The ancient music of Indonesia’s gamelan ensembles has gotten a modern, technological update with Gamelan Player, a mobile app for Nokia touchscreen smartphones. The app, developed by Adam Ardisasmita, an information systems student at the Institut Teknologi Bandung, recently received a user experience (UX) consultation from Nokia. ‘It has helped me so much’, Ardisasmita says of the UX consultant’s report. ‘This is the first time I’ve developed a mobile app, so the suggestions will help me improve the design.’
Gamelan Player introduces the traditional music and musical instruments of Indonesia. Among these instruments are the saron and gambang, both similar to the Western xylophone; bonang, a series of gongs mounted in a wooden frame; jengglong, a set of hanging gongs; and kendang, a tall drum. The user can select these and other instruments from Gamelan Player’s UI to view photographs of them and hear audio samples. Ardisasmita says of Gamelan Player: ‘It is for everyone who is curious about Indonesian culture.’
Ardisasmita developed the app as part of his studies. In his class on multimedia systems, each student was required to develop a mobile app as part of the final examination. Ardisasmita developed his app with help from several friends on the recording, coding, and design.
The professor invited Ardisasmita and other students to submit their apps to a Nokia programme for university developers, and Ardisasmita did so. The result: Ardisasmita’s Gamelan Player app was selected to receive a UX consultation from Nokia, and Ardisasmita himself was invited by Nokia to submit the app for distribution in Nokia’s Ovi Store.
The UX consultation was conducted using mobile heuristics, which are measures that include visibility of system status, consistency, and error management. The overall goal of the UX consultant’s report was to provide ideas for improving the app’s usability, making it more appealing to users, and ensuring that it follows Nokia UI style guidelines. Issues, when identified, were ranked in four categories of increasing severity: cosmetic, minor, major, and catastrophe.
Overall, Gamelan Player received praise from the UX consultant for its navigation logic, reliance on visual cues (rather than extensive text), and ‘fresh and interesting’ concept.
The main issue identified by the UX consultant was that some areas of the app’s UI were too small for touchscreen control. Nokia recommends that touch areas be at least 7 x 7 mm for index-finger control. The report suggests that touch areas be enlarged. Another suggestion was to add tooltips that would identify the musical notes being played. The sizing of touch areas was ranked by the consultant as a major issue. Developer Ardisasmita agrees: ‘This is the most important thing to be fixed.’
Another suggestion from the consultant was to add an Options button. Specifically, substituting this button for the current Credit button would improve consistency and mapping and enable Ardisasmita to add more items to the menu. It would also enable users to always exit the application.
In time, Ardisasmita plans to add the Options button, though for now, he has beefed up the Information button’s list. But one additional suggestion made by the UX consultant is probably too ambitious for the student developer, at least for now: Turn Gamelan Player into a mobile game. This, the consultant’s report suggests, could enhance the app’s long-term appeal. A player could choose an instrument, play a song on it, and receive points for the quality of the performance. ‘Maybe in the future I will try to do that’, Ardisasmita says.
Ardisasmita recently submitted Gamelan Player for distribution in Ovi Store; download at http://store.ovi.com/content/81431