Searching without a keyboard is too much work. Now, you can now quickly find any radio without with one hand using a knob, wheel, or a few buttons.
Creating a simple browse experience requires little effort for a few hundred channels. But RadioTime carries thousands of stations and programs. Furthermore, unlike a music collection, your radio selection constantly changes. Different device and location constraints make the problem harder.
For example, NFL pre-game programming only earns it’s category on Sunday afternoons. Technical limitations may eliminate 70 percent of the entire selection from your mobile phone, so sharing the same deep navigation tiers is useless and tedious. Instead, the service must automatically organize the content available for your specific device, your connection, your location, your local time zone, your taste, and your language.
RadioTime has done so. Here’s a taste of the new features that went live this week in a major service platform upgrade:
- Rollup useless categories: We don’t waste your time with tiny sub-categories sending you down a long path to nowhere.
- Category suggestions: When users search for politics in October of a presidential election year, chances are high they’re looking for election programming. Is it Sunday afternoon and someone wants sports? Time for some NFL!
- Organize national and regional radio: Not everyone knows that BBC originates in London. So new tiers show national networks or local selections
RadioTime is the first to do this and more. Like most great innovations, the invisible solution requires no effort from a user. However, looking under the hood you’ll see a complicated engine to manage the user experience and underlying content in real-time for hundreds and thousands of different users each second. This document outlines the specific features around browse find navigation, New! means the feature is — what else? — new or significantly better with the Oct. 1, 2008 service update. These features will begin appearing in devices first through OPML, Web services, mobile browse, and Media Center).
Start from broad categories.
The top-level browse structure must help first time users listen quickly within a few clicks across popular categories.
Put the best stuff first.
Broad categories can have thousands of options; put a selection representing the best overall experience towards the top of the list.
Sub-categories for the rest. New!
Jazz → Fusion
When a broad category has sub-categories, allows the user to quickly “drill-down” without trying to needles in the haystack.
The old system split navigation paths between featured content and exploring entire catalog.
Offer category suggestions. New!
Politics → Election ’08
Consumer → Law
Business → Law
Include links so users can guess wrong and find the best category. This feature makes it easier to find specialty categories.
Within a particular station or show, suggestions facilitate exploring related programming.
Mix channels, genres, and regions. New!
International News → Germany
New links make it easy to switch between browsing by editor-created channels, regions, or genres. The old model created browsing dead-ends and navigation confusion.
Rollup unnecessary categories. New!
Sports → Motorsports → Racing
Sports → Motorsports → All
Collapsing lightly-populated sub-categories avoids sending the user down deep trails to find nothing or a disappointing selection. Instead, currently available options pull up to be a few steps away.
At the same time, categories appear when needed for navigating larger selections.
Organize radio into local markets.
Germany → Berlin Bielefeld Bonn …
Instead of a huge list for an entire country or a state, RadioTime organizes content into local radio markets.
Local markets include AM/FM terrestrial radio, weather radio, scanners, college, and community internet radio.
Automatically present local radio.
Local → Austin
This popular option uses an IP address or geolocation to automatically show local radio without any input. When the estimate is wrong, users can quickly browse to nearby cities, or enter a zip code to correct the course.
Include weather radio. New!
Through a relationship with the Weather Underground, RadioTime includes real-time NOAA local weather radio broadcast for most US markets.
National and regional radio. New!
Instead of having to guess that the BBC actually broadcasts from London, new tiers organize national or regional radio.
The national footprint may be delivered over terrestrial repeaters, DAB, satellite, or internet-only.
Sort for the browse approach.
Once they have the right category, listeners can struggle finding an item in the list. When browsing a US-style local terrestrial market, RadioTime sorts by the AM/FM frequency because users often find programming on the dial.
Radio from Europeans and others will find local stations sorted by name. And, when browsing a featured category, the most popular or relevant editor-selected content appears towards the top, just like search engine results.
Display for the context and space available.
Depending on the browse path and display available, users need different information. For example, when browsing by region, show the main genre as a sub-title. When browsing by location, show the genre. Or, hide the country for a US state, or hide the city when it doesn’t apply. Or, show the station slogan instead of the genre, or show “now playing” program instead of the slogan.
Hide most unusable options.
If the content is not available for the particular device because of technical compatibility or geographic black-out constraints, then hide the option.
Alternatively, if the content is usually available or especially popular and expected, explain why it is not available now.
Find by station, show, or affiliate.
Users may want to find a particular station, particular show, or an affiliate like NPR. Let them.
Browsing does not match tagging. New!
RadioTime tags stations and programs with detailed hierarchical categories like “Consumer → Auto”. These are great for organizing bottom up, but can confuse those browsing down. Now you’ll find browse categories that work outside of any genre hierarchy used for tagging.
Let expert moderators organize. New!
New tools make it simple for RadioTime moderators to manage programming by region, genre, or any collection where they bring particular expertise. These tools make it easier to review and change what’s available and also manage the structure and related links.
Allow any arbitrary grouping. New!
Users can add any RadioTime preset folder as a browse path. This means moderators can quickly group programming as needed for special interest and events – the Austin City Limits channel, for example.
Setup presets on a website.
Browsing can be harder than searching. Instead of relying only on the scroll knob wheel, RadioTime users can take advantage of powerful web search and filtering features to setup presets. Then share these presets across all devices supporting RadioTime.
Deliver in the local language. New!
Over 100 countries use RadioTime. For the first time, you can browse and find text localized in Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Swedish. Station and program names remain native, but depending on your device support, you’ll find the RadioTime text and browse paths localized. This feature will roll out to localized RadioTime sites in upcoming months.