Spotify

Designing a feature to encourage social connection through music.

My Role

User Research

Prototyping

User testing

Project Type

Project Type

Project Type

Independent

Tools

Figma

Photoshop

Timeline

6 weeks

Overview

The challenge

Design a feature within Spotify's app to encourage social engagement

Spotify is a leading music streaming service with a mission to help people listen to whatever music they want, whenever they want, and wherever they want. Spotify currently offers limited opportunities for interaction between users. To improve engagement and retention, Spotify wants to expand its social capabilities within the mobile app.


For this project, I had to continuously communicate with my peers at DesignLab to be proactive in seeking out feedback. I checked in with my mentor for guidance and advice on any limitations or overlooked essentials to my proposed solutions, and received creative feedback during weekly design critiques from fellow students.

Constraints

Minimize developer workload

Utilize existing Spotify processes to minimize backend demands.

Brand consistency

The new feature should blend well with the current product’s interface.

Time constraint

120 hours for the total project.

The outcome

A feature that highlights common musical interests among friends

A feature that fosters musical connections and alleviates the fear of judgment by uncovering a common ground and highlighting musical similarities among people.

App audit

As I delved into Spotify's design and its social capabilities, I couldn't help but notice the vast collection of curated playlists it offered, tailored to users' musical interests. However, the social aspects seemed to be nested within the app, almost like secondary features.


Being an avid Spotify user myself, I was surprised to discover a feature called Blend, which combines the music preferences of up to 10 users into a single playlist, updated daily based on their listening habits. Even after learning about it, I found myself resorting to a Google search just to locate it. This got me thinking: was my experience unique, or did others face the same challenge? To find out, I reached out to eight fellow Spotify users and asked them how familiar they were with these features.

1/2

1/2

did not know about Spotify’s Collaborative playlist feature.

did not know about Spotify’s Collaborative playlist feature.

did not know about Spotify’s Collaborative playlist feature.

7/8

7/8

did not know about Spotify’s Blend feature.

did not know about Spotify’s Blend feature.

1/2

1/2

struggled to find Blend feature when creating a playlist.

struggled to find Blend feature when creating a playlist.

Key design insights

Make social features more prominent and accessible

The social features of Spotify, although present within the app, often go unnoticed by users. To elevate the social aspect of the platform, it is crucial to create multiple entry points that enhance the visibility and accessibility of these features.

Secondary Research

To lay a solid foundation for my project, I began by exploring various sources to gather data on demographics, behaviors, and attitudes related to music. By understanding these trends, I aimed to have a better context for formulating meaningful questions during user interviews later on.

Here are some intriguing statistics I uncovered:

80%

80%

of Gen Zs say audio allows them to explore different sides of their personalities.

— 2022 Culture Report by Spotify

74%

74%

of users would “like” someone if they saw they had similar music tastes.

— Survey from OKCupid

81%

81%

of Gen Z say Instagram and YouTube are their preferred social networks of choice.

— Findings from Sproutsocial

64%

64%

of 13-39-year-olds say most of the new music they hear from social media.

— Report from YPulse

Key design insights

Unveiling undiscovered facets of identity

The younger generations, in their pursuit of self-expression, crave fresh avenues to showcase their individuality. Through the powerful integration of data analytics, there is opportunity to offer users transformative musical insights that can serve as a catalyst for their personal journey of self-discovery.

Create a bridge with other social media outlets

Offer scheduled

The social media landscape becomes an increasingly popular avenue for music discovery. To harness the trend, our feature should seamlessly integrate with these existing outlets. By creating a feature that is easily shareable with other social media platforms, we can tap into the potential of user-generated content while fostering genuine connections through music. This not only expands the reach of Spotify but also capitalizes on the network effects of social media, attracting a diverse audience and broadening Spotify's user base.

User Interviews

I conducted five interviews with frequent users of the platform. With over half of Spotify's user base being under 35 years old, I tailored my interviews to cater to this demographic. After analyzing the trends on my affinity map, it became apparent that sharing music goes beyond a casual act; it is a golden opportunity for individuals to make connections that surpassed the surface level.

Finding #1:

People perceive the songs they listened to as intimate reflections of their true selves

Interviewees expressed a deep connection to their chosen music choices. Many expressed how the music they listened to was deeply personal and uniquely representative of their innermost thoughts, emotions, experiences, and identities.

