Between the lines — Saavn

Saavn, the “Spotify of India”, has been my go-to app for music outside of YouTube (surprisingly good with playlist suggestions, until it isn’t and plays 10 songs from the same freakin’ album). Spotify or not, Saavn has more-often-than-not been pretty solid with its music collection, and its Netflix-esque venture into original content could prove to be the USP that will decide the winner of music app wars.

What I am going to try and do here, is a product teardown of the Saavn Android mobile app — dissect the user experience, analyse what works (and doesn’t work), and discuss one feature I wish it had.

First Impressions

The app launch lands you to a language selection screen, with Hindi and English auto-selected. Simple enough — though I wish I were told where to change it from later.

Interestingly, there is no selection of genre or music type. While allowing user to get into the app quickly and start listening to some awesome music is understandable, onboarding is a great opportunity to learn more about the user, AND convey the breadth of your music repository.

What Saavn does brilliantly though, is let you start listening to some awesome music quickly, by suggesting the Weekly Top 15 playlist at the bottom, and before you know, you are listening to the latest chartbusters!

So an FTUE that misses out on some great potential, but still manages to do its job.

What’s in a name?

With me onboarded and up-and-listening to the latest albums, it’s time to explore what all Saavn has to offer. And boy, do they have a lot of sections!

There are new releases, charts, playlists, radio, shows and a section called “browse & discover” that is just a fancy name for genres.

Which is confusing, to say the least. If I want some workout music, where would I go — playlists or radio? What about 70s rock — charts, playlists or radio?

Now imagine if there were just 3 sections — trending, playlists and originals.

  • Trending section will have all the latest albums, popular music in my location and anything that Saavn wants to promote.
  • Playlist section for anything from a pop playlist to workout music to English chartbusters.
  • Originals, being a killer USP (not to mention, absolutely great for retention) will have its very own section.

Now I know exactly where I should go for what!

Good design does not make the user think — it’s just obvious!

I am confident there are well-founded reasons for the exhaustive categorisation, but more often than not, they are a result of new features added and expanded over time. And design needs refactoring love too!

Prime me, baby

One of the quickest ways to turn off new users of your app is asking for inopportune and (seemingly) unwarranted permissions. I can’t stress enough the importance of informing your user about the need for the permission — especially when it’s not obvious, and that’s why God made permission priming!

This one, Saavn hits out of the park. Only when you try playing your local files does it ask for Storage permission. And not before informing with a cute little popup why it needs local files permission and priming me for the system alert that comes next.

With location access permission, it’s a homerun. The permission is asked on the 2nd app launch instance, again with a beautiful and informative popup first. App developers everywhere, take note!

What does this button do?

The term intuitiveness is often casually thrown around by designers and Product Managers, but it does not just mean what an interface does, but what it doesn’t. Does the interface gracefully handle inadvertent user actions, and allow users to “undo” their mistakes? Does it use signifiers to clearly highlight the result of their action?

Good design is forgiving — it encourages exploration without the worry of making a mistake

With the Saavn app, there’s definitely room for improvement. For instance, I could scroll through my playlist vertically, but horizontal scroll of the album art carousel meant playing the next song — one could argue the affordance for scrolling a carousel is as much as a listview, but the behavior is different. Would a “next/previous” icons beside the album art have conveyed the behavior to the user?

Or how clicking a song while a queue is playing, clears the queue and starts playing the new song/playlist. It can be extremely frustrating to have built a queue and then have it erased because you accidentally played a song rather than adding to queue.

Ok Google, what’s on my playlist?

My computer knows best. Credits-Dilbert

While the startup world is abuzz with the cacophony of AI and Machine Learning (AI-powered wine taster, anyone?), music could be one of the areas where its use actually makes sense. With so much information of user context — location, weather, time of the day & calendar schedule, available to go with the rich listening history, the right music should always be just a tap away.

Good design is like your mom — it knows what you want even before you know it

Saavn does a neat job of highlighting the trending music and surfacing my recently played music, but what it lags in is smartly suggesting the next music I should be listening to. Wouldn’t it be cool if I wake up in the morning and it suggests me the perfect workout mix, since that’s what I do most mornings? Or I launch Saavn just before bed and it recommends a chill playlist, based on my music preferences this time of the day? There’s just so much potential!

Wrapping up

While I am a big fan of Saavn’s exhaustive music collection, I think there’s huge potential for improvements by simplifying the user experience, ironing out few usability quirks and adding some ML magic.


This is the first post in a series (hopefully) of product teardowns, where I will attempt to dissect my favourite Android apps, analyse what works & why, and learn how to build awesome products along the way.

For much shorter and highly opinionated views on technology, design and everything else, follow me on Twitter.

Until next time! Credits-Pinterest