In our everyday digital travels, we grow accustomed to certain patterns and interactions.  Best practices evolve quickly.  As soon as there’s a better way to do something, it becomes the norm.  The UX bar is only raised over time – never lowered.

With millions and BILLIONS of consumers now expecting great design and user experience, getting even a small detail wrong can be a problem.

Here’s an example of how a seemingly tiny design issue actually makes a noticeable difference in everyday usability.

If you’re a podcast fan, you probably know Overcast.fm.  I’ve been using it for a while now, works great.  Today for no particular reason I tried out competitor Pocket Casts.

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The industry standard: Overcast.fm.
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Another option: Pocket Casts.

 

Pocket Casts has a nicely tiled display of your podcasts that looks a little better than Overcast’s list view style.  But as I started to jump in and use Pocket Casts, I discovered a speed bump: Search has no autocomplete.

Huh.

Autocomplete.  You know, that magical intelligence we expect anywhere and everywhere an interface asks for input?  You start typing, the system starts answering – usually by popping a list of what you may be after.  It’s a small thing that has become 100% indispensable.  Those bad old days of having to type something in entirety and then (brace yourself) hit a button before getting a response are long gone.

Except in Pocket Casts.

Aside from playing podcasts, searching for podcasts to play is probably the most important thing users of podcast tools will do.  I constantly hear about new podcasts I should try, so I am constantly searching for them and adding them to my lineup.

And it is here that we hit the usability speed bump in Pocket Casts.  When I go to look for a podcast and start typing its name (which in this case I know exactly), nothing happens.  Even when I have typed the entire name out, nothing happens.  Only when I tap the “Search” button at bottom (not the header titled “Search” right next to where I’m looking) does something happen.

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In Pocket Casts, even though I have typed out the entire correct name for a podcast, nothing happens until I tap that blue “Search” button at bottom.
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Once I tap “Search”, my podcast is found.
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After I tap the podcast found, the next interaction to subscribe is exactly what you would expect.

 

Sound minor?  The real question is, why not give users the autocomplete they know and love?  Was there some design reason NOT to go with autocomplete?  Perhaps.  But I’m not seeing what it is.

If the impact were limited to something the user does only once or twice in the app (such as during signup), it would not be an issue.  But as it happens, one of the most heavily traveled paths in the app is affected, one users will trod over and over: searching for and adding podcasts.  The gap in expected functionality is enough to notice and irritate.

By contrast, Overcast uses autocomplete.

As soon as I start typing in the search window, Overcast shows me possible matches.

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In Overcast, as soon as you start typing, the app starts showing possible matches – autocomplete in action.

 

There’s no need to even type out the whole name – as soon as I see what I’m after I can tap on it and I’m there.

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I haven’t typed out the whole “Home of the Brave” yet – but Overcast has already found what I’m looking for.

 

After I tap on the podcast I want, the next interaction is exactly the same as in Pocket Casts.

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Tap the podcast result from search and now you’re ready to subscribe.

 

Sometimes static screen shots make a simple story seem more complicated.  See the recorded video walk through below for a clear demonstration of how the absence of autocomplete impacts the everyday usability of Pocket Casts.

It would be interesting to know why Pocket Casts doesn’t use the expected autocomplete behavior.  It should be very easy to add in.

 

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