A Tale Of Two Apple Products
July 7, 2015
I am an unapologetic Apple fanboy.
Last Tuesday, I got two new Apple products. The first was a MacBook Air to use in my new role as the Digital Dot Connector for Jacobs Media. Unpacking a new Apple Computer is a joyous experience. The beautiful white box opens easily to reveal a shiny new laptop, free of the ugly styrofoam that accompanies PCs. Tucked beneath it is a plug, a cord, and a simple instruction booklet, carefully laid out as if they were expensive pieces of jewelry.
Getting the computer up and running is just as simple, especially for a longtime Apple user like me. I switched it on, selected my language, and in a few easy steps used Apple's Time Machine program to migrate my applications and documents from my other computer on the new laptop. Within minutes, I was up and ready to go. Fantastic!
My experience with the second Apple product was not as pleasant.
That was Beats 1, the new online radio station that is featured on Apple Music. The official launch with New Zealand disc jockey Zane Lowe commenced at noon, so I made preparations to record it.
This process was not nearly as smooth.
Despite all of the media attention on the launch of Beats 1, I did not know exactly how to get it. So I headed over to the Apple website. Finding the description of Beats 1 on the page about Apple Music was easy enough, but there were no instructions explaining how to tune in to it.
Well, no problem. After all, I have been using Macs for decades. I'm sure I can figure this out. So I opened iTunes on my Mac Mini. I navigated to the Internet Radio tab, where I found a list of stations named according to their formats. But no Beats Radio.
I was growing frustrated. Now that I thought about it, I didn't know exactly what the relationship between iTunes, Apple Music, and Beats 1 was. Was one inside the other? Would one replace the other? Maybe I should have read the news coverage more carefully.
So I turned to the same trusted information source I always seek out in a moment of crisis: Google. When I looked up "Beats Radio," I discovered a website at beatsradio.ca. But it sure didn't look like a website designed by Apple. And why would Apple set up a site using the Canadian domain suffix? I decided I was probably in the wrong place.
Maybe "Beats Radio" was an app for me to download from the iTunes store. But no, a search only revealed an app that matched the Canadian website. A search for "Apple Music" didn't bear any fruit either.
Well, maybe some of the press coverage would explain how to tune in. So I headed back to Google and started looking for articles. And holy cow, there were a lot of them! Apple's PR team has been working overtime.
And yet, I still couldn't find any information on how to listen to Beats 1..
I did find a Rolling Stone article in which Trent Reznor, the frontman for Nine Inch Nails and the CCO of Beats Music, explained that he wanted the experience of using Apple Music to feel like "walking into an independent record shop." I was finding the experience more like searching an unmarked record shop on a hidden side street.
By this time, I had enlisted the help of Fred and Paul in my search for Beats 1. They couldn't figure it out either. At least I knew I wasn't the only one.
Well, maybe I could find people talking about it on Twitter. Sure enough, a Twitter search revealed a ton of activity around Beats 1, including a dedicated Twitter account for it. Surely they must be explaining how to listen to Beats 1 radio.
I clicked on a tweeted link to an article on the website The Verge. At last, I found some details that would be useful: A new iOS update would become available at 11:00am EST. Beats 1 would launch at noon. My problem was that I was trying to access it too early!
Once I understood the process, it was actually quite simple. I was able to get Apple Music on my iPad and listen to the launch, but I still didn't know how to get it on my Mac Mini (this would require a separate operating system upgrade). And I had no idea if Beats 1 would be accessible on my Android phone (supposedly it will later this year).
The entire experience, which took several hours, left me frustrated, and no doubt affected my ability to enjoy Zane Lowe's inaugural show. Moreover, it left me asking a lot of questions:
- Why didn't Apple put instructions on its website?
- Why didn't it communicate with its customers by email or push notifications?
- Why wasn't there a way to access an explanation through Apple customary music platform, iTunes?
- Why didn't it release the iOS and OS 12.2 updates much farther ahead than the Beats 1 launch?
It was obvious that the setup of my new Macbook Air had benefitted from years of usability testing, while the launch of the new Apple Music had not. This experience demonstrates that it's not just the content that determines the satisfaction level of customers, but also how people experience that content. By running some usability tests, Apple could have anticipated and addressed the problems I encountered before the launch.
Your radio station should also conduct periodic usability tests on its website to see how people interact with it. If you don't, you may be frustrating your listeners without realizing it.
NEXT STEP: Conduct a website usability test.