Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fathom Philosophy

Fathom is simple enough, but it's actually got a lot of my design philosophy packed into it. I'd like to go into detail on each of these points eventually, but for now I think it's worth just getting the broad brush strokes out here. So, in no particular order:

Rather than focusing on the recommendation algorithm, I'm focusing on the presentation/exploration interface. Recommendation algorithms have gotten lots of attention, so it's hard to move the needle there; interface not so much, so there's lots of potential in that area.

Make it fun, inviting, and safe to explore… eliminate click friction; make it easier to just try something than it is to think about whether you should.

Rather than completely passive (like Pandora) or completely active (like Amazon), you get to choose and fluidly slide between levels of involvement.

By using APIs, I can focus on my strength (user interface) without having to build up all of the required data ahead of time. Also, by being connected to those other sites, we become just a little entwined… no website is an island anymore. This approach has its challenges, of course, but I feel it's worth exploring.

The interface scales to fit your window, however big or small.

The content is the interface, as much as possible. Controls appear when needed and disappear when not.

Animation is used to explain what's going on… you see where things are going to and coming from.

Focus on albums, rather than tracks.

Promoting album cover art and reconnecting it with the music in people's minds.

Minimize unnecessary clicks; for instance, you don't have to click an extra “play” after selecting an album.

An album's “neighborhood” of related albums gives it context… you start to get a sense for the space.

Having new albums come in with every move keeps things fresh and gives a game-like exploration feel.

Music is right-brain; your interface shouldn't be left-brain classics like the spreadsheet (iTunes) or huge pages of text (Amazon).

Of course Fathom is just one possible expression of these ideas. I look forward to future explorations along these lines. What do you think? Did I miss any? Are there other good examples of these principles out there?

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Loving Fathom. Just discovered an album by The Telescopes I didn't know existed!
Awesome! That's what it's all about. :-)
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