Spotify is a popular freemium streaming service which provides to over 100 million unique users. They pride themselves on allowing you to stream music as well as their user-filtered playlists on any occasion. “Just search for music you love, or let Spotify play you something great. Create and listen to your playlists for free or subscribe to Premium for on-demand access at the highest audio quality”
Garnering over 50 million subscribers, Spotify qualifies as the most influential streaming service available. Its strongest competitor, Apple Music, opens up iTunes’ library to a plethora of tracks. Loosely, they share the same goal of helping their users discover and play music wherever, and whenever.
My objective with this study is to analyze, deconstruct, and learn about Spotify's user experience. I want to learn why this application was built and what the process was like, with hopes of understanding a thing or two about building a world-class service application. Subsequently, while dissecting the application, I will attempt to improve Spotify’s user experience.
User personas point designers into the right direction. Their goals and behavior can help us design a product that suits their needs.
Let’s begin by taking a visit to Spotify’s home page. Newcomers are welcomed by the very powerful words “Music for everyone.” Spotify implies that their product is meant for everyone, and are confident in their ability to please everyone’s taste in music. This slogan is also accompanied by a background primarily filled with iconic pop and electronic artists. These tend to enchant the younger adults and teenage audience.
Coincidentally, this demographic includes my colleagues and friends. As such, I was able to create user personas based on some of my associates’ experience with Spotify’s application. These personas will help me find answers to help Spotify’s application fulfill its customer’s needs.
Rock Vincent Guitard
Spotify User: Web | iOS | Desktop
Rock Vincent Guitard listens to music every single day, whether it be on his phone or computer. Mostly he listens to his music library at work and workout playlists at the gym.
When I have time, I need:
- To discover new music of my taste
- To sort out my collection of music
- To create and edit playlists
- To share music and playlists with my friends
- To modify the music player as needed
- To view my friend’s activity
When I’m short on time, I need:
- To find/play a specific song as fast possible
- To share a song rapidly
According to the user, an ideal environment would include a functional music player, a place to discover music, and a hub to share music with friends.
The purpose of job stories is to discover different possible types of environments that include Spotify. The application’s user experience should be graceful in any case. According to a user’s situation and motivation, if the expected outcome cannot be achieved rapidly, it signifies an issue to the user, and consequently to Spotify.
Is it already possible? How?
When I’m at the gym about to work out,
I want to listen to a workout playlist,
so I can be in the right mood.
Browse > Workout > Playlist
When I have spare time on the bus,
I want to browse and discover new music,
so I can fill my library with new jams.
Browse > New Releases/Fresh Hits or Discover
When I want to show a song to my friend,
I want to be able to find it immediately,
so I can share it.
When I’m curious,
I want to see what my friends are listening to,
so I can start a conversation about it with them.
Search > Profile > Public Playlist
When my friends ask me what type of music I listen to,
I want to send them my playlists,
so I don’t have to tell them.
Playlist > Share
When an artist’s new album comes out,
I want to be notified immediately,
so I can one be one of the cool kids and show my friends.
When I'm home,
I want to listen to familiar music,
so I can enjoy the evening
When I'm looking for new music,
I want to be able to see what is most popular,
so I can listen to trending songs
Browse > Charts
When I'm preparing a playlist for a party,
I want to be able to find niche artists,
so that my friends think I’m hipster
Browse > Discover
When I'm listening to music,
I want to know what I've last listened to,
so I can quickly pick up where I was, or listen to the same things again
Home > ‘Jump Back In’?
When I want to dance,
I want to be able to find music for different dance styles,
so I can host any kind of dance event
Browse > Genre & Moods > Party
When I’m in a certain mood,
I want to listen to my songs in a particular order,
so that my songs fit the mood right
My Library > Songs > Filter
Italicized are paths that need particular attention
- Workout: Users scroll through 30 different panels of genres/moods to reach the desired mood.
- Email Notification/Pop-up message
- ‘Jump Back In’: Not always the answer.
- Filter: Sort by Title and by Recently added only.
The Problem Statement
Based on Spotify’s goal of giving its customers what they want without them asking, and what we learned from users, we must clearly define the challenge ahead of us. Users need Spotify to be the central hub for discoverable music. With that interest, Spotify must also compete against its strongest counterparts and appropriately be the greatest music streaming service.
The iOS Spotify application information architecture seems a bit redundant, but it is hardly noticeable when using the application. The core navigation elements each accomplish a user’s specific need efficiently. For example, users have the choice of browsing to discover new music, or listen to a radio of their liking when on the road.
Although subtly, Spotify seems to push their daily mixes and featured playlists rather than give users rapid access to desired content.
I first analysed the Spotify application in order of its main navigation. I try my best to describe a simple overview of each page, as well as add little comments here and there. By going through this process, I’ll search for possible solutions to user issues and possibly discover some issues myself.
Made For You | Jump Back In | Recently Played | Discover your favourite new song to… | Popular Playlists | Charts | New releases | Mood
The home page is used as a portal for different playlist collections, and also directs users towards other sections such as Browse’s discover feature.
