Software engineer Andrew Roper first got the idea to build Pastime — a “rigorously simplistic” audiobook and podcasting app — when a relative was diagnosed with macular degeneration. With its large buttons and straightforward navigation, Pastime was made to suit the needs of visually impaired people. That challenge prompted Andrew to consider broader issues of accessibility.
“A non-technical, simplistic experience is crucial to drawing in new users. My aim is to declutter podcasting technology to make it as easy as possible for newcomers to consume and discover audio content,” Andrew says.
Building a sleek, minimalist interface and deep-linking content within the app, Andrew hopes to make streaming podcasts in Pastime as intuitive as turning on a radio.
“Overcast, Castro, and Apple’s native app all cater to podcast enthusiasts who already know their way around. I’m trying to reach people who aren’t quite sure what they’re doing,” he says.
But Pastime isn’t just your grandma’s app. Andrew is problem-solving basic user experience issues that prevent the majority of mobile users from giving on-demand audio a go.
In a recent Nieman Lab article, Panoply’s Jacob Weisberg bemoaned the medium’s consumer gap, saying, “It’s still much too hard to get podcasts. People who know how to do it do it quite easily. People who don’t know how to do it find it a little bit intimidating. There’s so much infrastructure that needs to be built and upgraded.”
Even for the podcast in-crowd, discovering and sharing new content is extremely problematic. After designing Pastime’s basic functionality, Andrew began tackling what he calls podcasting’s Netflix dilemma — how do consumers find anything amidst the overwhelming number of choices?
Andrew turned to the Audiosear.ch API, which he uses as the backend database for Pastime. Not only does Audiosear.ch allow users to search for content by show, network, category, people, or topic, it also lists top-rated shows and tastemaker audio picks.
Andrew hopes to further integrate Audiosear.ch into Pastime’s own curation feature — Shortlist — which lets users create and share streamable playlists of episodes.
“There is just so much good content out there, but it’s hard to know where to start,” Andrew says. “Pastime provides an entry point.”