Much has changed in the last five years. Software is no longer sold in boxes. Tablets and smartphones are more important than laptops and desktop computers. Asking consumers to pay for software has become increasingly rare in a market monetized mostly through in-app purchases and advertisements.
Algoriddim has survived all of those changes. The company’s premier application, Djay, was first released as a free Mac app; it has since become one of the most popular paid music apps in the App Store. Now the company is releasing Djay 2, the first major update to the app since its iOS debut, as the technology industry is starting to change the way software is designed, and streaming music services begin to replace downloads.
By now you’ve probably read countless articles about software design shifting from photo-realistic interfaces modeled after real-world objects (“skeuomorphism”) and towards “flat” design. Everywhere you look, from Windows 8 to iOS 7 and many popular applications, software developers are abandoning the kitschy designs of the past in favor of these modern, all-digital interfaces.
Djay 2 hasn’t made this shift. The application resembles the turntables it’s meant to augment or replace, complete with vinyl records, needles, and an assortment of knobs and gizmos. Algoriddim CEO Karim Morsy says that the vinyl records have the same bumps and grooves they would have as a physical product. I don’t have the vinyl records or the eyesight required to test that contention, but that it was even a goal speaks to Djay 2′s commitment to skeuomorphism.
“In our case it makes a lot of sense to have a skeuomorphic design,” Morsy says. “But we wanted to take it a step further and say that any skeuomorphism or realism that we have in the app needs to transport meaning. It shouldn’t just be there for the sake of it.”
Algoriddim relied on skeuomorphism for much of Djay 2′s design, then, but the company also turned to digitally native design for more advanced features, such as an updated waveform viewer that shows users where a song’s bridge, chorus, and notable moments are. You don’t have to choose between skeuomorphism and “flat” designs, Morsy says — both have a place, even as the industry starts to favor the latter.
Once you’ve gotten used to the interface, then, Djay 2 is all about taking some tracks, dropping a few beats, and making a thumpin’ mashup, (or whatever people are calling mixes these days). The app automatically scans your iTunes library and allows you to purchase new tracks from the store without leaving the app itself. This is handy if you’re still purchasing music, but problematic for anyone (like myself) who relies on streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, or any of the other services that have become increasingly popular in the last few years.
“It’s definitely a challenge, because as a DJ app, just streaming by yourself, you need the signal on the device to gather the metadata and be able to do the magic that we’re doing,” Morsy says. He compares the change to streaming services to the shift towards mobile devices, when Djay’s users were asking when the company would make its way to the iPhone. “I’m sure over time there will be advances and APIs that we can use,” he adds.
Algoriddim’s made it through all of these other shifts unscathed. Perhaps Djay 2 can survive these shifts the same way a vinyl record is able to be scratched and bumped and torn to shit and still produces sounds worth listening to.