Music & Art in Homes: a UX Case Study & Startup

BACKSTORY

(if you’re short on time skip this but the context will definitely help)

So back in 2009 we started these concerts & art shows in homes in Madrid around the same time Sofar Sounds began. We called it Sofa Underground. It arose out of the need to create a more intimate space where artists & guests could connect and get to know each other. We wanted this to be more than just an event but an experience. Long story short, 5 years go by and we had great fun meeting new artists and the Sofa community was just amazing with their generosity and support. But we got to a point where we were doing these micro festivals in various cities and there was great potential but out of lack of organization and the fact that I ran out of time between work and life in general, everything was put on the shelf the last few years.

THE INITIAL PROBLEM:

Lack of Consistency & Disconnection: The image below says it all. Our branding identity was inconsistent. Heck we were an NGO, Community, a business, and an event venue at the same time! And having Facebook as our only online presence didn’t help. The Sofa communities were scattered & half our community never found out about the next event thanks to Facebook’s inconsistent algorithms.

A POSSIBLE SOLUTION:

Artists or not, we all have a need for connection. A need to be known and to know others. This is at the core of the Sofa Underground experience. To create a place where both artists and their fellow sojourners can connect.

Wayne Coyne of the Flaming lips connecting with his fans.

With this at the heartbeat of the Sofa Underground experience, I would like to propose a MVP (minimal viable product).

If I were to release something next week, something relatively inexpensive to make, I would start by creating a responsive webpage. It would be:

  1. A centralized place to transmit consistent branding and experiences with a clear way for artists, guests and hosts to get involved.
  2. A webpage that visually documents the stories behind each event opening up the possibility of creating connections for every visitor.

Value Propositions:

From right to left we want intimate spaces on a micro vs. macro level in which all events are ALWAYS free with the idea that charging for an event changes everything. We don’t charge our friends when we invite them to dinner do we? And we look to support artists and brands with little recognition (ie- those under 1000 facebook likes?)

So how did I arrive at my conclusions above? I used a design process that involves defining, designing & refining.

01. DEFINE:

Listen, discover and ideate. Let’s create clear viable solutions.

From personal interviews at the park to facetime with Jameson Whiskey Branding specialist Dave Lynch (not the director haha), it all starts by getting to know your users.

Business Model/Value Proposition Canvas activity by Alex Osterwalder

Needs, Wants & Pain points. From here I invited friends over to have a brainstorming party. We color coded the post-its to help visually map out common themes & solutions for our users. Don’t forget food or what we call “Tapas” here in Spain is always included with cold beers. Help them always feel at home.

To confirm some hypothesis, I created a brief survey on Typeform to see where our users find out about cultural activities, what’s important to them when it comes to cultural events and how they share these experiences with others. See the report here: Typeform Sofa Underground Survey.

Gathering all the information from the interviews, brainstorming and surveys I was able to identify specific user types & personas. Here below is a condensed version of four possible users.
In general our users are: cultured 25+ year olds, who are involved in the art scene whether as artists or art advocates and are looking for a unique & alternative experience than they already know.

02. DESIGN:

Build, Interact and Execute. Let’s materialize our ideas and solutions.

Creating a solid foundation with Information Architecture: I’m a big fan of drawing on paper as it allows me to quickly come up with ideas compared to using Sketch for example. Here below is a Site Flow and some lo-fi wireframes I created with mobile first in mind.

With a great foundation to work off of, I created a mood board. I seek inspiration, to learn from pop culture, UI design patterns & more. Here are 3 inspirations that define and give purpose to my design:

Inspiration #1: Humans of New York

If you don’t follow Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York on instagram please do. What I love about what he does is he goes around taking photos of seemingly normal people but who have extraordinary stories. And we all do. I believe that everyone that is a part of the Sofa Community whether artist or guest has a story to tell. So let’s focus on the experience in its entirety. No one is a spectator.

Inspiration #2 : Black & White Portraits

They are timeless. B&W is choice among famous portrait photographers for that reason. They give this eternal like quality to mere human beings. What if we captured the faces of Sofa Underground as a reminder of the beautiful community that surrounds it? Simply awesome I think.

Inspiration #3 : Newspapers & Microfilm

I love the idea of microfilms and historically documenting events in newspapers. Time capsules of the past. At Sofa Underground, it’d be great to document our experiences. And consider them stories of the locals.

And here come the designs!

I used Sketch, InVision & Flinto to visually sculpt the ideas. When we merge my three inspirations together what we get is a consistent design that focuses on the faces of Sofa Underground. Black & White monochromatic tones with a serif “newspaper” body font. All this with timeless stories to tell.
-The artists and guests are all put in the same feed. No story is more important than another.
Never stop exploring! I basically put “connected” into the search engine and these math graphs came up. And I thought to myself, “what a perfect way to visually explain our desire to create intimate spaces that connect artists with their fellow pilgrims.”
-Micro-interactions: As one swipes from right to left, the faces fade in and out depending on the event they were at. — Flinto.

Using InVision to give a quick overview of the navigation is great. Within 5–10 minutes you can set it up by importing your Sketch files via the Craft plugin.

So let’s do some role playing: Let’s pretend this is your first time using the webpage. You browse the homepage and figure you’d like to explore the past events. From there you explore one of the events and end up checking out some of the stories. From here you decide to sign up as a host and hope that your flat will be chosen for the next Sofa Underground. Fingers crossed!

03. REFINE:

Test, measure & optimize. Let’s improve this bad baby.

I didn’t have time with the two weeks we had for our final project but the idea would be to hand off my style guides to a developer & do some user testing. I would begin by asking are we staying true to our desire to create a webpage with consistent material that helps connect a community? What can we add or take away? Heuristic evaluations & usability testing are just two methods I might use here.


BUSINESS MODEL — PHASE .02

Success metrics: Here are three areas I would like to see in the second phase of Sofa Underground.

AMBASSADORS: I would love to see ambassadors from other cities and countries join the movement and start Sofa Undergrounds. With a solid footing here in Madrid this would be a great step forward.
PARTNERS: we can’t do this alone. We’d love to create an interconnected community from entrepreneurs, artist collectives to sponsors giving their time and financial support to helping spread this vision we have for the arts.
FREEMIUM MODEL: Our Sofa events at home would always be free but why not launch a freemium model which would include things such as Sofa talks, like Ted talks but specifically workshops and talks on the music industry and anything related to the arts. Artists in Residency would be another dream of mine to help young artists get a clear vision of who they are and where they want to go. There is no limit of what we could do here.

That’s it for now!

Until my next writing, never stop exploring!

Chris Peterson


SPECIAL THANKS TO:

Ironhack Teachers: Danny Saltaren, AlejandroArribas, Óscar SP, Samuel Hermoso, Sonia Rodríguez, Juan Varela.

Fellow Ironhackers: Luis Nagel, Ignacio Bas, Ana María Buitrago, Michela Berzano, Guillermo Simon, Elías Mas, Marta Soriano.