Simplicity Over Beauty. Functionality Over Features.

I’m a fan of many of the services that allow the legal purchase of music online. One service that I’ve come to enjoy over the years is emusic which, for quite some time, didn’t provide a way to download music other than through their website and desktop downloader.

As seems common, a developer decided to scratch his own itch and release a mobile downloader application. If it wasn’t for his application I could have easily moved over to Amazon MP3 or Google Music just based on the ease of purchase and growing selections. Fast forward a year and emusic figured out people wanted a mobile downloader. A beta was released.

And it was buggy and had features that, as a user, I really don’t care about while having oddly implemented features that seemed core to the downloader experience. Let me explain: I wanted to search, purchase and download music. I think that those three actions are nearly universal for a music purchase and download app. Here is the list of features for the official emusic application:

  • Listen to any MP3 files stored on your phone through the music player
  • Get song recommendations based on your listening habits
  • Create playlists tailored to your every mood
  • Browse an artist’s dossier (discographies, biographies, photos, features, and related artists) while you listen to music
  • Access eMusic’s unique charts
  • Search eMusic’s catalog and listen to track samples
  • Download music
  • Listen to eMusic Radio (available to U.S. members only)
  • Save for Later
  • Access account details

(Source)

This is how I ended up feeling about the emusic application: it searched, purchased (or crashed), downloaded in a weird filename format (or crashed), wanted to search my existing library to give recommendations (sort of weird) and listen to samples (or crash). When the application crashed there was a possibility that emusic would think I downloaded the song when I didn’t receive it meaning I would need to contact to support and ask for a redownload.

The ‘weird format’ may sound, well, weird but it’s true. I’m someone who likes to listen to music in many settings. The two most common ways I listen to music are from a laptop or via my phone. Obviously this means I’m at least using two different music players (right now it’s Nightingale and Player Pro) and the need to organize music is important. When I download via the emusic website or via the indie developers app I get a nice directory structure with artist and songs named in a way that makes sense to me. When I download from the emusic mobile application, well, see for yourself:

In fairness many of the crashing bugs have been fixed and it’s a better client than it was but I still buy and download using the third party app developers application. It’s simpler, stable and let’s me do the three tasks I need out of a downloader.

So why didn’t emusic decide to license/buy the downloader that the developer released? I’m not totally sure but I have a an inkling that they wanted to show they could outdo the simple app. Pretty interface, more features, samples, etc. As a user I care less about how it looks and much more about how functional the application is.

Today I still use the indie developers emusic downloader instead of the official app and I recommend it’s use over emusics official app. I want an application that let’s me get the music I want and delivers a consistent user experience (read: simple flow and doesn’t crash). If it’s not pretty or doesn’t have every single cool feature under the sun, well, I’m ok with that.

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