Musika: Learning Languages with Music (UX Case Study)

What is Musika?

As an avid fan of both learning languages and listening to music in other languages, I’ve realized how helpful it is to learn new vocabulary through the songs I listen on a daily basis. Already a fan of BTS, a few months ago, I decided I wanted to challenge myself and learn my first ever character-based language: Korean. I quickly learned that it was important to immerse myself in the language beyond just textbook chapters and Quizlet sets, so I turned to translating the music I already listen to frequently.

Knowing that many other language learners like myself like to use this similar method, I wanted to create an app that helped make language learning more meaningful and engaging. If, as many people say, music transcends barriers, there needs to be a better way to connect music with the language learning experience.

Problem Statement

People want new, interactive and efficient ways to learn a language. Memorizing sentences and vocabulary that are rendered insignificant by the user is not as effective as it used to be, so we need to find a way to make learning languages more meaningful and exciting.

My Design Process

  1. Research: What is already on the market? How do people feel about those apps? What different kinds of language learners are there? Who will be my target audience?
  2. Determine problems and solutions: What are the three biggest issues that I need to solve, and how do I solve them?
  3. Visualize those solutions: Design, test, and repeat. I put myself in my user’s shoes after determining some personas to think about what functionality I need and don’t need. This step encompasses my initial sketches, wireframes, and the final prototype.

Research

For this project, I took a more humanistic approach rather than a data-driven one. I conducted two interviews: one with a college student who is studying Japanese to fulfill her major requirements and another with a student that is casually studying languages for her personal enjoyment. I also watched a few YouTubers like Lindie Botes who are pretty active in the polyglot community to see what they had to say about learning languages.

Based on the interviews I conducted, it seemed as if Quizlet, Manabi Reader, and Duolingo were the apps that one or both used the most when it came to language learning. After discussing their experiences with them and conducting some of my own research with the applications, these were my key findings:

Problems and Solutions

After looking at the interviews and what I learned from the polyglots on YouTube, I wanted to focus on three key problems to remedy in the final design of the app.

Personas

After looking at our interviews and determining some solutions to various problems in current language learning apps, I got a better idea of who Musika was meant for. In general, I wanted to cater to a younger audience of music enthusiasts and language learners.

I decided to design the app with two personas in mind:

  • The casual language learner: This person would likely be learning a language for their own enjoyment. In this case, it might be someone who already enjoys listening to music in a foreign language and has started learning some parts of the language.
  • The advanced learner: This app is also designed for people studying the language at an academic or professional level. They want to simply expand their vocabulary and maybe be exposed to new music in the process.

Sketches

Once I determined who I was designing Musika for, I started working on sketches to begin imagining the different screens the user might interact with when they open up the app.

User Flow

In this sample user flow, the user is trying to review a particular “deck” of words. After logging in, from the home page they can either accomplish this by searching for a song or artist or viewing their recently learned songs. They can also view their music library from the navigation bar, filtering by language, artist, or song to review their deck of choice.

Wireframes

I then made wireframes for the log in and sign up screens, the home screen, library, and review page. In general, I kept a lot of the same functionality from the sketches I had. I made the general interface more user friendly, taking inspiration from both Quizlet’s different review modes and Spotify’s artist and playlist feature.

Visual Design

After getting a solid idea of what I wanted my app to look like with the wireframes, I jumped into Adobe XD to bring life to the screens. I wanted to keep my design sleek, modern, yet colorful and visually appealing.

I kept with a purple color scheme balanced with a lot of white to make the user feel at peace but also to inspire them to think creatively when learning new vocabulary in their various target languages.

Below is a screenshot of my workspace in Adobe XD while I was working on the prototype.

Prototype

After designing the screens and interactions, I had a working prototype!

Challenges and Next Steps

Challenges

While putting together this case study, I ran into a few challenges. With so many different kinds of users, I had to think about all of the different ways they would want to study their decks. Knowing this, I had to make sure that they had a lot of flexibility in how they could review what they had learned, so I added functionality that would allow them to sort by language, artist, and song.

Additionally, I found it kind of challenging to determine what forms of practice language learners would find most useful. For the time being, I intend on allowing for a “song mode,” a trusty flashcards feature, a fill in the blank mode, and a simple typed translate feature.

Next Steps

In terms of next steps, I think I’d want to collect more quantitative data about the prototype I have made, as I spent a lot my research taking a more qualitative approach. I want to reach out to people that represent the two personas I made: casual language learners as well as those that learn it in a pretty rigorous, academic setting.

I’d also want to consider adding more functionality, like building up the song/artist recommendation feature and adding more support for other kinds of languages since no two are the same. Thinking about how the “song mode” of the app operates could also be a great next step.

What I learned

This was my first ever case study, so I learned a lot! Here were a few of my key takeaways and lessons for next time:

  • Qualitative research can be helpful, but it certainly isn’t enough. I found it helpful in the sense that it gave me a good understanding of what users really wanted out of an experience that combined language learning and music, but it would have been nice to gather more quantitative data about the methods of learning that people find most helpful.
  • User flows are important! There are so many ways to get from point A to B. I found it useful to determine the main interaction the user might have with the application, and build a user flow around that. This helped me out a lot later when I was putting together my prototype.
  • Putting yourself in the users shoes can actually help remove a lot of the visual clutter on the user interface. Thinking about what is the dominant interaction the user will make on each screen can help us focus on what’s needed or not needed.

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