Podcasts App Changes in iOS11

I’ve written about my frustrations with the iOS Podcasts app on the iPhone before. With iOS11, Apple decided to change how the interface works in a major way (again). I had adapted to the iOS9 UI, easily adding items to the “Up Next” queue and figuring out that I could reorder and delete episodes.

Queue Management

What I want from a podcast app is to be able to create a queue of episodes that I can manage by adding/removing/reordering with ease.

screenshot of the podcasts app player screen
Play episode screen

As with the previous version of the app, you tap the menu icon in the lower right to bring up play options.

Episode menu screen
Screenshot of menu options for an episode

The options under this menu have changed. No more history and no way to see the contents of the queue. You can choose to play the current episode next with the “Play Next” option or add it into the black hole queue with “Play Later”.

screenshot of the added to queue notification for a podcast episode
Added to queue notification

I say black hole because I cannot find the queue.

It’s hard to use this app if I can’t manage which episodes are playing. I’ve already had times where I added an episode twice or wanted to play a different episode before another one I just added to the queue. I’m stumped and upset.

Library

Some readers may have noticed there is a new option in that menu called “Add to Library”. I was really hoping the library was the queue. Instead it appears to replace the “My Podcasts” icon from the previous app version. Best I can tell, this is a list of the latest episodes the podcast thinks you would be interested in.

screenshot of the Library where you can sort through episodes
Library screen

It is useful for navigating podcast feeds and episodes with the option to download to your device.

Listen Now

This was my last hope. I really thought this would be a list I could curate, but again, disappointment.

screenshot of the Listen Now screen which lists the latest podcast episodes
Listen Now screen

What we see is another list of latest episodes which I think excludes ones you’ve listened to already. So where is the queue? I guess it’s time to search for the answer. The first hit had a great response:

The fact that we have to Google how iOS screen design works shows how iOS screen design doesn’t work any more. I hate iOS 11.

The answer for how to view the queue–swipe up on the screen where the current episode is playing–isn’t working for me. I guess I’ll keep trying but seriously, I don’t understand why Apple obfuscates functionality with obscure gestures.

Update: So if you have episodes in the queue, you can scroll to the bottom of the currently playing episode screen to see what’s “Up Next”. However, if you have nothing in the queue, the section simply isn’t there.

screenshot of the Up Next queue at the bottom of the player screen
Up Next list

My design suggestions would be to make the queue more obvious and to call it a queue. I’d love to see a “Queue” icon at the bottom of the app. Calling it “Up Next” is confusing.

Did I watch that already?

I use the Netflix iOS a lot. I’ve watch a lot of stuff and need to find new videos to watch. This app doesn’t facilitate that user task very well.

Screen shot of the Netflix iOS movie selection pattern
Screen shot: Selection page in the Netflix iOS app

Design Suggestions

  1. Make it obvious which videos you’ve watched already. Lower the opacity for watched items.

    Screen shot of movie tiles with the watched movie grayed out
    I’ve watched 13th
  2. On the screen for a specific video, give an indication if you’ve watched it already. Lower the opacity of the title image and change “Play” to “Watch Again”.

    Video page where the play button now reads watch again
    Watch again
  3. In settings, add an option to filter out anything you’ve watched. You can still search.

    Screen shot of the app settings with a toggle switch to remove watched videos from suggestions
    Remove from Suggestions in App Settings
  4. Provide a way to mark videos you don’t want to watch so they stop showing up as suggestions. I’ve added a “Skip” icon as an example. Icons are always hard. My first attempt was a “not interested” button but it was too prominent. I think employing the same design as other icons and putting it in line with the “close” icon gives it subtlety and context.

    Video page with a skip icon and text in the upper left
    Skip option to hide videos

    Once you’ve rated a video, the thumbs up icon turns white and the text “Rate” turned to “Rated”. I’ve followed that pattern with the “Skip” button, filling in the control and changing it to “Skipped”. Tapping this would allow this title to become a suggestion again.

    Video page with the Skipped icon and text in the upper left
    Skipped icon

    Then test it!

C’mon Pizza Hut

All I wanted was a pizza… just one pizza…

So I’m craving pizza and Pizza Hut deep dish comes to mind. Mmm. I should know better by now, but I went to their website on my phone to see if I could order online. That’s when I encountered a new level of BS usability.

screen shot of Pizza Hut website on a mobile phone with the warning ALERT You are in private browsing mode. please switch to normal mode.
Screen shot of pizzahut.com on my phone

Umm, WTF? Why do you need to track me when I want to give you money? I tapped ‘OK’ and seemed to be able to use the site with incognito mode anyway. Didn’t bother to try to order anything though. You want to block me, I block you and support local business by picking up Double Dave’s, which I learned has a tasty deep dish crust too.