leads us to explain a bit more in detail how we solved the fullscreen player and the mini navigations related to it.

Every now and then you need to rewind a minute or so to re-hear what you just heard. You might want to listen to a song or segment one more time – or skip ahead if you’ve paused while making a call.

  1. Even though you can use the scrubber to navigate the stream freely, we kept the standardized forward/backward buttons (+/- 15 sec) and we consider making them user adjustable (15, 30, 1min, 5 min) in a later version.

  2. We overstated the Swipe-To-Open initially so that it’s easier to notice for everyone. The text disappears after the first time you actively open the schedule.

  3. We marked the starting point of every song and section. The start of a program got a slightly different look.

    starts

  4. We thought about ways to differentiate songs from spoken and ended on only adjusting the hight of the bars. The decisive arguments agains using colors were that they introduced too much noise/took too much attention.

shorter01
shorter02
  1. You can drag the scrubbar left/right and access the 3 hour live schedule, but we also made it available via a Swipe Gesture via the fullscreen view. This gives the user a better overview of what’s available within these 3 hours.

  2. We flipped the timeline to go from newest item first. The idea was to prioritize segments closest to the here-and-now in time while giving a better overall flow/navigation with the swipe up/down. It’s closer to a twitter/feed than a time schedule from 00:00 to X.

  3. We hid some information when going from the fullscreen view back to the schedule – and we also decided to hide the timestamp on the songs. There’s quite a lot of things going on in here, and we wanted to strip it down as much as we could.

  4. There are lots of big and small decisions that influence the experience of an app. Extensive user testing before release along with App reviews lead us to believe that we pinpointed the things that mattered the most.


END NOTE

Hope you enjoyed reading and that it gave you a bit more insight into how we work – No one project is the same as the next and thus shouldn’t be used as a template, but you continuously learn and tune in on good ways to do things.

Time will tell whether or not it’s a somewhat future proof (!?) radio experience. In the meantime we’re happy to get your feedback. So please feel free to give us a holler. Almost anything goes!

frame005

Front, Live Channels

– 1st column, Live channels – 2nd column, Last listened to – 3rd column, Recommended

frame004

Fullscreen Player

You can swipe up to view the schedule and swipe down to close the fullscreen player (close via x from both states)