Oakland Symphony Mobile Game App

Bringing Millennials to classical music, and then to the Symphony

Context

TEAM: I was one of four UX designers

DURATION: 12 days

MY ROLE: It was a collaborative project. My role focused on project management, research, prototyping & testing, and final presentation. Later, I created wireframes and visual designs for the project.

Deliverables

  • Design specifications
  • Custom-built personas
  • Task flows
  • Sitemap
  • Wireframes
  • Interactive prototype

Tools & Methods

  • Background, competitive, & comparative research
  • Research survey
  • Content prioritization (mvp)
  • Design strategy & concept design
  • Interaction design for mobile
  • Paper prototyping & user testing
  • Digital wireframing (Sketch App)

Challenge

from: “My Grandma likes the symphony, but…”

While its performances are currently well attended, the Oakland Symphony recognizes that most of its patrons are from older generations. It is concerned about losing relevance among younger generations, and believes a digital app that targets Millennials could attract more of them to its performances. Additionally, the Symphony seeks to attract a “wide-ranging, culturally diverse audience… to bring together people who might otherwise never have met, to sit side-by-side and share a meaningful cultural experience.” This description is a cultural definition of much of the East Bay.

Solution

to: “I didn’t know classical music could be so cool...”

We proposed a mobile game app, that featured two design components: classical music education, and opportunities to attend Oakland Symphony events. The game portion of the app holds players’ attention while teaching them interesting facts about classical music.

Game flow.

As the app learns about a player’s tastes and interests, it pushes more related content to them. Finally, the app gives players opportunities to attend Oakland Symphony events they may find intriguing.

Checkout flow.

Research Steps

Background research

We learned more about our client through background research, and familiarized ourselves with the Symphony’s user base, market, and products.

Questioning assumptions

We first wanted to test the Symphony’s assumptions about its strategy (ie: the effectiveness of developing an app) and learn more about our targeted audience: would an app even work? What do we know about Millennials’ music habits? Is it true that classical music is not relevant to Millennials? If so, is there anything we can do to address this problem?

Prior research

Through prior research, the Oakland Symphony had identified one key trait among those who regularly attend performances: they appreciate the history, structure, and beauty of the music being performed and therefore have a more meaningful and fulfilling experience at the event. This would become key to our design in the form of education.

Survey research

We created a survey focusing on Millennials’ current relationship to classical music, the means by which they consume new music, and the extent to which they are willing to try new kinds of music.

Supplementary research

We fortified our own research with additional academic findings. We also conducted comparative and competitive analysis. This was helpful in two ways: 1) it gave us a survey of the landscape surrounding classical music. Specifically, we learned there are few engaging classical music apps on the market. 2) It brought us inspiration in the form of three existing apps: Tinder, Magnifi, and Pandora. More on this shortly.

Major findings

Our research led us to ask some rather pointed questions. Our questions led to some telling discoveries.

Q: Do Millennials avoid the symphony generally, or just the Oakland Symphony?

A: They (ie: “some”) don’t like the symphony.

Q: Why?

A:

We then asked ourselves if these findings were inviolable. Must the symphony always be this way? Will every Millennial arrive at the same conclusion? Sensibly, we can answer: “To some people, yes, our findings will always hold true. And to many, they will not.”

Again, we consulted our research. It showed us examples of interactive, immersive, exciting, inventive, and relevant uses of classical music:

Additionally, it told us:

Our findings prove that, on the whole, Millennials enjoy live music events, are willing to go to — and pay for — music they find interesting, consume a lot of music, and primarily find new music through discovery apps. The Symphony’s strategy of developing an app was correct, and our strategy of educating and offering event tickets could work, according to the data.

Personas

At this stage, armed with research and a thorough understanding of the current audience and target user base, we defined distinct personas that became indispensable to guiding our design. Our primary persona was the “Amateur”: culturally diverse with limited knowledge of classical music, but a willingness to learn more.

Project Development

Initial designs

With a good understanding of the problem, and both our ability to solve it and intended direction to do so, we began brainstorming design solutions. As a team, we made an affinity map and grouped related concepts together.

Affinity mapping.

Though admittedly vague at first, from this exercise emerged the germ of our concept, built on features espoused by three apps mentioned previously: Tinder, Magnifi, and Pandora. Summarily: Tinder is an addictive game, Magnifi is a bridge between new music and related live events, and Pandora is an algorithm that learns about you and pushes related content.

Our inspiration.

After several rounds of discussion, on-the-spot prototyping, and conceptual task flows, Maestro began to take form: a game app, with an interface similar to Tinder, that “matches” users with Symphony events based on their “likes”. This stage of design was very much a free-flowing environment where all ideas were welcome, and without design constraints.

Task flow development.

As the concept became clearer, and given our time constraints, we realized we needed to prioritize features in order to achieve minimum viable product. We moved quickly after this high level ideating. We agreed on basic wireframe components and interactions, and divided to conquer. One pair focused on digital wireframes, while my team made a paper prototype and began testing.

1) Basic design. 2) Paper prototype.

Testing & Iteration

We were thrilled at the amount and quality of feedback we received immediately. We iterated our prototype on the spot, fostering a rapid evolution. At each step, we regrouped to gauge our progress and make sure we constantly returned to our user persona, problem statement, and research for guidance. Based on feedback, we had a number of additional high-level conversations about visual and interaction design, particularly surrounding our “content cards” (those cards with information that users choose to “like”):

Content Card development. Note iterations highlighted in green, beginning with: 1) initial sketch, 2) the addition of a dashboard, 3) ability to “flip” the card for additional information, 4) dumby buttons, 5) visually showing a “stack” of cards, and 6) final product.

Usability testing also showed us confusing elements of the app — like the location and purpose of the dashboard. It was not initially apparent, and underwent several rounds of iteration until our final design.

The dashboard began as a button (1), became a swipe bar (2), and survived as a hamburger menu (3).

Prototype

We used InVision App to link screens in a clickable prototype.

https://projects.invisionapp.com/share/JQ7IT4UWD#/screens/163834297

Reflections

Subsequent Versions

  • Social media connectivity.
  • Options to share content.
  • Ability to add songs to Spotify and third-party playlists.

Recommendations

Non-app features & marketing suggestions:

  • Performances in new, even atypical locations.
  • Live soundtrack performances for movies.
  • Classical meets other music genres.
  • Interactive events, such as networking nights with food, drink, and speakers.
  • House parties or other intimate settings.

We recognize that an effective content strategy is essential to the success of this concept. This includes maintaining an inventory and curating new and diverse content to serve the audience. We imagined one successful scenario being a consortium of classical music venues, perhaps nationwide, collaborating to market and share costs of development. In this example, the app could either be tailored to an individual symphony or marketed generally as an app about classical music, which then leads users to events at the venues nearest to them.

What I learned

I learned about the effectiveness of targeted research. I was delighted to see our prototype yielding immediate feedback, and iterations that reflected user input specifically. I assumed the role of project manager throughout the project and took steps to guide the process and keep our team on track. I organized and led daily team meetings where we evaluated our timeframe, brainstormed new ideas, revisited goals, refocused on our user persona and problem statement, and set deadlines for production. Additionally, I led the discussions around our initial design idea through conceptual development and into wireframe and prototype development. Later, I returned with user feedback and approaches for iterating. I also conceptualized the initial draft of our project presentation and prepared the corresponding slide deck.

I am particularly proud of the way my team gave voice to every member. Each of us had valuable input and particular skills to share throughout the project. We came together to harmonize our ideas, with the user ever in mind, and made tangible progress toward a deliverable product within the given timeframe.

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