A blog in desperate need of a new title
Re: Redesigning Overcast's Apple Watch app
Thursday, May 14, 2015
I've previously talked about Overcast as my favorite podcasting app, and was excited about it being an early Apple Watch app. Since I primarily use Overcast while driving, it makes sense for it to be a frequently used Watch app. John Gruber mentioned on his podcast that Overcast was the best app on the watch so far, and I full heartedly agreed... until Marco Arment updated it. Both Jason Snell and John Gruber have praised the update, but I think the update is a major leap backwards.Marco's post goes into a lot of detail about why he made the decisions he made on the updated watch app.
I'd arranged the play/seek controls in a spaced-out triangle to minimize accidental taps on the small touch targets. [...] My triangular button arrangement, which was very costly in screen space, proved unnecessary. Apple's media glance uses a three-across button layout and it's fine.Except that it's not fine. I've been completely unable to start a podcast from the updated watch app since he moved the position of the play button. I can't tell if the touch target is too small or too close to the bottom of the screen, but I tried to start a podcast 10 times this morning, and finally had to pull out my phone to start it. Testing it further in a more controlled environment (i.e. not trying to navigate through San Diego traffic), I found I had a 33% success rate.
In practice, I just don't like navigation hierarchies on the Watch. They feel even slower than other WatchKit UIs, and tapping the tiny Back buttons or swiping back from the edge are frustratingly error-prone.I never had an issue swiping or tapping the Back button. In fact, I feel that the swipe-to-go-back gesture is even more useful on the Watch than it is on the iPhone. But the revised setup is ridiculously frustrating and cumbersome. Force Touch brings up a menu with an option for “podcasts”. Tapping this provides a list of podcasts, and tapping a podcast name provides a list of available episodes. Logical so far... but once I'm in the list of episodes, there's only one option if I decide I want to go back: a Cancel button in the top left corner which dumps me back to the Now Playing screen. There is no Force Touch or Swipe option on this screen, which completely goes against Marco's argument about tapping the tiny buttons cause more errors.One final (minor) annoyance with the update is the Up Next container. On the Now Playing and the Glances view there is space dedicated to showing two podcasts which are queued up to play after the current podcast. But since this only works if I'm using the smart playlist feature, all I ever see is blank space covering two-thirds of my screen.This is a new platform, and I appreciate the work and thought that Marco is putting into his app. He closes his post admitting that there's a lot of learning to do, so I expect to see many more iterations of Overcast.