Spotify is Incapable of Empathy & Doesn’t Care About Their Users.

Even though that tweet is almost two years old at the time of this writing, the statement is still rings true today.

Spotify is one of my most regularly used apps…and most loathed UI/UX.

You’d think with all the success they’ve had in subscriber-ship, there’d be some emphasis on making the experience better for users.

Nope.

What’s my problem with Spotify’s UI/UX?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

Here’s a (not so) short list of where it falls short of the glory of Zod:

General

  • When you go to New Releases, it doesn’t prioritize results with artists you follow (what’s the point of following artists?)
  • Playlist thumbnails seemingly forever comprised of album artwork from the first four tracks added to playlists you may have created when Julian Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador (e.g. 2012)
  • Release Radar is great for discovery, but dreadful songs/artists often end up on there. Idea: Let user thumbs down tracks/artists they don’t like and AI can help out for future
  • No visual cues offered as to whether a song you stumble across and dig is already in one of your playlists (which could help you not add duplicates to a playlist, which currently Spotify Web Player actually lets you do…keep reading)
  • Have you tried creating a playlist lately? It’s as painful as listening to William Hung’s “Hung for the Holiday’s” on repeat 17x.

Web Player

  • Let’s you add same tracks to same playlist more than once. De-dupe you come here often?
  • No track search filter within playlists. (Can do this on mobile)
  • If you have a robust playlist, you have to infinitely scroll trying to find individual track to delete
  • No way to sort tracks by recent added (Can do this on mobile)
  • Infinite scroll for playlists, but have to click “View More” and then infinite scroll for New Releases
  • “Flash player needs to be installed” message STILL rears its ugly head every once in a while. What year is this??

Mobile App (iPhone)

  • So you want to remove that William Hung song your prankster little brother added to your playlist? I dare ya to try and find a “Remove” option in the individual track options (…)! Idea: Try a little Tinder-ness and let the user swipe right to delete. I’d almost bet my first-born it’d be more utilized than the current “Add to Que” feature
  • The only way you can delete an individual track in a playlist is by editing the whole playlist, scrolling possibly ad infinitum (because guess what…filter disabled in “edit playlist” mode!) in order to hunt/peck like a bored panda to find the track and then, and only then can you delete that Nickelback track your friends are making fun of you for having in your playlist
  • Gesture pattern inconsistency: While in album art play view, swipe down to get back to playlist. But don’t get too used to that, because anytime you see “Behind the Lyrics” feature, swipe down now means toggle…ermkay?

Desktop App

  • I dunno because I don’t use it, but I’d bet the farm it looks/feels/behaves completely disparate from the other two experiences I just described (it’s like there’s a team for each experience that never talks to each other).

I’m sorry Spotify Design…but you can do better than this.

They’ve refreshed the logo, the fonts, and the icons multiple times, and are A/B testing album artwork displays, they spent God knows how long designing a Stranger Things UI easter egg, but as a user, I feel like they’ve turned a blind eye to UI (you and I?) and UX.

The iconography and typography are definitely beautiful, but I guess they favor form over function. I just don’t get it.

I’ll give Spotify credit for sunsetting the hamburger menu on mobile in favor of the bottom nav however because the hamburger menu in Spotify’s context was a Wimpy fuster-cluck of an experience.

The brand-feel I get from Spotify is that they simply don’t care to listen to their users.

Here’s another example of that:

Sometime in 2014, they seemingly on a whim (since you can read nearly 9 pages of complaints on their support site about it) threw a heuristic/usability monkey wrench at their users and replaced the original and obvious “Starring Songs” heuristic with “Saved Songs”.

Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but basically (without ever asking their users what they thought before flipping the switch), users who invested a ton of time creating a playlist of their favorite songs, ended up with a playlist named “Starred” and, after the update any favorite songs they “Save” goes into a completely different “Songs” playlist.

If all this sounds confusing…it’s because it is!

I’ve still never adopted the “Saved Songs” thing. I’m one of the rebels that just gives it a little more “tappy” to still add favorite songs to my original “Starred” playlist.

By the way, three years ago, 1,820 users (myself included) voted to “Bring Back Starred Playlists”.

Spotify’s response (then and now)?

Not right now.

I’ll end my Spotify usability rant to say three things:

  1. Spotify doesn’t seem to care what their users think
  2. They really just want to make cool things that their designers like
  3. Despite all that, users (myself included) will still wade through and endure a shoddy UI/UX for good content

“If you want to be an artist, go be an artist. But that’s not what a designer is.” – Matt Griffin (from latest User Defenders episode)

In my latest User Defenders conversation with Matt Griffin, there’s a lot of honest talk about our jobs as designers and how many things in this world are simply terribly designed (which is both dreadful, and great for us).

As Matt says in his interview:

“Frustrating experiences just feel bad, so I want less of them in the world.”

It’s our job to try and fix those things.

It’s a privilege and honor to do what we do. Let’s never lose heart in fighting for our users.

The moment we do, is the moment they feel like they don’t matter to us. And that’s also the moment they start keeping their eyes peeled for a superior offer.

It’s easy to defect from an inferior product/experience when a better one comes along. We’re users…that’s what we do. If you want to save 15% or more on car insur…uh yeah.

Remember MySpace? I do, because I was working there when 30% of our staff was cut in one day.

I watched a lot of great, super-talented people temporarily lose their livelihood as a result of our audience defecting to a better, more consistent experience that rhymes with ‘space hook’.

So just a reminder. As much as I love Spotify in order to for last five years (and counting) pay $10+/mo for the content and an insufferable UI…my eyes (and wallet) is constantly peeled for the next truly great music offering that comes along that doesn’t take nine years (and counting) to make a great, all-around cohesive experience.

So yeah, everything’s terrible…and that’s great.

This article was first published on the User Defenders Newsletter.

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