How Anchor designs a fun, expressive platform for creators
Anchor’s principles of design for building a product that’s accessible for beginners, powerful for seasoned pros, and encourages the creation of things we’ve never heard before.
Podcasting used to be a complicated, fragmented process that gave little room for creators to innovate. In designing Anchor, we’re constantly thinking not only about eliminating that process, but also building tools that allow people to be truly creative. Spoken word is the most basic human form of communication, and we want our product to give people the ability to bend and shape its format to create podcasts we wouldn’t have been able to imagine just a year ago.
But no matter what cool feature or concept we come up with, nothing we build can come to life without great design. Our (award-winning) design team keeps Anchor’s product on par with our mission, using a set of principles that inform every design decision we make. Here are the guidelines we live by to make Anchor the best way to make a podcast.
Expressiveness: Make podcasting feel like a party
Previously, podcasting tools have been very dry and technical, largely ignoring visual design and serving solely their function. We believe creative tools should feel inviting and lively, encouraging people to think outside the box and inspiring them by using bright color and energizing animations.
We put this principle into action by using lots of color and a bold, aesthetically “chunky” look that makes podcasting fun rather than complicated. This also shows up in our product flow and copy, with the goal of taking users directly to the creation tools and explaining podcasting in a way that can be processed one step at a time (so it never becomes overwhelming).
Approachability: Give people a comfortable space to be creative
It’s important to make people feel like the product is approachable and intuitive so they can feel comfortable expressing themselves rather than getting caught up in the technical details of podcasting. That means designing to align with the myriad ways people are already accustomed to using their phones and computers, eliminating learning curves by framing technical aspects as simple calls-to-action, and making people feel good about what they’re doing and proud of what they create.
Anchor’s episode builder is the pinnacle of this idea, giving an intuitive form to something that was previously difficult for many new creators to visualize. Layering and compartmentalizing information enables podcasters to view their episode as a whole — including its content as well as the steps that get it from start to publish — so it becomes easy for anyone to develop a vision for their work, regardless of how familiar they are with audio production.
Clarity: Design for every user
Clarity is brought up in every single one of our meetings and product specs. We never want to necessitate outside research, or assume users have previous experience with our product, when building new features and explaining how they work. We often say that we’d rather be redundant than leave users with unanswered questions.
This is most apparent in our copy, which we plan very carefully to make sure it’s detailed enough for experienced podcasters and accessible enough for newcomers. Iconography in our onboarding flow and and color coding in our episode builder are more subtle mental cues that further help clarify elements on the platform. We also put a focus on using UX elements that are already established and intuitive, such as the waveforms in our editing tools, in order to keep the need for education to a minimum.
Consistency: Many platforms, one experience
For products that work across different platforms and devices, the experience needs to be the same no matter where the user is. Branding features with recognizable iconography drives memorability across platforms, and styling consistency creates a uniform, polished, and trustworthy experience. Each platform’s product can be adjusted to take full advantage of the device’s unique capabilities — just keeping a familiar experience so users can switch across devices effortlessly.
This is why our creation tools, the episode builder in particular, look largely the same whether you’re using Anchor on mobile, web, or a tablet. Given that most devices now offer tactile functions with touch screens, we’ve taken advantage of that user experience across everywhere Anchor can be used. But we’ve also optimized each platform to fit its device perfectly; for example, taking advantage of split screen features unique to iPad that help minimize the number of taps needed to upload and publish an episode.
Innovation: Build the Future
Even when designing products with the goal of being approachable and intuitive, there are times when you can’t rely on established UI experiences and have to create something totally new. Sometimes you have to break the “rules” of design to create interfaces that have never existed before. For genuinely useful products, users catch on quickly. We can’t be afraid to push the boundaries.
While Anchor draws inspiration from a number of products we admire, we’re the only front-to-back podcasting platform, so we’ve had to take some leaps of faith to develop experiences podcasters have never seen before. We’re willing to take risks, but also know we need to be able to adapt quickly to user feedback.
The purpose of these principles is not to be restrictive — the exact opposite, actually. We’re constantly thinking about how we can build tools that allow creators to do something never been done before, and keeping these guidelines in mind allows us to make sure those tools are truly enhancing the experience for creators of all walks of life and levels of experience.
Haven’t started your own podcast yet? Check out our handy How to Start a Podcast guide for tips and tricks on how to make something awesome with Anchor. And as always, we’d love to hear your feedback, via email or on Twitter.