Making Spotify Social

A research-focused, end-to-end UX design process to improve the music sharing experience on Spotify.

Summary

Empathise
Secondary Research
User Interviews
User Personas
Empathy Mapping
Ideate
Problem Statement
Ideation
Storyboarding
User Flow
Wireframes
Mid-fi Prototype
User Testing
UI Design
User Test
Hi-fi Prototype
Usability Testing
Affinity Mapping
Priority Revisions

Background

Spotify wants to further develop the inherent connection that humans have with music. It has core capabilities, like basic feed of activity. However, there’s much more that can be done.

Problem

Spotify lacks a feature to share music directly on the platform. User research established there exists a gulf in users sharing music in-person - which became the focus of the solution.

Solution

Spotify Groups was developed to help users to share music in-person with their friends, helping to bridge the gap in confidence between private users and those who love to share.

Empathise

Sharing music is a broad field, so it was important to conduct thorough secondary research to establish a base level of information to help inform discussion and direction in user interviews. This part of the research focused on examining academic literature around why users share music, analysing industry trends in sharing music, then looking at past and present efforts of Spotify and it's competitors to help promote music sharing. Key findings from trend analysis were:

Spotify removed their direct messaging feature in 2017 due to low engagement, and have since focused their efforts on pushing users towards sharing through existing social media platforms. For example, the recently released feature giving users the option to share music through Instagram stories. Competitors efforts such as Apple's Ping, Cymbal, or Twitter's #Music, all died shortly after their inception due to poor user uptake.

The full secondary research document is available here.

With an idea of who the user could be and industry efforts to promote music sharing, user interviews were conducted with 11 participants, spanning two phases. The first phase involved 5 user interviews, and explored a range of topics related to music sharing. These interviews uncovered the issue of sharing music in-person when amongst friends, with users citing a lack of confidence and knowledge as reasons for them not to share. Additionally, when sharing music in-person, lots of external workarounds were used - such as swapping phones plugged into a speaker when someone wants to share music, or using Shazam to identify the song playing when users were in a larger group.

"I love sharing music, it's a nice way to show your friends something new, and it's even better when they like it" 
"When I share music, it feels a little vulnerable. This is a song that I really love and I don’t want people to judge it"
"When I'm with friends it makes me realise I’m not quite so passionate about music"

The second group of users are the passive consumers of music. Music may still mean just as much to them as their music-lover friends, but they're often a lot more private about it as they lack confidence to share, and are afraid of judgement by their friends.

With some interesting information uncovered in user research, user personas and empathy maps were created to summarise the findings and provide a springboard for ideation.

Primary User Persona

Ollie, aged 25, is one of two primary user personas. Ollie graduated university a few years ago, and is a devout follower of all things dance music, he loves going to see his favourite DJ's. He has a large friendship group and whenever he's with them he always assumes responsibility for music and becomes the designated DJ. He loves showing his friends new songs that he's spent hours scouring the internet to find, and he loves being known as the "music one".

Secondary User Persona

Grace, 26, is the second user persona. Grace also loves music, but doesn't share as actively as Ollie, choosing only to share with her boyfriend. Grace is introverted and is a fairly private individual. Grace is dismissive of her music knowledge, and is convinced that she has nothing to share with her friends, such as Ollie, who she believes know a lot more than her. Because of this, she isn't as inclined to share music.

Empathy Map for Ollie

Using the five why's approach, empathy maps were created for Ollie and Grace to understand the underlying values and beliefs that drive their behaviour. Ollie uses music as an escape from his job and everyday life. His main motivation to share music is altruism, he wants to give things to his friends, which is why he shares new music that he's found.

Ollie also shares music as he enjoys to receiving recognition for finding songs his friends like, helping him to maintain his credibility as the music lover. Ollie is aware he's often the designated DJ in the group, and wants to give others the opportunity to share music with him, because he doesn't want to come across as hogging music.

