The need for usability in podcasting

Karin Høgh talked about usability in podcasting

Karin Høgh‘s focus in her presentation on Podcamp was usability, and by giving a multitude of examples she showed that this is not something that podcasters have given much thought. Starting out, she gave her definition of a podcast, which you can see above. She also pointed out that this excludes streaming radio or sites that simply publish a download link to an audio file.
Thomas Plessis objected, saying there’s not necessarily a need for an RSS feed.
– Most people want to listen on the website, he said.
– The definition is something we have to talk about, Karin Høgh replied. For me the feed is important, that you can subscribe and bring it with you automatically.
Among the difficulties possible podcast subscribers encounter are:

  • Confusing buttons and instructions for subscriptions
  • Language barriers – for instance, which gender is the word podcast in languages where this is relevant?
  • definitions – is video also a podcast, and if not, what do you call it?
  • People wonder: Do you need an iPod to listen?
  • People wonder: What’s an RSS feed?
  • People wonder: Aggregator – strange word
  • People wonder: Syndication -“something with unions?”
  • People wonder: Subscribe? – I don’t want to give them my credit card!
  • People wonder: Synchronization – what is that?

…and get no answers.
Richard Gatarski commented:
– Most publishers don’t care about usability because it costs money and it’s an experiment. They think people who want to listen will figure it out.
Karin Høgh mentioned a number of important factors in usability for podcasters: Keep it simple, don’t use the word “subscribe”, keep it accessible for all – non savvies, stupid people, the blind, colour blind, old people etc.
– Do we need standards?, she asked.
– I think we do, so as less advanced people can start doing this.
Her solution is a service called PodHandle, which is supposed to do all of this for you in easy steps. It looked simple enough, but I am also quite sure there are a number of similar services already available.

To check out all my photos from Podcamp, check out to my Podcamp Flickr set.


Web veteran, journalist, blogger since 1998, loves creativity and originality, photography and her family. [More]

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3 Responses

  1. Other than usability issues for the people listening there are a number of technical issues for podcast application developer. There are a number of different feed types used, RSS 0.9, RSS 1.00, RSS 2.00, Atom and so on. Besides the different feed types there are variants in those formats such as using “url” or “xmlUrl”, and the use of dates (not always ISO 8601). Sometimes I should document these things. The development frameworks are not always reliable since they are used for normal blog feeds and not Podcasts, so an application developer has a really hard time to do development with Podcasts.

    There is also a lot of work to be done if you want to work with OPML for handling Podcast subscriptions. The “standards” are a mess and has to be cleaned up as well.

  2. John Buckley says:

    Hi Lotta! Not a comment on this article specifically. I’m just touching base & checking out your site! It was really nice to meet at PodCamp Europe – All the best, I hope to chat to you again sometime. :)

  3. Hey John, great hearing from you! I enjoyed Podcamp a lot. Wishing I could go to Podcamp UK as well, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to work out. It was great meeting you. I’ve added Citizen Scoop to my feeds so I’ll be stopping by from time to time. : )

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