UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 1247 June 2, 2014

What Happened to My Radio App?

A TuneIn version 12 review

I use TuneIn to listen to local radio stations on my Android smartphone when I’m on the go or exercising, scenarios I presume are typical for many other users. All I want is to open the app and choose one of my favorite local radio station—it’s as simple as that, but let me put it into a formal workflow diagram.


TuneIn workflow

This is, of course, the daily scenario after a user has already chosen his or her favorite stations in a longer but infrequent process, which I’ll comment on later.

Note that in this daily scenario there are two major cognitive steps:

  1. Users want to listen to the radio and so they launch the radio app
  2. They select the station they want to listen to from their favorite stations.

In the old TuneIn (I was previously running version 11.3) the app opened on the “Browse” tab, and I had to select the “Favorites” tab and then select a station; one gratuitous step, but nothing too grueling.

TuneIn screengrab

A tap on the favorite station and would start buffering and then playing, while the screen displayed the station’s information.

Opening TuneIn after updating to version 12, however, I was confused. Where the f%@& were my favorites? Let’s see: “browse” and “explore” were not reasonable choices, so I tried “home”—which took me to a constantly updating screen with a mixture of suggested radio stations and songs that are playing now in stations.

This felt nothing like home, where I expect things to feel familiar or at least predictable. Eventually, I found my old favorites under the “My Profile” screen in the “Following” section (see the screenshot). So, according to TuneIn, I’m not a radio listener anymore, but a follower of stations and shows, and guess what—I can be followed as well.

TuneIn screengrab

Finally, I could tap one of my favorite stations and get it playing.

The next time I launched the app, it remembered which of the four “main” screens I was on previously, as well as the last station played, so if you usually use, say, the "following" section, it comes right up. Still, you have to choose your station (second tap; launching the app is the first) and tap the play button (third tap), which becomes gratuitous.

TuneIn users are not followers, they are listeners, and their "real life" metaphor is radio

So what’s not working with version 12? Let’s recap:

  • My initial encounter with version 12 of TuneIn was really confusing, especially as I was accustomed to the older version—not a smooth migration!
  • The location of My Profile as the last out of four items was confusing. Also, the term “my profile” implies settings controls—like username, email address, or profile picture—and not the most frequently used screen (at least in the long run) where my favorite stations are located.
  • Using the social networks’ terminology of “following” and “followers” is not a good idea. TuneIn users are not followers, they are listeners, and their "real life" metaphor is radio or television which use (for good reasons) the term “favorites.” Also, most of the radio listeners won’t expect to have any followers. I don’t see why TuneIn should try to be a social network, when it’s obviously not one.
  • Tapping a station on the favorites (or “following”) screen means that the user wants to play it. Don’t make me tap again; it’s annoying.
  • The “home” screen is actually a kind of exploration arena, as it displays suggested stations and currently playing songs (that leads to the relevant stations) and it gets updated dynamically. In addition to that, there are two more exploration arenas: “Browse”, where stations are ordered according to subjects, locations and languages; and “Explore” with subject, yet again, but the display is more visual and the navigation is bidirectional—scroll and swipe—thus, quite complex. Having three exploration arenas is too much and I suspect it reflects design indecision rather than a robust concept that can leads the user to the right place.
  • Navigation—the fact the you treat any of the four screens ("Home," "Browse," "Explore," and "My Profile") as a main screen, leads to counterintuitive phenomenon for Android users. When the app is on any of these main screens, tapping the native <back> button of the Android systems, closes the app. The user expects that to happen only on the main screen of an app, i.e. on one screen of the app and not on four of them. In other cases the <back> button should take the user to the previous screen, of course.
  • If you want the user to use the app functionality to discover new content, don’t use the side drawer design pattern. (Here is why.)

Have you tried to new version of TuneIn? Please share your thoughts and experiences below.


User Profile

Shay Ben-Barak (@ShayUXD) is a freelance experience strategist and senior usability expert. For the last 15 years he is leading projects from the early inventive stages of understanding the users' needs, throughout the process of concept design, to the detailed interaction design and visual design. He is experienced with mobile devices, legacy applications and web applications, and he was involved with development of consumers apps as well as complex systems (e.g. financial, medical, ERP and C4I systems) for professionals. Shay is also a UX mentor at the Google Campus TLV which is a pro bono publico activity of mentoring startups and entrepreneurs in their initial steps towards their very first UX prototype.

Shay owns a master's degree (M.Sc.) in cognitive science from the Technion and his master thesis about Mental Models was published in chapter 5 in this book.

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New tunein app is disastrous.  It's meant to be a simple radio app, nothing more, nothing less.  Can't get it to work on my iPad Air but seems to still work on my Android HTC M8.  Take it back a step and keep it real!

I want to listen to radio.  I do not want to be social.  I do not want to be followed.  I do not want to follow.  I do want to (and did) uninstall Tune-In.    Radio from germany? Yes!   Tracked and labeled and invasive permissions.  No.

Looks like tune in is duming up like the rest of the world. I'm sick of being ask how I feel about how other people feel!!!

Thank you for this article! The new TuneIn UI is not anywhere anyhow helpful. I chose radio stations because I trusted their choices. Not because I wanted to keep constantly making my own choices, If I choose a station/channel I trust it to play the variety I want. Please TuneiN, don't make me keep searching and discovering.

i just want to listen to to my tunin radio app with my screen off . how can i do this? please help....

The "improved" version is awful, it is both confusing and over elaborate. If it ain't broke don't fix it ! I am not a Luddite, but the previous version was pure and simple,

You really have hit the nail on the head. What's happened with TuneIn is tragic. Once the original developer (a friend of mine) sold the app and eventually transitioned away from TuneIn a few years ago, they have consistently gone down hill. First the app became way buggier. Then, they made a series of poor, poor UX decisions.

It's amazing how hard it is, as a company, to have focus and live in reality. The app, under the care of just ONE developer was dramatically better than it is today under the tyranny of corporate rule.

Too many cooks in the kitchen trying to get bought out or something!


I second that. Tunein is far too complicated now; they're too late to the game to be the new Pandora/Google Play/et al. and should've focused on their strengths as a streaming radio clearinghouse.

Very interesting article. I use very often TuneIn in my iPhone, and it's true that you feel a little bit lost the first time when you open the app's new vesion. And, In any case, I think that is a big mistake using the four screens as a main screen, could be annoying for the Android "listeners".

Everytime Tunein does a new update, they talk more about discovery. I don't want to discover. I have a set of stations and I want to pick one and listen to it. I'm mildly interested in their podcast integration, but I've messed with it in the last and current versions and it's just too much hassle to even try to use. I'm finding myself using atrocious station-specific apps (usually built by airkast) more and more just because it is quicker to launch and listen.

i think that is an option to start automatically with last played radio. i want another app, this one (version doesnt matter) is constantly freezed when rapid changing between radios happen. too bad that with most of others apps the option for chosing a streaming bitrate is not present.