Requesting feedback on new audiobook playback app - Pastime
I am the original author Pastime Audiobook Player, listed on AppleVis here:
Recently, my team and I have revamped Pastime in an attempt to strip away any unnecessary capabilities, so that it can be a truly simple and intuitive audiobook player for the visually impaired. It also works with VoiceOver enabled, though it is not optimal for VO users, though perhaps we can address VO users in a future release (or even a separate app).
We've just released the new version in the app store (it works on iphone and ipad) here:
We would love to hear any and all candid feedback and recommendations you have for us.
Thanks so much,
Andrew and the team at Proto
Firstly its great to see that developers are considering VI users and making there apps accessible.
Apple have really dropped the ball when it comes to audiobook files. They don't have a good skip forward function, sleep and don't recognize chapters in m4b files which makes it almost impossible to listen to long audiobooks with the standard app.
So there is a real need for a comprehensive audiobook player app.
That said, it really needs to be fully accessible with Voice Over. Most of the users here wont consider an app unless it has real good Voice Over Support.
Again, there is a real need for an audiobook app. An app that can access books and mp3s that are already synced to the device (like audible's app does), recognizes m4b chapters and is smooth and intuitive with voice over. If you get your app to do this then im sure it would be wildly successful with the blind community and many (like myself) would pay a premium.
It's always wonderful to see developers seeking feedback about the accessibility of their apps.
With that said, however, I think VoiceOver support in your app is an absolute "must" if you are wishing for it to be adopted by visually impaired users. While self-voicing apps might seem like a good idea to sighted people, why reinvent the wheel when VoiceOver already does everything you could possibly want?
While I realize you just rewrote your app from the ground up, and while I certainly don't mean to sound unkind, I think Pastime Audiobooks really needs a standard user interface and full VoiceOver support for a majority of visually impaired users to give it any consideration whatsoever. I also feel that creating a separate app just to support VoiceOver would be a huge mistake, especially from an app wishing to meet the specific needs of visually impaired users. (A well-known developer tried this very thing earlier this year, and the backlash they got from the community ultimately led to the discontinuation of the separate app.)
First of all, thanks very much for taking the time to use the app and to offer your feedback. For us, collecting feedback and verifying any assumptions we have made is crucial in ending up with a useful app.
I hear you regarding mp3 playback. We've opted to start with a very narrow feature-set in order to get it out there sooner rather than later and started the process of collecting feedback. As a result, we decided not to tackle how content gets onto the device in audiobook format, but I agree that this is a big challenge for users, whether or not they experience any visual impairments.
With regard to your comment on VoiceOver -- as part of our narrow focus with this initial release, we opted to target users who experience some form of visual impairment, but not blind users. There are two reasons for this:
1) The original target user was my grandmother-in-law (Donna) who suffers from macular-degeneration. She was coming to touch devices quite late in life, and as a result the learning curve for VoiceOver was simply too great to overcome. She needed something that was fairly forgiving with regard to her interactions, but also something that was extremely simplistic. The original version of Pastime was meant to assist her (and others like her) who weren't familiar with VO, but wanted a way to listen to audiobooks on their own.
** One assumption here is that a user like her will always require help from someone else to get the audiobooks synced on the device. This really sucks (and it's not our fault that Apple makes it so difficult!), but in order to get something useful out there, it was an assumption that had to be made.
2) We felt that attempting to create an app that was optimal both for visually-impaired users and blind users out of the gate was trying to do too much. So for this release we've tried something very basic (audiobook playback) for users with limited sight. Eventually we would love to evolve the app to the point where it addresses both visually impaired and blind users. First step was to create a nice user experience for the initial target audience, and then build out from there.
I would love to know: in terms of this community, do many of you fit into the target audience described above? I.e., do you use an iOS device without VoiceOver enabled, but still experience some degree of visual impairment? We'd love to hear your stories and apps you love so that we can make ours better.
Thank you for your comments. Some of what I've just written in my reply to Thom is relevant here, but I'll restate the key thoughts:
"With that said, however, I think VoiceOver support in your app is an absolute "must" if you are wishing for it to be adopted by visually impaired users. While self-voicing apps might seem like a good idea to sighted people, why reinvent the wheel when VoiceOver already does everything you could possibly want?"
* As I mentioned to Thom, the main reason for not using VoiceOver is that not all users use VoiceOver. I agree that VoiceOver is an outstanding accessibility framework -- but I also believe that there is a non-trivial learning curve for it. So you have some users who don't use VO b/c they can see well enough to navigate but still struggle with typical rendering, and you have others (like my grandmother-in-law) who would never be able to learn how to navigate with VoiceOver because the learning curve is too steep.
In any case, I would love to create an app the worked great both in and out of VoiceOver mode, but we needed to start somewhere.
The question I now pose is: does this app provide a nice user experience for visually-impaired non VO users? If the answer is still no, then I'd love to hear why. Or maybe "yes, but", or whatever. The more candid feedback and context the better.
Thanks again to you and the community.