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Apple Music Redesign

With innovations like the Ipod and household staples like Itunes, it was only a matter of time before Apple started their own music streaming service. Apple Music (AM) is unique with their signature aesthetics and features, but could it be better? I decided to take a stab at it.

THE SITUATION

This semester (Fall 2016), I took on a project with Chris Garvin, director of the Lamar Dodd School of Art. My goal was to get a better understanding of UX design and its workflow by being guided by a professional through a project of interest. An AM redesign felt appropriate because I listen to music every waking moment of my life and the service was still new.

STATING OUR GOALS

As redesigns go, I wasn’t starting from scratch, but from an already established product. This was especially interesting because this product isn’t really broken per se. Since I didn’t know what was wrong with this service, I had to do an analysis, doing plenty of research and write ups. Chris proposed an alternative approach to this project, one I wasn’t familiar with. Instead of taking a user centered approach, we took up service design. This way of thinking is fantastically laid out in our resource, “This is Service Design Thinking”. This means we are changing the service to meet the needs to of the user, not just redesigning the product.

Comprehending the Service

Proper service design calls for a comprehension of the product at hand. Like any design project, my research was going to be the basis for any decision I made. My approach consisted of three things: downloading and using the service, looking into the history and purpose of the apps creation, and how this app compares to its competitors. To aid my research, I was tasked with doing a SWOT analysis.

You can view my full analysis here and my SWOT analysis here. Here’s the TL;DR of my results:

AM has an edge over other streaming services by emphasizing features other than music. For example, they have ‘Connect’, which gives users “backstage” access to their favorites artists, furthering engagement. In addition, AM could potentially tap into a market that Spotify currently isn’t: older listeners. This is viable because they have more capital to invest and are typically less demanding than other audiences. With Apple’s minimal aesthetic and brand presence, this could be a great direction. With that said, younger audiences have influence older people don’t, so the service needs to be appealing to them as well.

Who listens to music?

Using the results of my research, I created a stakeholder map, as suggested by my service design resource. A stakeholder map is a means of understanding who is affected by the decisions a service makes. For example, if AM increased their subscription rate, who would this affect? I defined my axis, came up with a list of occupations, and charted one for Spotify and AM, to see overlaps and outliers between them.

The closest thing to a one-button solution

When we got to sketching solutions for the redesign, I took a step back and thought about what the best possible music app looked like. It would look like a single play button in the middle of your screen that played what you wanted at the time immediately. This is obviously impossible, but it is a starting point. The UI needed to be as close to the one-button solution as possible.

Listen. Explore. Connect.

I reduced AM’s screens into 3, emphasising specific features. With this format, the user would have access to a “home base” where they have music they trust, a place to go to when they want to find new music, and a place they can go to get their “backstage” experience. Specifically…

Listen: You can view and listen to your saved playlists, artists, albums, and stations. The play button is on the playlists and albums so you can shuffle play your music as soon as possible.

Explore: It has 3 sections: new releases, recommended, and curated playlists. Also, it has a section at the top for a featured recommendation, which you can read a little about.

Connect: This is comparable to music sites like Pitchfork. Includes content like music videos, interviews, news, and new releases from the artists you listen to.

A new aesthetic

After redesigning the layout, using the existing AM style didn’t look right. All of the content looked like it was floating on the screen, rather than buttons you could press. To fix this, I went with a darker theme with a textured background. The texture of the background is meant to emulate the matte plastic of a vinyl player.

I also needed to create visual hierarchy with my content to differentiate it from each other. The 4 albums in a square are playlists, albums are single square images, stations are circles with blurred color in their squares, and artists are circular. Any Apple curated playlists are single square images that aren’t of a specific artist.

Speaking of content, I wanted this to be emphasized over all. Anything that isn’t content has a muted B/W scheme, other than the nav. bar and imagery.

I included a playlist details screen, play music screen, and an artists screen, which is designed according to AM’s current layout with a larger shuffle button and the new style applied. With this, we have cohesive designs and emphasis on playing music asap.
The project was a success! Because I wasn’t previously familiar with the new service design approach, I was skeptical about results, but it worked out in the end. I assumed that the best interface was going to be a Frankenstein between AM and Spotify, so it was interesting that the final UIs looked so similar to Spotify. Being an avid Spotify user, it’s possible that my own bias factored into this. Feel free to poke around my Marvel prototype to get a feel for the app.

Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to do any A/B testing. However, this will be coming sometime January.