Redesign: Spotify’s New Music Discovery

A UX case study on Spotify

Background

I’ve been an avid Spotify user for a while now. Music motivates me, it helps me clear my mind, focus while working, and power through my workouts. But there’s a few details in their interface that stand in the way of me getting to commonly used features quickly and easily. I was provided a great opportunity to reimagine and redesign a digital product of my choice and the first thing I told myself is to choose a simple product with a few use cases and a simple information architecture. And since I never listen to myself, I decided to choose Spotify.

The design challenge

Reimagine and redesign a digital product of your choice that showcases your skills and abilities to solve a complex problem as a designer.

Scope

  • Current state analysis
  • Ideation
  • Conclusion

Current state analysis

By conducting a current state analysis, I can clearly make observations of Spotify’s current app state, note gaps, and identify potential opportunities.

Information architecture

Sketching out the information architecture will give us a visual map of how the current navigation is structured, show the relationships between screens and uncover the different ways that users can travel through the content.

Observations:

  • There is a lot of unused content
  • Content organization does not seem logical or optimized by user engagement levels
  • There are multiple instances of repeated sections throughout the app architecture
  • Content taxonomy is not clear (e.g. what’s the difference between “you might like” and “inspired by recents?”)

Usability testing

After assessing the current app architecture, I wanted to see how users interacted with the app so I set up a user testing session with a few people within my network. Each user was asked to imagine he or she was in a scenario and to perform a series of tasks such as:

  • Your playlist has the best music taste and you want to listen to it at this moment
  • You really want to listen to Justin Bieber’s Despacito
  • It’s Thursday evening and you want to find new music to listen and add to your playlist before the weekend

While the user was performing the task, I documented user actions, comments, friction points and responding behaviors while asking questions to help understand their thought process.

Affinity mapping

Then using a technique called affinity mapping, I grouped each pain-point into a category, which helped paint an overall picture of the problem.

Using the results of the affinity map and usability testing, I identified specific user pain points in the following areas:

Your library

  1. Content and visual hierarchy are not prioritized by user needs or top user flows
  2. Most parts of the library are under-valued and unused
  3. The landing view for the app should be the library
  4. Consistent branding of the library feature. Users refer to “Your library” through various names(e.g. my music, my songs, my library etc.)

New music discovery

  1. The new music sections are not easily discoverable and spread apart throughout the application
  2. No clear taxonomy of new music (i.e. what are the differences between .names like “Discovery Weekly, Your Daily Mix and New Music Friday?”)
  3. New music is not personalized to my taste
  4. No quick way to filter the music I know I will like and save it to my music

Music management

  1. Creating a playlist and deleting songs are hard to do
  2. Less frequently used playlists/songs should be prompted to be archived
  3. Automatic offline accessibility for saved songs

After conducting this exercise, it became clear that there are many areas that can be redesigned in Spotify’s app. For this challenge, however, I will hone in on a single user pain point: new music discovery.

Hypothesis:

If we help users discover new music easier, we can offer a unique music discovery feature that no other music platform has today thereby engaging and retaining our community.

Ideation

Lo-Fi Sketches

After identifying the problems and pain-points, I set out to create some basic lo-fi sketches for some quick creative ideation. After multiple sketches, I was able to get a rough idea of what I assumed to work.

Users found it very difficult to find the new music section of the app. They would start off with the assumption it was easy to find and then get frustrated after multiple attempts.

My proposed solution:

Make the home tab = new music discovery

In the new albums and singles section, the user’s main goal was to listen and preview the songs/albums that were similar to their music taste and add favored songs to their library. However, with the current set up, users were unsure of what type of music each song was especially if they were unfamiliar with the artist. They also couldn’t differentiate between a song or an album.

The problem:

My proposed solution:

It was clear that a user highly valued the ability to save music. It may be arguably the main value prop that Spotify is able to provide: access to your favorite music at all times. However, it was a large pain point for a user to try to save songs to their playlists.

My proposed solution:

One common behavior I noticed during usability testing was a user’s desire to quickly preview a song. The act of music discovery showed a lot of differing behaviors than when a user is merely listening to music on the app. I wanted to make this easier for the user.

My proposed solution:

Then, I noted areas of opportunities, which is noted as blue annotations below and user feedback, which is noted as yellow annotations.

Digital Wireframes

Conclusion

I was originally torn between completely reimagining Spotify’s design or redesigning specific friction points that I have personally experienced. New music discovery is a personal passion of mine; I find a lot of joy in finding hidden gems and curating playlists that will get me through work and working out. That led me to focus on specific pain points and solve for those complexities.

This exercise has given me a glimpse into what it takes to make a complex product easily digestible and easily navigable. I learned a lot about user research and interviews, synthesizing data, and how to draw conclusions on the best design decisions to make to move the work forward.