Firstly, let us consider the look and feel of the interface. It is very well done. It looks good, works smoothly and is very intuitive and easy to use if one is familiar with the iPlayer website. All in all it ought to be a really good user experience (UX.) It isn’t though for it lacks that oh-so-important basis of good UX: good features.
Think for a moment what the most likely use-case is for the application. To my mind, it is someone sat on a train, either catching up on a TV or radio programme they missed yesterday, or listening to live radio whilst maybe tweeting, reading email or playing a game. Unless that person is lucky enough to be sat on a train with good WIFI though, absolutely none of this use-case is possible.
The iPlayer application only works with Wi-Fi. Even the radio stops working if there is no Wi-fi connection. So this pretty much precludes its use whilst on the move and limits it to the home. This is of course exactly where one will likely have other devices better suited to playing radio shows, such as radios for example. The only time I’ve ever used a phone for radio at home was in the bathroom. This resulted in me drowning my iPhone that I had at the time. I don’t do that any more. The radio part of the application is therefore pretty useless.
No “watch later” support
If you are unlikely to use the radio at home, you’re even less likely to use the TV facility at home. Why watch something on a tiny screen when it can be watched via a computer, games console or a suitably equipped TV? The only use I can conceive for the TV features is to watch it when on the move. As it doesn’t stream over 3G, you most likely assume it must allow downloading programmes to watch later. There is no ability to download for later though. So TV support too is rendered pretty useless.
Radio only runs in foreground
Yes, you did read it right: switch to another application and iPlayer stops playing the radio. You have to keep the application in the foreground (ie keep it as the active application) if you wish to listen to the radio. Now I don’t know about you, but I listen to music. I do not feel the need to watch a screen whilst doing so. In fact I’m pretty much 100% guaranteed to want to do something else whilst listening. This isn’t just pretty useless, this is show-stopping and unforgivably crap. It makes the product unusable.
When creating an application, always remember your use cases. Why would someone want to use your application and how will they want to use it? Then, if you want to provide great UX, don’t just make it look pretty, make sure it has the necessary features to meet that how and why. The BBC forgot this and made a useless experience instead. Needless to say, it’s been uninstalled from my phone. Here’s hoping for a fully featured version 2 soon…