Redesigning Spotify

Emil Brismar
Apr 28, 2018 · 8 min read

The task of this project was to understand how people are experiencing music, and how we can redesign a current system in order to better facilitate their needs. From interviews, fellow UX Designer Gladys Loh and I realized that one of the most important needs people have when using a music streaming service is that they want to discover and listen to new music. With Spotify being the dominant music streaming service in Sweden, we thought it would be interesting to investigate this particular service to see how well they are actually catering to their users’ needs.

Objective

Make it easier for Spotify users to discover and listen to new music.

Research

In our interviews, we wanted to focus on how the user discovered new music, be it with the help of Spotify, or with any other service. By asking people to describe the last time they found a song that they really liked, we were able to understand how they usually confronted the problem and we quickly discovered a common theme.

Discovering new music is a passive experience.

Roughly 60% of our interviewees said that the last time they found a song or an artist that they really liked they simply stumbled upon it, either on Instagram, a movie or while taking a coffee at a café.

There was also a clear separation between how people then actually added the music to their own music library with people either writing down all of the lyrics that they could remember into google or by using Shazam/Soundhound.

This is a struggle.

For a music service with the intention of helping their users discover new music it doesn’t make sense that the users have to go through a second application to find out the name of a song that they really like.
The other 40% found new music in a more active way, by following recommendation features on their music streaming platforms of their choice. The more interesting thing to note is how different the interviewees utilized the recommendation features available to them. It seemed like the interviewees didn’t really know how they could generate music similar to the one that they liked.

Spotify has a fantastic feature called Radio which generates similar music to the one you are feeding into it. Surprisingly, only 15% actually used this service, while the others relied on either creating a new playlist with interesting tracks and waiting for it to end in order to hear music that is similar to it afterward, or by using the daily mix feature. Most of the daily mix users got annoyed by the lack of tools available to personalize the playlist, and the lack of control they had over it.

A third insight from the interviews was that there are so many features of Spotify that are never used. None of the people that we interviewed had ever used the social features of the platform or discovered a concert through the app. All of the interviewees were also confused by the Home and Browse screen, having a hard time to understand the difference between them.

Planning

From the interviews we identified 4 areas that we really needed to focus on in our designs.

  1. Make the Radio feature easier to use
  2. Integrate lyric search / shazam-like feature to the search screen.
  3. A new feature that will allow you to see what music a public space is currently playing.
  4. Remove or simplify less used features.

Wireframing and testing

Our initial wireframes focused on satisfying the four focus areas that we had set up during the planning stage and visualize how this might take place in the Spotify app. This would allow us to test if we were actually satisfying the user need with these redesigns or if we would have to ideate even more.

While testing the wireframes we were able to gather some really interesting data. Our first insight was that because the navbar at the bottom of the screen was so visually different from the rest of the app, people had struggles understanding if it was part of the app or not. This lead to some confusion to what they could do as a majority of the people testing our application got stuck on the homepage until we explained to them that the navigation was part of the app.

Make sure all of your design share the same visual language.

Our second insight was that even though we thought we had made the Radio tab easier to use, both by changing its name, as well as creating clear copy with instructions people still struggled to either find it, or understand exactly how it worked. Some people, when asked to create a playlist based on some tracks that they liked, wanted to create a separate playlist and wait until Spotify started to play them similar music, or went directly into the Discover weekly playlists suggesting that they don’t know about the existing Radio feature.

We also found out that the icon that we had used for our Shazam-like feature made people think that they were supposed to search by voice commands and that they expected such a big feature to either have a separate tab or at least some kind of onboarding/introduction.

“Does that microphone mean that i can use voice commands to search?”

After the first round of testing we were able to come up with a few things to sort out in the next iteration of the prototype:

  1. Stations/Radio would need some further improvements to be easier for the user to use.
  2. A feature such as Shazam would need some kind of introduction to prevent users from getting confused.
  3. The “Music around you” feature was well-received but could use some further development into a full feature.

We also came up with some minor fixes that we needed to handle:

  1. We have to redo the Currently playing tab so that it looks more like Spotify.
  2. We have to rename the Stations tab to Radio since more users recognised the function by that name.

Final Prototype

The Radio Feature

In order to get more people to understand the Radio feature we, first of all, changed the name of it from “Stations” to “Radio” since we realized that the change in name had only made the users more confused about the feature, rather than making it easier to comprehend. We also thought that by editing the copy explaining the feature to you we would have more people actually understanding how it works.

Our next change was to generate a preselection of different artists, tracks, and playlists based on your recent history to make the selection process more seamless and intuitive. By doing this we also hoped to make it easier for the user to understand that they are no longer limited by just one artist, playlist or a song but that they could create a radio from a large seed of different inputs.

Music around you

With the “Music around you” feature we wanted to build more on the idea of discovering music passively. We imagined the scenario where the user is having lunch somewhere and at the end realizes that the music has been spot on during their entire meal. By using Music around you the user can find out what playlist is currently being played, as well as what other playlists the same spot has. In addition to this, they can also find other places that play similar music, creating a fun way to discover new restaurants or cafés.

GRAB

As we learned from our first round of user-tests the users expected some kind of introduction to major new features within the app. However, we didn’t want to bother the user with information that they didn’t need at that exact moment.

To reduce frustration, and increase that chances that the user would try out our new Shazam-feature GRAB, we decided to introduce this to our user as a pop-up on the Search screen, the same screen where the function is located. In order to reduce the confusion with voice commands we also changed the icon to a combination of a microphone and the Radio icon.

See for yourself

If you want to find out how anything else is working take a look at our interactive prototype. There you can try out all the above mentioned features as well as some minor ones that we haven’t covered in this report.

Conclusion

After showing the prototype and getting feedback, we have identified some areas that we would like to improve. In the next steps we would like to look into and improve both the Radio feature, as well as trying to give the user more freedom over the algorithm, and how they can change it.

As you can see, the Radio feature didn’t really change much between the wireframe and the final prototype, other than the name, some minor changes in how the results are presented to the user and their journey to get there. However, what we failed to realize was that our users had a much deeper issue understanding the feature in itself, making them reluctant to actually use it. This would be really interesting to analyze in a later project, solely focused on the radio function.

The Radio feature remains a mystery to many.

Another thing that we discovered during our tests was that a lot of people expressed interest in being able to control how the algorithm is affecting the music they are being presented. We took some baby steps to facilitate this by giving users the filter function, found both on radio stations that are featuring more than one seed item, as well as on the discover weekly playlist where users could see what is influencing the playlist, and remove artists that they don’t like. It would, however, be interesting to continue discovering this field in order to come up with a way for users to better take control of how the algorithm is presenting them with new music.


Thanks for taking the time to check out my article! If you have any feedback or advice for me, feel free to drop a comment.

Emil Brismar

Emil Brismar

Written by

Student and aspiring UX Designer.

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