Not so long ago, I wrote a blog entry listing my favorite iPhone apps, one of which was called White Noise. I specifically mentioned that part of the reason I loved the app was because of how simple it was. Well, it’s not so simple anymore, and I can’t fathom why.
The White Noise application’s functionality – only functionality – is to play one track, looped, for a certain period of time.
The original design of the WhiteNoise application seemed to understand that, and made the app as easy as possible to use. As you can see in the screenshot, everything you need from the app is right on the main screen. You select a sound there, set the volume, set the timer, and off you go. The application also remembered previous settings and allowed me to select which sounds went on my main screen, which I liked. I opened the app and it would be good to go. It was, very literally, the perfect application. All it did was what it was supposed to.
This is the new White Noise application. For some reason, all functionality has been yanked off of the main screen and put behind various buttons. It’s not clear which button should be clicked for what (there’s no such thing as hover help on an iphone), nor is there any good reason to have such a blank, empty main screen. It’s a waste of valuable real estate.
Want to choose a noise? Go to the “catalog” button at the bottom of the screen to choose one. The app no longer remembers my settings, so I need to do this every night or else I’ll be listening to “Amazon Jungle.” Dunno about you, but that’s not relaxing to me. One click went to at least four.
Want to set a timer? It’s under the “Timer” screen, but the lack of a “save” button on that screen messed me up more than once. One click is now at least three, more if you’re as confused as I am.
What’s under the “Controls” button? It’s an app that plays a sound on a timer. What kind of controls does it need?? Oh, do I want to exit the app when the timer’s done. Well, hopefully I’m asleep, so I truly don’t care.
So unfortunately, here we have one of the best examples I have ever seen of overdesign. There is no reason all the functionality for this app can’t still be on the main screen, other than it’s not pretty. But who cares about pretty when all the app does is play a sound?
K.I.S.S. is a rule of product development that will never get old. Keep It Simple, Stupid. You don’t turn something that could be done in one click into three unless you’re adding something damn important to the process. The app doesn’t do anything more than it did the day I downloaded it: play a sound on a timer.
Developers, product managers, UX/AI folks – I recommend you all check out the application. There’s a huge lesson to be learned from it. Never detract from your core functionality. Hunting around menus just pisses off users. If you can keep everything on one screen, do it!!
Normal folks who just want a sound – I recommend you stay away from this one. It’s simply not usable anymore.
If anyone has another white noise app to recommend, I’d love to hear it. I’m definitely in the market for a new one now.