Apple Fixed the UX of Apple Music With a Copy Change

Simply changing “New” to “Browse” creates a broader, more macro view of the whole app

All it took

Brad Siefert, Product Designer at Earlybird

You will be hard-pressed to find a more devoted person to Apple products than I am. I adore much of what they do, but the initial launch of Apple Music left me (and I think many others) confused at even some of its most basic functions. To me, these weren’t issues with the UI (user interface) so much as they were issues with the UX (user experience).

Incredibly, the UX for this massive music undertaking — put into the world by a legendary design company — hinged on the copy for two tabs: “For You” and “New.” There was no “Apple Music” tab to be found in iTunes or a standalone app either. The only way for a user to access Apple Music was via “For You” or “New.” This astonished me. I couldn’t believe it.

Apple is a fantastic company with very smart people, and I can’t even fathom the constraints the designers were under, but “For You” and “New” weren’t a clear enough path for users to reach the music they wanted to stream. In iOS 10, they’ve fixed it, and fixed it marvelously.

All it took was one word: “Browse.”

More than anything, the users I talked to couldn’t figure out how to get to the music they wanted to stream. The issues of differentiating local music notwithstanding, organizing Apple Music’s browsing section into “New Music,” “Curated Playlists,” “Videos,” “Top Charts,” and “Genres” is a massive step forward and one I think will renew the faith of frustrated users, provided that they’re willing to give the service another chance.

Screen capture from Apple Music in iOS 10.

Whenever people think about UX, one might feel it’s somewhat rare that something like copy should so deeply affect the use of a product. It’s actually far more important than most of us realize. Choosing clear, plain, and proper copy for navigation, links, tabs, buttons, headings, and other attributes can make the decisive difference in a product feeling simple, approachable, elegant, or otherwise enjoyable. Using a more macro or generalized term like “Browse” opens the designer (or team of designers) up to more clearly organize the data in a hierarchy, and it clarifies the options to intended users. What’s more, it has the benefit of being a verb, which while not required, can often be more clarifying to the user, whose actions can be described in such a fashion.

This UX change may not resolve some of the outstanding issues with distinguishing local and streamed tracks (especially within the iTunes desktop application), but it goes a long way toward eliminating the obstacles to streaming the music that we music fans love. Thank you, Apple, for fixing this very frustrating issue and happy streaming to all.

Brad Siefert has been a designer at Earlybird since early 2013 and is instrumental on a wide range of projects ranging from native mobile apps to custom analytics dashboards, web marketplaces, and more. You can follow him on Twitter or check out some of his visual work on Dribbble.

Screen images included in this post are © 2016 Apple Inc., published here under an assertion of fair use.