Empathy Map for Grace

Grace is a private individual, and can be a bit of an over-thinker, which is one of her main barriers to sharing music. She plays out reactions in her head that hold her back from sharing music in-person. Grace feels like she and often feels most-judged and vulnerable when sharing music with her friends verbally, and would feel a lot more comfortable sharing music through an app or through social media. Like with Ollie, Grace loves it when she shares new music that her friends like, although this happens rarely.

Ideate

With deep empathy now established with the users and the issues facing them, the next step was to find a solution. This started with the formulation of some problem statements in the form of "How might we...?" questions, which aimed to create a point of view and to provide focus to ideation exercises afterwards. The following problem statements were used:

How might we make it easier and quicker for all users to share music in a group?
How might we make it easier for users to find out more information about the music that's been shared?

The next step was rapid ideation, using the crazy 8's exercise. The exercise was repeated 5 times until 40 different ideas were generated. Once complete, the best 3 ideas were taken and used to storyboard. Like crazy 8's, the storyboarding was also time-limited to encourage quick refinement of ideas.

Some of the storyboard outputs

The idea that was settled on was a group feature, which allows users to create groups with their friends for occasions such as roadtrips and parties. Group members are able to submit songs for the group playlist, vote on songs, find out more info about the artist playing, and use a feature which suggests songs that could be added to the playlist, based on what other group members have added & have listened to.

With a concrete idea to build the design around, a user flow was defined for the experience. The below user flow demonstrates how the personas would use Spotify groups. The flow follows the path of the first user (Ollie), who creates a group and adds the second user to it. Once added, the second user (Grace) follows the process of adding music using the 'suggest' feature mentioned above.

The flow was designed to show the interconnectivity involved in sharing music in-person, and the impact that one users actions can have on the other. This user flow is representative of the personas' "happy path".

User Flow

The storyboard and user flow were combined and translated into wireframes.

Wireframes

The wireframes were compiled into a mid-fidelity prototype which was tested with five participants. Spotify brand requirements were used, negating the need for hierarchy and layout, so this round of testing was used to validate the concept and to view how users interacted with the features. Feedback was positive, with all users indicating they would use this product. Users found the product easy to use, navigating through the tasks with ease and speed. Some refinements were made to the configuration of certain features and the wireframes were then ready to have the fidelity increased.

Given that Spotify is an established brand with a developed UI, their branding guidelines were used to inform the creation of the UI for the product.

Final UI designs

User Test

To test the UI designs, I created a high fidelity prototype of the website and asked 5 users to run through a series of tasks and errands, tracking their progress through and noting any observations they had whilst engaged in the task

The prototype was created using InVision and is available here

Usability testing found that all participants completed each task error free. Users liked how features such as friend and song suggestions helped to encourage them to create a group and add music. Users enjoyed voting on music and remarked that receiving upvotes would encourage them to share more and more. Users found the artist information section a useful feature, in particular upcoming gigs the artist was playing, but wanted to see more information such as other albums.

Users struggled to get to grips with voting. This was in part because the voting system (more votes = higher up the playlist), meant that any song that was added went straight to the bottom of the queue and wasn't visible to be voted on with ease. Another reason users struggled with voting was they found the icon to be confusing, and not something they would immediately associate with voting.

With this feedback in mind, an affinity map was created to understand the patterns in user behaviour and to establish priority revisions for the design.

Based on the priority revisions in the above affinity map, changes were made to the design that reflected the users comments and feedback.

Iterations based on the affinity map and user feedback

Reflection

This was a really enjoyable project to work on, I felt that I really got to know and empathise on a deep level with users over the 2 week project timescale. This was because research was the focus of the process: with 11 user interviews and 2 rounds of usability testing afterwards, consuming over 45 hours of the total project time.

The key skills I developed during this project are user interviewing, in particular knowing when to probe and when to revert back to the interview guide, designing within established brand guidelines, and my idea-generation.

If I was to continue building out the design, I would explore development of a comment feature and using Spotify Groups in a one-to-many setting. One user who tested the final prototype streamed games to an audience online and commented they would benefit from having a feature like Spotify Groups where the users audience could suggest tracks to be played whilst watching them game.

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