NPR News

App Redesign • 12/2017 - 2/2018

Nearly every weekday morning, part of my routine is listening to the latest stories from the NPR program “Morning Edition” on the ‘NPR News’ app. It helps me keep my mind occupied while I’m sitting in traffic.

Since I’m not much of a morning person, I’m usually groggily rushing to leave the house. The quicker I can hit the road, the better. In such instances, I tend to notice little things in my routine that frequently hold me up.

This is my primary use case for the app: playing the latest stories from the program “Morning Edition”. Currently, when you select “add all to playlist” in Morning Edition (and other programs), not only does it add that day’s set of stories, but it also adds the stories from the day before. Because of this, you ALWAYS have to clear the “playlist” unless you want to listen the same stories again or happen to miss the previous day.

I read through many of the reviews in the App Store, and the majority of them were positive. There were a number of one- and two-star reviews about people experiencing constant crashing, complaining about the out-of-date UI, and requesting "favorites" feature to cut down on excessive tapping. I couldn't do much about the crashing, so the driving force behind this exercise was to make it easier to start listening to the latest news stories.

The current process of getting a fresh queue of stories is pretty ridiculous. I do this nearly every morning, yet I still frequently miss a step... No bueno.

Here's my solution.

Programs are now at the forefront. I figured that, while it is a news app, NPR’s main bread and butter is their radio programs. With the added ability to favorite programs, they’ll always be pinned to the top of the landing screen. This eliminates the need to have to scroll through the list of programs. As mentioned in the user flow map above, you’re also able to tap the play button in the corner of the large “Latest Playlist/Episode” block if you don’t need to browse the content of the episode. The confirmation of the queue replacement would be audial: when the first story starts playing.

I stripped away the podcasts from the list of programs; the “NPR One” app currently handles podcasts. An “episode” is a story or set of stories from a particular day (depending on the nature of the program).

The current ‘now playing’ module (the first column in the figure above) that appears when you’re playing audio needed to be reworked. The presented functions do not seem to be well thought out and the module doesn't expand, so what you see is what you get. I checked to see how other media apps were handling the ‘now playing’ module, as there is no need to unnecessarily reinvent the wheel... This was with a grain of salt, of course; NPR’s media content is different than that of Spotify or Apple Music.

  • The title of the story was obviously important to show.
  • Following Apple Podcast’s footsteps, I added a button to rewind 15 seconds. This button is far more useful than a "previous track" button in the collapsed view, especially when you’re listening to a 30-minute story.
  • Spotify’s module has a sliver at the top that shows how far along you are in a song. I nicked that...
  • Since there aren’t any accompanying visuals (like an album cover, for example), my expanded view didn’t need to take up the entire screen.