Reimagining Social on Spotify

Designing a set of features on Spotify to personalize listening and enhance the social experience.

Role

Designer

Context

Case Study

Contributions

Research, Ideation, Design

Introduction

Two years ago, I took a course called Cultural Production of Popular Music. I really enjoyed learning about the relationship between pop music and the ways we consume it. That's why I wanted to do a case study to explore people's interactions with music on Spotify.

I spent the past two weeks conducting user research, to redesign the Spotify profile page. In this case study, I will be diving into how people consume and interact with music, including user research and interviews. Then I'll explain how I used my research findings to design new features in Spotify that enable users to express themselves and facilitate social interactions through a new sharing option.

Cultural depictions of music

In a hectic world, people turn to music as a form of escapism. This is reflected in popular depictions of people enjoying music, like these advertisements from Apple.

In this ad for AirPods Pro, the woman walks through a crowded city, switching between noise cancellation and transparency mode. When she turns on noise cancellation, the city turns into a neon covered streets. There she is able to break out in dance and express her creativity.

In this HomePod ad, FKA Twigs plays a corporate drone temporarily escaping in Siri suggested music. It's a story of using music as expression and being able to break out in your own space.

Scenes from Apple's HomePod ad starring FKA Twigs

Research

So how do people actually consume, share and enjoy music? To find the answers, I conducted a survey with 87 respondents and interviews with seven people. The target group was exclusively Spotify users. Here are some of my findings.

Sharing music is an integral part of the experience.

Users said that sharing music was an integral part of listening to music and using Spotify, with 95% respondents saying they share music with friends. Several users expressed frustration with the sharing experience on Spotify, because the functionality is buried in a sub-menu that requires scrolling to reach.

Playlists are a form of personal expression.

In the age of streaming, where people are buying less physical records, playlists serve as a form of personal expression. Users said that they have an attachment to the playlists they create. Most users give their playlists unique names, confirming that this is a highly individualized practice.

Playlists are personal for me, they usually capture a specific mood or event. I have playlists that remind me of the music festivals I went to and some for specific seasons.

Interview Participant

Social features are lacking, resulting in lower adoption.

In the age of streaming, where people are buying less physical records, playlists serve as a form of personal expression. Users said that they have an attachment to the playlists they create. Most users give their playlists unique names, confirming that this is a highly individualized practice.

The most recently played artists is kind of useless. It doesn't tell people what music I like and vice versa.

Interview Participant

Both types of users engage in sharing music with others. It was interesting to see that productive listeners don't consider sharing a social feature.

Defining the problem

From my user research and interviews, I created a HMW statement based on the problems and opportunity spaces that came up.

Problem Statement

How might we create a more personalized social experience on Spotify?

Ideation

Profile page and cover editor sketches and ideation

Across various social apps, profile pages usually look the same and for good reasons. My goal for this page was to provide useful information for anyone browsing a person's page. Testing my sketches with users, the majority preferred the first layout. In my first round of ideation, I decided to add three features.

  1. Profile cover image
  2. Featured playlist
  3. Top tracks this month

Sharing inbox sketches and ideation

Continuing to build upon the first layout, I thought about how sharing could be streamlined. Over half of users search for and add friends on Spotify. Many users wished it was easier to share music without leaving the app.

To solve this problem, I added a sharing inbox feature. Users are able to send tracks directly to a friend's inbox without leaving the app.

Final design

The redesigned profile page

The new profile page builds upon the great work already done by Spotify. Users can share their taste in music through an artist cover page and feature a playlist of their choice. They can also share their listening statistics through the Top Tracks This Month chart.

Adding an artist cover image

I designed a cover image selector based on images that artists provide. This made sense from a user and business perspective. For users, it's easier make a selection from existing choices. For Spotify, it's an easy way to curry favour with artists by giving them another way to promote themselves.

Share tracks with your friends

Many users were frustrated that the sharing feature was buried in a menu that required an additional scroll to reach. By placing it beside the favourite icon, I made it easier to access. Tap the search bar to instantly pull a list of suggested friends or search for someone. Shared tracks go directly to your inbox on the profile page.

Prototype

Check out the prototype in Figma. For optimal performance on Safari, click the title on the top to open the prototype in a new tab. Prototype best viewed in full screen.