“Music is really personal and it’s like a time capsule that transports my mind to certain times in my life and reminds me of certain people."

Finding #2:

People feel self-conscious sharing their music with others

Opening up about one's musical identity means exposing a part of oneself that feels intimate and personal. Many participants expressed a fear of potential judgment or criticism based on their music choices, highlighting the vulnerability that accompanies sharing something so personal.

“I listen to music that’s completely different from the people around me, so I feel like I would be judged."


“Sometimes when I’m playing music for others I wonder if it’s cheesy or if I’m the only one who likes it.”

Key design insights

Find a common ground

Sharing music is a personal experience, but it can also be intimidating due to fear of judgment. To address this, we need a feature that promotes acceptance and understanding. Users should be able to share their music preferences confidently, knowing that they will be respected and valued. By emphasizing musical similarities, we can reduce the fear of judgment and create a sense of connection among users.

Archetypes

Through my research, I learned that revealing one's musical preferences can be akin to revealing a part of oneself to others and individuals have varying perspectives and levels of comfort when it comes to opening up. By developing archetypes, I am able to identify pain points for both scenarios.

The Lone Listener

The Lone Listener prefers to keep their playlist private for the fear of being judged or rejected based on the type of music they listen to.

The Collaborative Curator

The Collaborative Curator likes getting recommendations and sharing songs to friends to bond over shared experiences and preferences.

How might we

After getting a better understanding of who I was designing for, I needed to develop ideas on what to design. By determining users' wants, behaviors, likes, and dislikes, I prioritized certain needs that I would later design for. I narrowed down the focus problem through a series of HMW statements.

Initial Concepts

Design #1: Community feature

I initially explored a 'Community' tab with messaging, forums, DJ sets, and karaoke reels. However, for the MVP, I focused only on group and private messaging, where users could share songs and collaborate on playlists. The other features would be added later.


The goal was to provide Collaborative Curators a platform to share music and engage Lone Listeners with enjoyable content. However, I discovered that Spotify had tried a messaging feature before but discontinued it due to the high resources required compared to its usage.


Considering this, I realized that my design was not feasible, as the value didn't justify the effort. So, I went back to the drawing board, taking into account the developer workload and making adjustments accordingly.

Design #2: Profile add-ons

Profile “add-ons” allow users to showcase more of their musical identity past just their playlists and include features like milestone badges, musical prompts, and Tastematching.

These features felt a bit all over the place, and with advice from my mentor to refine my focus on either one or two of the most impactful features, I weighed out the payoffs for each:

1. Milestone badges allow users to differentiate themselves, encourage more streaming, and are easily sharable. But it is difficult to monitor when people manipulate the system which can decrease the validity of the badges.


2. Bio prompts allow users to express their personality and identity through music but this feature doesn’t serve Lone Listeners who prefer to keep their interests private.


3. Tastematching would use user analytics to highlight shared interests between two users. This can mitigate the vulnerable aspect of sharing music because it highlights musical similarities instead of differences.


I decided to focus solely on the Tastematching feature which aims to benefit both of our archetypes while also utilizing the existing data analytics within Spotify to minimize backend demands. This approach strikes a balance between being valuable to our target user groups and making effective use of the existing resources within the platform.

Sketches

Final Prototype

Edge cases

Some people prefer privacy and want to opt-out. It’s important to acknowledge that this can feel like an invasion of privacy to those who prefer to keep their listening habits private. For this reason, the feature should be disabled by default. However, to encourage engagement, listeners can only “Taste Match” with others if they opt-in.

Reflection

What I learned

Research a lot early on

Throughout this project, I have come to appreciate the importance of conducting comprehensive research during the early stages. Recognizing the potential it holds, I now understand that investing time and effort in research from the outset has the power to mitigate the need for numerous iterations, revisions, and redesigns.

Fall in love with the problem, not the solution

In the beginning stages, I explored multiple approaches and underwent various research rounds, and I ended up restarting my project 3 times. However, this experience imparted a valuable lesson: the importance of remaining adaptable and open to pivoting. It reminded me to fall in love with the problem at hand, rather than becoming overly attached to a particular solution.

Made with

in Brooklyn.

Copyright © 2023 Kimberly Wong.

Made with

in Brooklyn.

Copyright © 2023 Kimberly Wong.

Made with

in Brooklyn.

Copyright © 2023 Kimberly Wong.