I’m a big indie music fan and I use Spotify everyday. It provides the soundtrack to my heart. But, just like any great product, there is still room for improvement. A quick usability test reveals that people run into critical issues using some Spotify features.

“I have a love/hate relationship with Spotify.” — Tweet This


Identify the pain points of finding, organizing and sharing music within Spotify web application on the desktop.

Current Spotify web application landing page user interface (as of May 24th, 2014)

What: Spotify web app.

Who: Eight existing Spotify users who listen to music everyday (not necessarily using Spotify).

Where: San Francisco

Participant selection:

I created a persona before I conducted my user tests. I used the persona to select my participants. Meet my persona, Nick!

My persona Nick! He is an iOS developer and loves music.

Test tasks:

  1. Create a personal playlist
  2. Add song(s) to the playlist
  3. Edit the playlist and share it
  4. Subscribe to (follow) artists

I determined the tasks based on the essential needs of using online music streaming services. I phrased the tasks as open-ended scenarios to avoid leading the participants to complete the task in a predetermined way.


The eight usability tests were recorded using QuickTime. I reviewed the recordings, took notes, identified and prioritized usability issues.

Notes taken at each session with major pain points reflected from users.
Pain points bucketed according to user actions

As you can see, there are a lot of issues going on here and I am not going to address them all in one single post. Instead, let’s take a look at some of the focused changes that may make using Spotify a more enjoyable experience.

Issue 1

Search results hard to filter

Users expect to be able to customize their search results.

“The reason I don’t use Spotify is that it is so hard for me to find anything.” — User

The picture below demonstrates that the user wanted to find a song that contained “tourist” in the title. The user typed “tourist” into the search bar, but the results were impossible to sort or filter. The user could not find the intended song.

How about we try this?

Allow users to sort/filter song lists by artist or album or even date of release.

Get to the next level

Talented and well-respected designer Daniel Burka kindly pointed out that “…users aren’t trying to sort results better…they’re trying to filter the results.”

In the case of Spotify’s filtering system, shown below— They have filters such as “Albums”, “Artists”, “Profiles”, “Playlists” and “Songs” (I discussed this earlier). But the way Spotify lays out these filters confuses users — they are visually too similar.

How about we try this?

There is an opportunity to subtly differentiate these kinds of results that I’ve detailed below.

Issue 2

The tooltips are confusing.

Users expect the “+” to mean “add to,” instead of “save,” “follow,” or “blank.”

“By clicking on it, I thought it would add the song to my playlist. Where does it save to?” — User

“Gosh, this is confusing!” — User

“Why is there such a function?” — User

Every participant clicked the “+” sign to add their first song to their playlist. Half of the participants still accidentally clicked on it even after they realized that it was wrong. This icon also appears to be “follow” and “null” on different pages, as shown below. The inconsistency confused the participants.

When moused over the “+”, it says “save” but no one knew what this meant or where the song was saved to. (As of May 21st, 2014)
“+” here means “Follow” which is confusing because it previously meant “save.”
.On the playlist page,this button has no tool tip, which is obviously not helpful

How about we try this?

Give the “+” icon an “add to” function, which enables users to choose which playlist they want to “save” the song to.

Issue 3

Why am I following?

The “Follow” button is a mystery to users.

The “Follow” button confused all the participants. Each one thought the artists they followed should be listed under the “Follow” button on the left panel, but they are not.

“Where are my followed artists?” — User

“What does ‘following’ mean?” — User

“I’d still just use Search to find the artist instead of using this ‘following’ thing.” — User

The participants expected the “Follow” page to show them a list of the artists they are already following. Instead, the page has only the three options illustrated below.

The Follow button on the left panel actually takes users to a page to do the action “follow”.

How about we try this?

Add the “followed artists” section into the “Follow” page. Show news feed, tour dates, and merchandise information as a clear option. A design recommendation is shown below.

Get to the next level

There’s no doubt Spotify’s current design is clean, but is it informative enough? At this point, could replacing icons with named features benefit the User Experience without damaging the visual elegance?

“Having to hover over a button to deduce its purpose is poor UI even if it’s super compact. ”— @Daniel Burka

I did additional user interviews around this concept and found a few problematic organizational problems in the navigation panel.

The original Spotify navigation panel.

I also think the big buttons are more appropriate for the touch-screen devices, and a more traditional desktop application (e.g., iTunes) approach would make it easier for users to understand on desktops.

So in an attempt to bring more information to the surface of the interface , I made some design suggestions as shown below:

Next Steps

  1. Validating my design recommendations
  2. Test more
  3. Iterate

The goal of user research is to understand the target user’s needs and motivations so that we can develop products that they truly love. I’ll be using these needs and motivations to drive the development of the product at each subsequent step of my design process.

Note: I do not work for or represent Spotify. I chose Spotify because I use it everyday and I love it — I would like to make it even better so that more music lovers can enjoy music the way they want to.☺

Special thanks to Daniel Burka who shared insights and pushed me to go further in my designs!

Thanks to everyone who helped me with copy-editing!

Tell me what you think ☺

Follow me @linafab


UX/UI human interfaces

Interfaces, User Experience, Develop, Design, Apps, Android, iOS, and everythig about it

Lin Wang

Written by

Lin Wang

Product Designer at Lyft. @linafab. I like rock-climbing, yoga, Swift, indie music. I solve problems. http://thelinwang.com

UX/UI human interfaces

Interfaces, User Experience, Develop, Design, Apps, Android, iOS, and everythig about it

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