99U had a great conference idea. Starting not with a bunch of lectures, but offsite sessions. The offsite or studio session that I selected was Spotify. I chose Spotify because they have been rumored to be thinking about an IPO and I wanted to see how they operate. Also, this seemed like a more laid back option then some of the other sessions, studio tour and case study. I have taken a tour at Zappos in Las Vegas, NV and wanted to continue to see how young vibrant companies operate.
Spotify is a bit more tamer than Zappos, but still colorful. Check out the townhall area. As for a workstation, I think Spotify nailed it. To often people feel limited to sit at their cube. Spotify includes adjustable desks for sitting and standing. However, I would say that the studio is about what you would expect from an online music company. There is specialized art created to show of different genres of music, guitars & amps in the common area, video games, and ping pong tables. Some of the shockers were the ability to reserve a teepee tent for a meeting (nicknamed coachella), a nap room, and beer/wine in the meeting rooms. Now one would be led to say — the days of Mad Men are back!! However, they are not drinking all the time. They reserve it for Fridays or key events. Just like music, their product, people do tend to bond more and build relationships over a cold one. It is just a fact and they are capturing that which I think is great. It is to build a sense of community at the office and some even bring in their families on those days. We all know that this is missing from the office these days. Too much we do our tasks and get out of there as fast as we can. Forgetting about the relationships that could lead us to achieve more, let alone be just good companions in this maze called life.
Spotify has a cool studio in New York. The community manager, which is a new term & function not adopted by older companies yet, did a good job. I still think that people need more privacy at their workplace. I have seen organizations go from everyone having an office, to the quad-team cube, to the individual cube, short walls, to the no cube walls at all. I am leaning back towards an office hybrid. Sound enclosed and with a door. Perhaps it is not an office but at least your own space that you can block out others without headphones. It would be nice to not have to use headphones for playing music too and not disturb others. The best hybrid I have heard is a set of floor to ceiling workstations that have a door with a meaning. Open = come on in, Half Open = emergency only, and Closed = do not disturb.
Below are some pictures of things I saw.
Spotify Case Study
Following the studio tour, Spotify walked us through a case study on their recent product face lift. Spotify was getting attacked for not having a consistent design across the platforms and was loosing users. The differences on each product were also an eyesore to the design team and they agreed it needed to change.
A major theme of 99U 2014 was there must be a process and Spotify’s is below. Before each project the team asks a couple key questions (1) What do we want to learn? (2) How do we get the data? (3) How do we interpret the results?
The main issue the team noticed was the different light and dark across the UIs. Light and dark is very significant and could effect a user’s perception, have cultural impact, and existing customers reactions. The mian thing I learned from Spotify is do a lot of user evaluations. A lot. They went through a set of studies where they offered four different background options. They found the redesign exceeded in all studies. Which led them to go build it.
After implementation, Spotify shipped it to a few new users and existing users. Based on the feedback they received their AAR (acquisition, activation, retention) percentage only increased by about .2%. According to Spotify that is a good thing. In their industry as long as the AAR does not decrease than it is a success.
Spotify continues to tweak and look for ways to improve the user experience. Which is a key point, never stop tweaking.
Other key points: (1) Projects do not always have to come from upper management; (2) Ask a lot of questions before building it & increase user studies; (3) Your branding and UI form an experience by the user, which leads to how they interpret your company; (4) Revisit your document often or customers will leave.