The recent major update by AD:60 to the Songza iPhone app offers a great opportunity to give insight into the many facets of developing a new iteration of an application.
First, for those who are not aware, Songza is an awesome music streaming service which offers users access to a gigantic library of curated playlists drawn from some 14 million songs. It’s free (really free; no audio adds, yes small banner adds) and excellently tended and supported by Songza’s tight staff.
As usual in the technology world, a lot has happened since the release of the original Songza iPhone app just 6 months ago – the arrival of the iPhone 4s and iOS 5, as well as Songza’s introduction of the music concierge service which suggests playlists based on the time of day and a variety of activities. Happily, Songza is committed to keeping their products on the cutting edge, and allowed AD60 the resources to maximize our visions as designers and developers.
The update is essentially a full rebuild of the application with a complete redesign of the user interface and a near complete redesign of the back end, including the integration of new code for the actual audio streaming. The work on this complex project presents a great example of the necessity and benefits of intense and personal communication. As the developer I was constantly on the phone and email with Songza, as well as running back and forth from my computer to our designers in order to address user interface and user experience issues. Integration of a third party library for audio streaming added another channel which required identification and resolution of arguably the most complex issues we encountered. Communication allowed for the coordination of moving parts which were constantly being updated and tweaked to perfection.
But as any iOS user knows, an app is nothing without an excellent user experience, which should feel effortless (so users never have to think about any of the stuff I’m talking about here). iOS applications are expected to implement graceful animations and transitions, while conforming to user interface principles set forth by Apple and influenced by the architecture of the iOS SDK. The new Songza application treads a delicate balance between standard iOS interface elements and customized touch interfaces. The former allow the user to be immediately familiar with the navigation of the app. On the other hand the custom interfaces, such as the music concierge and the album artwork display, give the application a signature look and feel, allowing the designers to extend their creativity and challenging the developers to make these non-standard interface elements integrate seamlessly into the iOS experience.
In short, it was a fantastic learning experience and one which yielded a product we are all proud of. So, is this an unabashed hype blog for a product in which we have a stake?… yes, but it’s also a little insight into the making of app sausage which will hopefully make you love Songza – and all your favorite, daily use, can’t live without, where’s my phone, no seriously you have to check this out apps – that much more.
Your friendly appsmith,