I love podcasts; I listen to them daily. I listen to history, science, comedy, interviews, conversations, reviews, and everything in between. They also appear to be gaining more audience traction as time goes on. It’s surprising to see the massively popular Serial appearing on major UK shows like Newsnight.

Despite this, I can’t find a podcast app or web app that really meets my needs as a listener. The main competitors are StitcherPodcast Addict and for me, Feedly. Between them, they might just meet all the criteria but unfortunately they all have weaknesses. I want to make something that is strong in all criteria.

I know this is a step away from my more investigative subject matter but I don’t think I have done enough to prove that I am capable of prototyping good, effective interfaces and I want to change that. This project is going to contain slightly less ethnographic research (though I will still be conducting some) and a lot more wireframing and interface design.

To the matter at hand! Before I can make something better I have to ask myself, why are there no good podcast apps? Is it just me? Are people satisfied with what they have? Who listens to podcasts? Do we need bespoke apps for different kinds of listeners?  These are all questions I intend to answer to the best of my ability in the coming weeks and I’m sure many more questions are going to pop up as a result. 

First, lets have a look at what I’ve been using up to now,

Stitcher

It's not the best
Finding the right Podcast in Stitcher
Stitcher is quite pretty to look at but it takes way too long to get to the podcast you’re actually looking for.

I have displayed 6 screens that you have to traverse to get to your desired podcast. There are even more button presses than that. The “connecting to Facebook” window in fig.1 is particularly annoying. It would have been fine to have a small connect to facebook button somewhere on the screen but obscuring the content for the sake of Facebook connection is particularly annoying.

In fig.2, you’re then given the “Front Page” which shows you a bunch of suggested podcasts which is presumably based on what you’ve been listening to but may just be whatever has been sponsored. This is actually a pretty decent discovery tool but I don’t need to see it at as soon as I open the app unless it’s the very first time I’m using the app. It’s not, I have a saved playlist and I want to listen to the podcasts I went out of my way to add not the ones I’m being told to listen to.

In Fig. 3 we have our selection of “Stations” which is a feature that allows us to group different podcasts into different sections. This seems like quite a nice idea but having a whole screen for it strikes me as unnecessary, why not see all available podcasts and offer the ability to refine the selection into categories? It’s adding another barrier to the actual content.

In Fig. 4 you’re offered each of the podcasts in the category, you’re still a screen away from actually getting to the podcast you’re looking for.

In Fig. 5 you’re offered the list of episodes of the podcast and in Fig. 6 you’re finally able to play the episode you were looking for.

One of the biggest problems I have with Stitcher is that you can’t add podcasts that aren’t in its library already. Also I’d like to see a list of episodes of different podcasts sorted by release date. Fortunately, Podcast Addict provides provides a solution to both of these problems.

Next time, we’ll be having a look at Podcast Addict and how it manages to get so much right while obscuring it behind several layers of guff.

Read more from Struan Fraser at http://www.struanfraser.co.uk/blog