Dead Space

Monday, 4 February 2013

Transcribing an interview is never fun. Especially not if you're using WinRT's Music app to play it back. Although its background visuals are often stimulating, it appears that they've been prioritised over basic usability.

If you've ever transcribed an interview, you know that you'll frequently reach for that rewind button. My interview wasn't particularly long at 14 minutes. But, navigating it was incredibly frustrating. See, the Music app runs in full-screen, like all others on Metro. That's 1,366 pixels in width on my Surface RT. However, the time slider is only 200 pixels wide. My maths tells me that's 4.2 seconds per pixel - an uneven and impractical distribution of pixels, especially when you consider that the remaining 1,116 horizontal pixels are completely devoid of any functionality.

It was basically out of the question to jump back to a particular point in the interview with even rough accuracy in a single tap. Instead, I needed to manually rewind, which leads to the next issue. Due to the size and location of the slider's timestamp circular indicator, my finger would obstruct it completely when I was interacting with it; this is what some may consider to be a cardinal sin in touch-friendly design. Although the timestamp was indicated above my finger, communicating this information through the slider provides unique visual context that a written timestamp can merely supplement as opposed to completely substitute.

WinRT's Music app

What's puzzling is how the WinRT Video app doesn't have either of these issues. The time slider spans across most of the interface, as it should. And, when you want to manually rewind, you drag a reasonably sized control intelligently located below the slider, ensuring neither the slider nor the rewind control are ever obstructed. This rudimentary inconsistency between two apps, that should for all intents and purposes be identical in both visual and interaction design, is alarming.

WinRT's Video app