Otherwise, I discovered a subtle action that unravels a rather useful function: hold-pressing a playlist activates a preview of each song inside.
The Browse section contains charts, new releases, podcasts, discover and genres and moods. Each page serves a role in helping users find music in Spotify’s large library. In general, the content is chosen correctly and adapts to the user’s needs. These lists help users browse proficiently.
The search menu is simple and straight to the point. The top result will likely give you what you’re looking for. While featuring your item, featured playlists, songs, artists, podcasts, albums, playlists and profiles precede. The overall experience is straightforward. In the case an artist or song you’re looking for isn’t in Spotify’s library, then you’ll probably notice right away since nothing will come up.
The Radio section is Spotify’s attempt to replicate the nostalgic feeling of a radio. They use algorithms to connect songs together in order to create a ‘station’. Inside, you will find artists of the same genre as the item selected. By scrolling down the list, you’ll find out that the station essentially never ends, much like a radio. Stations can be created off any item.
Your library contains all of your saved content, including playlists, stations, songs, albums, artists and podcasts. It also includes a list of recently played items. Your profile page and general application settings can also be found at the top.
You can filter songs by pushing downwards on your list of songs, this will enabled you to Sort by Title or Recently Added. You can also add to queue or delete an item by swiping right or left on an item.
In ‘Your Library’ page, the profile icon can be found at the top left. Users can find a list of their following and recently played artists and playlists.
Spotify’s Pub-Sub System
Users can follow artist profiles, playlists and profiles by going on their respective pages. Following content will let Spotify know what type of music you like to listen to. The system will then attempt to mesh together songs for you.
Detailed information on albums and artists can be found on their page. Several options that are usually available to you, such as “Go to Radio” and “Save/Add to Playlist”, are also to your disposal on these pages.
The music player can be viewed in several ways: ordinary, in queue or minimized. Minimizing the player enables browsing through other pages, and the queue gives you an overview of what’s coming while permitting customization. When available, Spotify also pairs up with Genius to deliver an interactive slideshow explaining the song’s lyrics.
Analysing the Spotify App.
With the analysis of Spotify’s infrastructure completed, I can proceed to validate some of my key assumptions regarding its user experience. Of course, the application’s design is splendid and justifies for its spot as the most popular streaming service. Although improvements are always sought out. I’ll first describe a few of my pet peeves, and follow by presenting key issues I’ve identified per section.
Spotify does not use OS notifications to inform its users of newly released content, alternatively it sends you an e-mail. When on the app., sometimes, through a pop-up message, it will notify you of a new trending album you follow. How and when this message decides to come up is currently unknown to me. Users should be consciously notified, when wanted, of their favorite artists’ newly released content.
Another pet-peeve of mine is the filtering and sorting functions lacking key attributes. You can only sort by Title and by Recently added. Beyond that, the actual function is hidden from users, only revealing itself when dragging your songs down. I touch upon this topic a bit more later on. Additionally there are some functions like holding a playlist to preview that are never mentioned to the user.
- What do users want to see when opening Spotify?
- Most ‘Recently Played’ songs — or my library
- Odd titles such as ‘Jump Back In’ and ‘Discover your favourite new song to...’
- Would ‘Jump Back In’ not be the same as ‘Recently Played‘?
- ‘Jump Back In’ doesn’t include songs but ‘Recently Played’ does.
- The home page does a good job of displaying Spotify’s array of available playlists and discoverable music.
- “Get better recommendations the more you listen.” Spotify mentions how it will filter content according to the user’s tastes.
In terms of UI, my main concern revolves around the gridbox of ‘Genres & Moods’. In my opinion, it desensitizes the task of selecting the right mood because of its physical amplitude. A simple list would be much more efficient and would require less space.
In other regards, a topic I truly thought deserved its own section was about the artists you follow. Spotify currently uses its ‘Release Radar’ playlist to show its users content based on their followings. I find many songs from artists I’ve never heard of in here, and that bothers me to some degree. There should be a location solely based on your followings. For example, how do I know if K-dot’s DAMN new fire album is on Spotify? I either have to go through the new releases, which are based on most popular artists or directly to his profile. Other less recognized artists that I follow that release songs are almost entirely voided because of this process. I have the chore of visiting their profile page whenever the thought comes through my mind in order to find their new music. Having a ‘following’ section would organize all of my following’s newest music, without having other mainstream artists in the way.
What I found when analysing this section was that artist names were not links. You have to manually search up artist names on the search page in order to reach an artist’s profile.
I spend most of my time here since I use Spotify as a replacement for iOS’ music application. I mostly find myself browsing through my own music collection.
My daily usage of Spotify can be summarized into three items:
- Whenever I find a song or album that I like, I add it into my music collection.
- Whenever I get tired of a song, I uncheck it from my collection.
- Every time I add a song to my collection, I also add it into one of my playlists that contains every song I’ve added to the collection.
