Ada Lau is a Product Designer living and working in New York City

Audible Car Mode

Audible Car Mode

 
 

Listening to audiobooks while driving is the most common way to enjoy Audible. 80% of our members report using Audible in their car. The peak listening hours occur in the morning and evening commutes. Since drivers represent a significant portion of potential Audible listeners, there is a vast opportunity for Audible to create a presence in the auto-focused experience. 

 

The Challenge

The long-term vision is to create an optimal listening experience while driving where users can control their listening with minimal interaction with the screen. Due to a dependency with the Alexa team and a 3-month product launch date, the immediate goal is to simplify the current player by improving the accessibility to the essential playback controls.
 

Our current Button-Free mode was not discoverable, and the visual language was confusing which contributed to a low adoption rate. In a driving environment, users need to focus on the road with the least amount of distraction. We need to simplify the design by reducing the number of glances and interactions between the user and the interface. 

 

My Role

I was the lead designer responsible for the experience strategy and visual design across iOS and Android. I organized and facilitated brainstorming sessions with cross-functional teams and produced all deliverables to the developers. My three teammates included a UX designer who focused on creating documentation and analyzing data and a Senior UX Designer who worked closely with a UX researcher. 

As a scrum master for this project, I managed the daily standup, backlog, ran sprint planning for UX and ensured stories were moved and tracked accurately. 

 

Metrics of Success

There are two ways we will measure our success:

  1. Commuter Listening behavior (i.e., % of listening during commute; days listened during commute);
  2. Car Metrics (i.e., % of engagement with Android Auto, CarePlay, Bluetooth). Along with collecting quantitative data, we will also conduct qualitative research through customer surveys post-launch to understand our user's reaction to the new design.
 

Research

Before the kick-off for this project, our customer service team has collected some feedback from our users specifically on their listening pain points while driving. Most of the problems revolved around initial connectivity between their vehicle and phone; inability to purchase/download on the go, and confusion on how to listen to Audible while driving. 

During the brainstorming phase, an internal survey was sent out to employees who drive to work on a daily basis while listening to Audible. Key takeaways were:

  • Switching between apps such as Google Map is quite common
  • Transitioning between apps causes the audio to go out of sync
  • Interacting with the playback controls is hard due to small tap target

It is important to note that these users are Audible employees whose opinions might be bias, and their content consumption pattern might be different than regular users who purchase a membership plan. 

 

Design

Competitive analysis

Since Audible already exists on Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Ford (with Alexa), these were good starting points for us to compare the similarities and differences with the Audible app. We discovered metadata such as cover art, title, progress bar and chapter remaining were visible on all three surfaces. Moreover, playback controls such as play/pause, skip 30-second back/forward were commonly displayed as well. The differences lie in the secondary metadata (i.e., chapter number, author) and the handling of notifications. 

 

user journeys

Once we had a basic understanding of how other platforms handled car-specific interface, we began to map out the pain points of our listeners using the Audible app. We picked three distinct groups to represent the general usage of Audible in the car:

 

DESIGN principles

The design principles articulated the fundamental goals of our product and guided our team to make rational design decisions. They were specific to our user's needs in the context of driving. 

 

Safety
Reduce the number of distractions while users are in Car Mode

Simplicity
Create flat hierarchy and avoid heavy visual or cognitive load for users

 
 

Affordances
Provide visual feedback regardless of the interaction input (i.e., voice, touch, hardware controls)

Voice
Voice command should be secondary if an interaction can be performed more quickly, reliably and accurately with a non-voiced control

 
 

Introducing the New Car Mode

 

Ride-along Testing

We went for ride-alongs with five employees to understand how easy or difficult to do the common tasks using Car Mode while driving. All of these employees currently listened to Audible during commutes and road trips and connected their phones to the in-car infotainment system via Bluetooth or aux cable.

 

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Overall Usability

All users could easily play/pause, rewind and bookmark while driving. A small subset of these users mentioned the visual feedback was not prominent enough. One user suggested having auto-rotation to accommodate his preference of phone orientation.

 
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In-Chapter Navigation

When asked to re-listen to a spot they just missed, 50% of users tried to interact with the progress bar. These users admitted that a more granular control would be useful instead of going back 30-seconds at a time. One user suggested a press-and-hold function to rewind/fast-forward more.

 
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Current Location

Users were slightly confused when they saw the negative countdown timer. Eventually, they figured out it represented the remaining time of the current content. Some users wanted to know the current chapter number of an audiobook or the name of the premium podcast's episode.

 
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Control Alteratives

Since it is illegal to use suction cup mount to attach a GPS or phone to the windshield, all users positioned their phones lower than the dashboard. Most of them preferred to use the in-car systems' buttons to control the audio because they were easier to interact and required less glancing for accuracy.