15 March 2009

Fixing the Usability of the Pause Button

The Pause button is broken. It's broken because you resume exactly where you left off. As more audio and video becomes available via on-demand, the usability of the pause/resume button will become more important and will become a distinguishing feature among players.

For music, where you resume the song is not very critical. However, for longer content, such as video or podcasts, the pause/resume functionality is much more important. When you resume, you often lose key plot points and generally lose time rewinding the content.

Typically, you Pause a video or audio because you are interrupted - you are switching tasks. When you return to your movie, tv show, or podcast, it takes you a few moments to get back into the frame of mind when you left off. This is called the cost of task switching. As a result you often end up having to rewinding the stream a few seconds into the past and then restarting.

Here are 5 ways to enhance the usability of the Play/Pause button:

  • Paused Video and Audio content should automatically resume a few moments in the past - not at the pause position.
  • The amount of automatic time shifting should be proportional to the length of the content. For example, A short podcast, should backtrack a second or two while a TV show should resume 3-5 seconds in the past. Feature length films might rewind even up to 30 seconds to a minute.
  • Time-shifting should consider the nearest scene change or audio lull.
  • If the content is played on a computer, *the *Pause ** point should be set to when the mouse starts moving before the paused button is pressed.
  • If available, the reflex time should factor into the Pause point. (eg: the time between moving the mouse over the pause button and actually clicking the pause button)