This enables me to share my playlist with whomever I want. Most of the time, I listen to my music collection and enable download. As a result, whenever a song is deleted, it also frees up space. In retrospective, I have a collection of music I always listen to, and a shareable playlist of all the songs I’ve collected. Of course, there are different ways of using Spotify, but this is what I found most comfortable.
On the other hand, what I first noted when looking at the library was that Songs, Albums and Artists had their own page. What I enjoyed with Apple’s music application was the ability to sort out songs per artist. To do so on Spotify, you have to switch between pages, which means going back and forth. Having the option to sort and filter songs will lessen travel-time. Spotify’s present filtering options barely resolves the issue at hand. What’s more is that the actual function is hidden from users.
Spotify profile pages currently seem to act as a way of finding what type of music users listen to. You can see someone's public playlists and recently played artists but you have no motivation to follow them. I follow one of my friends and I get to see what their last played song was, that’s pretty much it. There's not a lot of interaction between someone's profile page and the user. As a way to increase collectivity and raise collaboration between users, they should be able to interact with each other. Taking Facebook and Twitter as examples, the action of sharing or retweeting develops relationships one way or another, the same system could be used on Spotify.
As mentioned earlier, Spotify seems to avoid using text as links. For example, artist names are never used as links, only if displayed as buttons are you able to reach the desired page.
Generating Ideas and Solutions
Now that I’ve identified key issues with Spotify’s application, we must confirm whether or not they affect the user experience before generating ideas.
Issues per priority
This graphic display all of the issues I’ve identified in the previous segment aligned with Spotify’s business priorities. To my surprise, most of the issues are related to Spotify’s user experience and interface.
According to this diagram, Spotify aims to be the central hub that helps its users discover new music, but requires some tuning with its notification system. A complete revamp of Spotify’s Pub-Sub system would also help Spotify stand out as a streaming service - leaning towards a larger goal could potentially help Spotify reach towards a sizeable audience.
Notification of New Content and Followings
Current user flow:
Currently you are notified of a new album either via pop-up message or email notification. The rate at which these notifications appear is rather unpredictable. For example, the Gorillaz album showed up when I was using the application, but I was never sent an email. I’m also never notified when less recognized artists’ new content is released. An ideal scenario would involve both parties through a system that is quick and efficient. As it is, the email notification is old fashioned and barely noticeable since it usually is filtered by your email manager. The odds and frequency are also quite rare, since they are not completely reliant on who you follow.
Suggested User Flow:
My solution is to utilize OS notifications, so users can never be out of the loop when it comes to their favorite upcoming artists, or superstar Taylor Swifts. Users may activate or deactivate these notifications through their personal Spotify settings. Whenever an artist you follow releases new content, you are simply notified through your operating system. There is no need to dig through your emails, and you won’t have anyone to blame for except yourself for missing the latest DJ Khaled track.
Pub-Sub System Revamp
To ensure that Spotify leads in its position as the world’s most popular music streaming service, it must stand out above its competition. I found an opportunity in Spotify’s pub-sub system, which would largely include the users’ participation in the matter. If users were able to interact better with one another, it would entice them to follow one another, thus creating a strong bond between the user and application.
My suggestion implies adding customization to user profiles, giving users the ability to create a persona for their audience, and for themselves.
The new profile system gives users the chance to customize their profile page much like any social media platform. Options would include adding a list of playlists, a list of songs you’re listening to, a profile description, etc.
When users want to look up what their followings are listening to, they go into the Browse section and look at the Spotlight, which includes a list of playlists, songs, people you follow and a profile suggestion section. This encourages interactivity between profiles and creates relationships, a reason to converse with your fellow Spotters.
Artist Buttons and Links
The solution is rather simple: give users the ability to navigate across the application easily and rapidly. A straightforward path from a radio to an artist should be imperative for example.
Songs List, Sorting and Functions
The default sorting in your list of songs in your library is by date added. This functionality has its perks, but giving users the ability to customise to their liking is always an advantage. For that reason, enabling sorting by Title, Artist and Album should be correct. Above all, it eliminates the need to go back and forth between Songs, Albums and Artists respectively.
The Filtering/Sorting function is hidden by a swipe-down action. If we follow current trends, the action of swiping down usually refreshes the content at hand. Since the filtering and sorting function is such an important and useful function, it should be visible to users right away.
Large Genre & Moods Gridbox
As mentioned before, the solution to this problem is transforming the large buttons into a simple list of items. The custom icons representing each genre & mood can be kept but heavily reduced in size.
Having a list like this fixes the issue of scrolling through a large amount of content and retains a pleasurable design. At a glance, users will see 7 genres & moods instead of 4 and a half. Sorting them alphabetically also eases the process of searching for the right genre or mood.
Review and Reflections
Overall, according to the new user flows driven by my solutions, user-end goals are achieved faster and more efficiently.
Although this was my first project in the realm of user experience design, it was extremely interesting and enjoyable to study and solve user-end issues. The process of analysing, discovering issues and then solving them is very similar to completing a creative brief. I feel the conclusion of this project confirms my interest in this user sided subject.