We're currently re-building faubourgsimone.com website and we're facing a ux challenge: should the player be in an external pop-up window or in the website?

Today, it plays in an external window, so we imagine our listeners are used to that. In my opinion, it's the only reason we should keep it like that.

On the other side, regarding websites like Soundcloud or Mixcloud, they perfectly handle an internal player.

What route is preferable?

  • i hate pop-up, would prefer internal player. – Awesh Sep 10 '13 at 5:38

I might suggest a compromise -- Ideally, you could implement a fixed-position element that includes all of the music playing functionality. That way, the user can manipulate the music from any location on the website, from the tab of the website, and the player remains consolidated with the remainder of the display.

Having an external player, particularly a pop-up one, forces the user to interact with it more than they need to (dragging it to a useful position, out of the way, out from behind windows). Even if it's made into a tab, it still constitutes a new separate element than the user needs to worry about, and consciously bring back up when needing to change the music.

With the inclusion of downloading functionality, having an external window may cause even more problems. Downloads initiated from the separate window will appear in that window only. The user may close the window and expect the download to be completed by the browser, but it will not.

DatPiff features an external music player, which becomes a nuisance when multiple tabs (and perhaps other applications) are open in the first place.


Personally, I'd prefer an external window. As you've already pointed out, your users are used to that, but as someone who often has many browser tabs open, an external window would make it easier to find and change my player settings. I'd also put something on your site for Soundcloud / Mixcloud users to tell them that the player has opened an external window.

I'd be interested to see any stats for the average number of tabs people have open.

  • 1
    Mozilla's Test Pilot has gathered some data about tab usage. – Jawa Sep 8 '13 at 11:49
  • This isn't about your preference or your specific use case. – Koen Lageveen Sep 9 '13 at 14:05
  • Koen - I justified my view with rationale. Perhaps you could be more constructive in future and engage with the rationale. – Peter Sep 9 '13 at 17:51
  • Your rationale is based on "this works for me so let's make it the default". So, anyway, in terms of constructiveness... In many situations and for many people the external window will not be easier to find. More importantly, in a whole bunch of situations that we need to think about on the web today, external windows are not even a thing. Also, websites just creating new windows is a big no-no. So yours is like the 1995 answer to this problem, we should know better today. – Koen Lageveen Sep 9 '13 at 18:32
  • Thanks, but I disagree that 'in many situations and for many people the external window will not be easier to find'. If a user has many tabs open, they can easily access a separate instance of the browser containing the controls. In terms of websites creating new windows - it's fine so long as the user is kept informed and ideally, in control – Peter Sep 9 '13 at 18:39

Personally, I prefer the regular browsing experience meaning playback in the regular window. I like my browser to use just one window, once it pops up it prevents me from dragging the popup back between the other tabs or easy access to browser extensions for the page.

On the other hand, I can imagine some users don't really understand the concept of tabs and the music will suddenly stop when they navigate to another page.

If you want to know for sure you'll have to find some research or do some A/B testing yourself. Either way, let me know the results because I'm curious.


What problem with using the radio through an external window solve?

Also consider that many browsers don't even support an external window properly. Tablets and smartphones, as well as full-screen browsers don't handle this well.

A website should mostly stick to a single window. This puts control about the browser windows and desktop workspace into the hands of the users. They can now put the window with the radio apart if they like. Or not and simply keep using the website while the music plays (like Soundcloud) in the background.

  • "A website should mostly stick to a single window" ?. This is a good case where an external window should be considered. Using a separate window for control of audio which effects the entire computer usage (you don't hear the audio only when browsing). – AsafBO Sep 10 '13 at 9:11
  • Yes, that's a great reason to offer the option of a pop-out window. It is however not a good reason to just go ahead and open one. Also just look at how none of the major online music services throw new windows. – Koen Lageveen Sep 10 '13 at 9:39

It depends on context.

If the user is most likely to choose a station and stick with it for most of his time I suggest using internal player.

If the user is most likely to switch between these web-radios several times during his listening then the external player is better.

The rationalization is the usage: external window provides easy access to the player (assuming only two windows exist) thus providing quick ability for the user to alter his stations and preferences. Internal tab is usually between many other tabs and most likely is less frequently accessed due to the hassle for searching it.

In this case since the users are accustomed to external player, and keeping consistency should always be a factor in the decision. Personaly I would go with the external player.

  • So, you should let the user choose then? – Koen Lageveen Sep 9 '13 at 14:06
  • Letting the user to choose is always an option, however we should strive to decrease his cognitive load by not choosing a default for him. The default is chosen according to context. – AsafBO Sep 9 '13 at 15:11
  • I don't get why finding a tab is any easier that finding a window though. Do you have anything to support that you have the right solution for each context and that all users will agree with you? – Koen Lageveen Sep 9 '13 at 15:16
  • Its not my statement. Finding a tab is "harder" than finding a secondary window. – AsafBO Sep 9 '13 at 15:25
  • Unless a bunch of websites decide to launch a bunch "easy to find" windows. Why would your statement be true? – Koen Lageveen Sep 9 '13 at 15:27

It may be best to offer both options and design a system whereby the player can popout and using JS the interface would adapt based on the changed parameters. This concept may lead to a more friendly and intuitive user interface. I run three Web Radios and all are internal players, however the styling of the player does affect the bounce ratio. This may be considered.


If you want your audience to listen and do nothing the external player is the way to go.

If you want to be able to display:

  • what's on air
  • link to show/artist website
  • currently event of the artist
  • what will be on air in few hours
  • who's talking of the show/artist on twitter at the moment
  • ...

So If you want to be able one day to build a community keep contact and exchange with your audience you should go to the internal player. IMHO It's better to have audience using your tools to communicate than an external website.

  • I really like the way you took the problem... I will definitely keep this in mind for the future of the website. Thank you. – Agrim Sep 18 '13 at 22:31

I personally prefer a standalone application, if possible. I always accidentally close out the Sonzga tab I have open!


I would provide both options, as clearly the vote is split, and it's entirely possible to satisfy both parties.

Make it start with an embedded player, with a button to pop out.

Then for the pop-out player, I'd make sure it popped out into a separate window where possible, (completely free from the browser window in focus - as in not a tab) and specify a small, unobtrusive size that doesn't cover the screen.

That way the pop out player won't obstruct view of the content, nor guide the precious website viewer away to a different tab. Additionally, it will be easy to switch to it immediately from the taskbar/tray-app-thingy-on-mac, independent of browser. (Mainly because Chrome doesn't show all the tabs that are open in a single window instance when hovering over the taskbar, unlike IE and others)

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