The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Familiarity for Users

Iterative development has been touted as the way to operate, whether you're developing web sites or applications. Instead of perfect, you shoot for a good start, launch, then slowly improve over time. There are blog posts aplenty dedicated to this topic.

And there is wisdom in this idea. Yaron Schoen said it well:

I have a lot more respect for designers that have the same excitement after shipping a product as they did before shipping it. Because, at least in my mind, real designers nurture.

We all know the allure of the new project. It's exciting, fresh, and you're not 100% of what the end goal looks like. But it's so easy to get distracted with the new, that many people neglect a product or service shortly after launch. Heck, I've abandoned ideas for something new before I was even able to launch.

This concept of nurturing your ideas sits well with me.

But Balance is Needed

But there has to be a balance. The changing landscape in software and design has lent itself to fatigue, a tiring of so much NEW. I'm not referring to the abundance of choice, new apps and services being created, offered, and forgotten each and every week. That's another problem entirely.

No, I'm talking about app fatigue caused by those I already own. The tiresome red notification bubble that several apps on my iPad, iPhone, or Mac have been updated.

Look, iteration! Please update now!

Amidst all the criticism of iOS7, there seems to have been universal agreement that automatic updates for iOS updates is a gift from heaven. Not having to manually update each app will be an improvement. But what about the changes introduced?

The application that has me asking this question is one I enjoy. A lot. Rdio is a fantastic service, so very well designed, and I've been a paying customer for a couple years now. But good gosh, I've almost come to cringe every time I see another update is ready.

Why? Because I never know if the actions I use with the app, the way I use it, will be changed. Will selecting an album to listen to be the same as it was yesterday? How about finding the little rdio.com link to share a song with my coworkers? Or adding songs to a playlist.

It's odd to have this apprehension because Rdio is a fantastic service and the changes are almost always improvements. But there are so flipping many of them that I feel this anxiety of never knowing what to expect. A little voice in the back of my head wonders if some of the experimenting and iteration could be saved for a select few members of the Rdio team rather than the entire user base.


There's a reason so many people stick with using bad software. In user interfaces, familiarity very often does not breed contempt. Rather, it brings comfort. I'd like a little more familiarity and a little less iteration with Rdio.

Lest I give the wrong impression, let me be clear. Rdio is one of my favourite services and I love the apps for each device I use. Ryan Sims is a mad genius. I just wish they'd slow the pace a little, let me get used to things before improving the product …

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