I get notoriously distracted when I’m working online. And not just by Beyonce GIFs. Even lyrics in a song playing in the background can suck me into a long Spotify surfing session, despite the fact that our brains are supposedly very adept at filtering out music while working. I suspect that many people are like me, and the popularity of Incredibox confirms my suspicions.
Incredibox is a Flash-based web app that lets you create simple, rhythmic beats without distracting vocals or track changes. Though it was launched as a musical toy for kids (and cool adults), the app has become what one reviewer calls "a big hit" among programmers and designers. "For working there is nothing better than repeating, simple melodies and patterns," said one Y Combinator forum member who recommended Arvo Part and Philip Glass. "What I consider to be a good song is something that you can work along with and not even notice it." Incredibox is much the same way—repetitive and sleek, never demanding more attention than you’d like to give.
Each track revolves around a cast of black-and-white cartoon hipsters. You pin colorful logos—each representing a sound—onto their bodies to give them outfits. It’s a cute UI concept, and more importantly, it takes about two seconds to grasp. There’s also something appealing about Incredibox as a social tool—you can "perform" and record tracks and download them for a few cents, a feature that’ll appeal to wishful DJs. If you use it enough, you can also unlock special features like a drag-and-drop mode that allows you to create personalized mixes.
The app was designed by a French design studio called So Far So Good, staffed appropriately by a sound designer/DJ and two visual designers. It first appeared in 2009, but really took off this year—a second-generation version launched last spring, which has been visited almost 30 million times. There are plenty of other Flash apps for creating looping sounds out there—but the bells and whistles are what make Incredibox really useful. As long as you don’t get distracted by the super-clever UI, that is.