Design Critique: SiriusXM iPhone Application



With the prevalence of radio streaming applications today it’s important to have a solid design, to afford users a pleasurable experience. SiriusXM is one such radio streaming application. The application is intended to allow SiriusXM subscribers to access SiriusXM content, that they would normally access via their car radio, on their smart phone. While the application does allow the user to access SiriusXM content on their smartphones, navigating the mobile interface can induce unnecessary errors by users.

Specific Design Problems

Suggestion 1

The first design problem is seen when the user is listening to a specific radio station. When the user selects a station they are taken a screen that shows the station, what show or song is playing now and related stations. Above the related stations there is an “X” button. When the user hits the “X” it brings up a small overlay that shows the stations show schedule. Furthermore, when the “X” button is pushed it shifts to a “+” symbol.

In digital interfaces an “X” button is generally recognized as a button that removes unwanted content or content that the user is finished with. Initially a user may think that the “X” button is meant to dismiss the “related stations” content. This is a problem with mapping and with affordances. If the button was simply afforded the “+” symbol first it would give the user some clue that there is more content to be seen. A solution to this problem could be to change the button from an “X” to a “+” and add a label that says “upcoming shows” to the button. While this design problem does not cause a fatal error of the application, it does keep additional information hidden from users due to poor mapping and affordances.

Suggestion 2

Another design problem is the station directory and navigation menu. When a user selects a station, from say the third level of the directory; they are brought to the station, closing the station directory. When the user tries to go back into the directory they are brought back to the top level of navigation. In this case if the user makes a slip and choses the wrong station, say a station that was right above the actual station in the directory, then they have to navigate back to where they originally made the error, provided they remember where they were before. Furthermore when the directory is brought up and the user navigates beyond the top level of the directory a “back” button shows up in the top left corner. The problem with the back button is that it is gray, like the background. The button isn’t visible unless the user can decipher the gray text on a gray background.

A solution to the directory going back to the top level is to have the application save the last place the person was in the directory so that if the user makes a slip they can easily correct their error, minimizing frustration. Also changing the color of the text on the back button will allow it to be more visible so that users know it is there.

Suggestion 3

My last design problem is the overall aesthetic design of the application. As of now and as seen in the screen shots this application is not optimized for use in iOS 9 or on the iPhone 6, which has a larger screen than older versions of the iPhone. As the screen shot shows, the buttons and labels on the interface are bulky and take up a large portion of the screen. If the application used the standard resolution established by the new operating system it would free up screen space, allowing for more useful information while a station is playing. The screen shots below compare the SiriusXM application with different radio streaming applications. Notice the clostrophbic nature of the SiriusXM aesthetic interface.  TuneIn Radio for example has a more spread out display with less bulky buttons, allowing to fit more useful information on one screen, like volume control, name of show/song, and playback controls.