Radiotracker's UI

Radiotracker is a program for recording of online radio stations. It was offered by the CHIP magazine for a free download as part of their advent calendar for 2009. The installation process was slow—it installed an additional library without asking, required a system restart and then the program took long to load. After the interface was loaded, the following came out (without the list of stations):

Radiotracker

The genres were there initially and and button "Start recording" too, but the context was missing as it wasn't clear what song on what radio station will be recorded. The rest of the icons, tabs and controls were scattered around and after an accidental click on a tab at the bottom, it wasn't clear how to go back. Doing something meaningful with the software was beyond my abilities. The number options was overwhelming and the clever user interface decisions were hard to puzzle out. After a press on the "Start recording" button, the list on the left started to fill itself with a number of radio stations, but it seemed like multiple ones were recorded at the same time, which wasn't the initial intention. So I felt that I should stop the recording process. After that I wasn't able to find where the records were stored, so an uninstall followed.

Lessons learned

If we disregard the installation process, the user interface is the first thing we see in a new desktop software. One that is hard to understand and learn, immediately lowers our acceptance and puts the program at risk. Too many user interface elements are not valuable, but confusing.

A lack of emphasis on important UI elements led to inability to determine the true purpose of the software on the first look—if it is a recorder, player, music organizer, burner or media converter. Because it tries to be all in one, it fails so greatly.

Radiotracker has its own UI design standards that don't match anything we've seen before. There was no usual menu bar with "File", "Edit" and other menu options as we were accustomed to other programs. Near the minimize, maximize and close buttons we see three other buttons, whose meaning is questionable. We can't determine instantly the difference between the buttons "Stop recording" and "Stop all"—the first is above and the second below the list. We have various tabs at the top and the bottom of the interface, which increases our mouse movements. The program's options are located at the bottom of the screen as if they aren't important.

Conclusion

Software makers should be interested in the way people use their software and which functions they prefer. This allows to make the user interface as simple as possible and improve its usability.

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