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Lost in Translation: IA Challenges in Distributing Digital Audio (15 Jun 2005)
Initial user research drove a couple of key design decisions, including putting the display on the remote and focusing on distributing music to many rooms in the house. Having decided to make the screen on the remote in early user studies, they developed a method for prototyping new remote controls by using a PDA. They could program the PDA to display different screens and then test them with their users.

The second decision—focusing on multiroom audio distribution—motivated the design of the remote control itself. Sonos’ remote boasts the fewest buttons. Many functions use “soft keys”—buttons that change their function depending on state—but escalates key functions to physical buttons. Besides volume and playback and navigation, there are only two other buttons: Music and Zones. The music button brings users to the menu where they can select music and the zones button brings users to the menu to select what room to program. All other controls (for example, shuffle, repeat, music queuing, etc.) are presented in the screen.

As Sonos neared their launch date, they did frequent in-home testing, taking beta units to customers’ houses and observing them. They watched users as they went through the out-of-box-experience, the set-up, and use of the unit. Sonos’ approach represents a departure from the other two philosophies, and I was eager to see how the structure of information would differ among them.
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