A SOUNDCLOUD

EXERCISE

Background: September 2019 (2 weeks)

Role: Mobile Product Design

Tools: Figma, Principle

 

OVERVIEW

BACKGROUND

I chose to redesign a feature of the SoundCloud mobile app in a two week window. Going into this challenge, I knew it would be difficult as SoundCloud offers a host of diverse functionalities and content, so there would be a lot of unique considerations. However, I've always been passionate about music, so I was really excited to design for a user of a streaming platform. 

ACHIEVEMENT

This redesign was for the KPCB Fellowship Application and published in September 2019; shortly after, I was selected to be a part of the cohort of 2020 KP Design Fellows.

PROBLEM

Help the SoundCloud Listener more effectively find music within the mobile app

SOLUTIONS

1) The Filtered Listener's Feed: takes friends' and popular activity on SoundCloud and filters it to the user's preferences

2) Content Shares: creating a content-sharing platform within the app

3) More Personalized Recommendation Page: increasing visibility of personalized recommendations

RESEARCH

STARTING POINT

I began the process with some background research on SoundCloud to help me narrow my focus and identify a user of the product. I found the SoundCloud user comes in 3 different forms:

THE CREATOR

THE LISTENER

THE CURATOR

I thought it would be most impactful to focus on "The Listener" profile for my redesign as this is the most common SoundCloud user type. "The Listener" typically does the following in SoundCloud: 

  • discovers recommendations and new music

  • can follow creators on SoundCloud and access a "stream" of their music

  • saves tracks and playlists in a variety of ways

 

USER RESEARCH

METHOD

I conducted in-depth interviews and usability tests on a 5 person sample of SoundCloud “listeners”. The users interviewed had a variable amount of experience with the app.

To carry out usability tests, I picked a few user goals and designed tasks for the SoundCloud listener accordingly (ex.: how a user navigates the app, stores content, etc.). 

FINDINGS

  • 100% of users said they prefer Spotify as a streaming platform and use SoundCloud for music not offered on Spotify

    • users saw SoundCloud mobile as having an unintuitive  interface, but were incentivized to use it for the one-of-a-kind content

  • 80% of users said they actively didn’t use/disliked the recommendation page

    • ​found the recommendation page to be “overwhelming” with an overload of content that wasn’t very personalized

  • 80% of users said they often show friends SoundCloud- specific music (both in person and online)

    • SoundCloud offers a lot of unique, underground-type music that is exciting to discover and share with friends

  • 60% of users said they looked at their friends’ profiles (likes/reposts/playlists) to find new music

THE USERS

Name: Mia

Age: 24

Profession: Photographer

MIA'S EXPERIENCE

Mia has been using SoundCloud for years, and discovered big name artists (before they got big) like Chance the Rapper and Khalid through the platform. She uses SoundCloud to find unique music as well as new Bay Area rappers. She generally finds new music in the app from friends’ or mutual friends’ profiles, and also searches for mixes of songs she already knows. She doesn’t use the recommendation page to find new music.

“Music on the recommendation page is either too mainstream or too niche”. 

Name: Ricky

Age: 19

Profession: College Student

RICKY'S EXPERIENCE

Ricky uses SoundCloud about once a week to listen to mixes, and likes showing friends his finds. Sometimes he will look at suggested music on the recommendation page, specifically to find EDM music, but often gets overwhelmed. He visits a few trusted people’s profiles to find new music on the app. He also uses the app when he finds out that a SoundCloud artist has released new music.

“SoundCloud offers unique content I can’t get anywhere else, but it’s hard to discover that content”.

SYNTHESIS

INSIGHTS

1) SoundCloud's value proposition for listeners: offering unique music not offered on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music 

2) The current recommendation model doesn’t work with the plethora of niche and diverse content on SoundCloud

3) Friends are a primary source of trust in music recommendations and people want to share their unique finds with friends 

REALIZING THE PROBLEM

Help the SoundCloud listener more effectively find music within the mobile app

 

Given the SoundCloud value proposition, discoverability of music is an especially important problem to tackle, as it is how users reap the specific benefits of SoundCloud. Finding a solution to this problem would help users and also provide significant business value by allowing SoundCloud to retain more users by better positioning their product towards their value proposition.

 

PROTOTYPING

SOLUTION #1: THE FILTERED LISTENER'S FEED

PAIN POINTS

60% of users said they looked at their friends' profiles to find new music. This unintuitive process requires a lot of work on the user's end.

SOLUTION

Create a filtered activity feed that brings the elongated process of going on friends’ and mutual friends’ profiles to find new music, upfront, and making it personalized. This feed does the work for the user and presents recommendations in a more trustworthy, concise manner. 

FEATURES

  • The feed organizes tracks based on the following factors: 

    • Relevance to the user's music taste

    • How often a user visits that friend’s profile 

    • Popularity of track 

  • “People Around Me”: User can toggle over to this tab, within the feed, to see what their mutual friends are listening to and what popular tracks are being listened to in their area 

    • Users can expand their network of people they trust 

    • Users can find location based recommendations (ex. Bay Area rappers)

SOLUTION #2: CONTENT SHARES

PAIN POINTS

80% of users said they often show friends SoundCloud-specific music (both in person and over mobile). However, no user cited using existing solutions on the app to share music with friends. The existing solutions consist of the following:

  • On mobile: user has the option to share a track with friends externally (can send a track to a friend through text, Messenger), etc.

  • On web: consists of a direct messaging feature where users can attach a track to their message 

SOLUTION

The content shares feature designates a platform, within the app, to support and encourage users to send their friends content recommendations. A user can look back and see all the recommendations they were sent in one place, through the platform.

FEATURES

  • User can access “Content Shares” from the home page 

    • SoundCloud offers music that isn’t on other platforms; it's valuable to have a sharing feature within the app so users can engage in more effective discovery with other users

  • User can send friends various content (tracks, artists, albums, playlists, profiles)

  • User can like a share that a friend sends to them

    • Didn't incorporate a messaging capability as the goal of this platform is to store shared content 

SOLUTION #3: MORE PERSONALIZED RECOMMENDATION PAGE

PAIN POINTS

80% of users said they actively didn't use/disliked the recommendation page. There are 15+ categories that the user can view on this page, with a jumble of personalized recommendations and popular recommendations (that every listener sees on their feed). The overload of listener recommendations is especially problematic while using SoundCloud, considering the sheer amount of diverse music this platform offers.
 

SOLUTION

Popular playlist categories should be segmented into one combined category at the top of the page that allows users to choose if they want to look through more generic SoundCloud playlists categories or scroll through their recommendation page for fewer, more personalized options.

FEATURES

  • Cards contain SoundCloud popular playlist categories, consolidating less relevant popular playlists behind a click

    • Once a user clicks on a card, they will be led to a screen with a more mobile-friendly layout of popular SoundCloud playlists

  • Users can intuitively differentiate between SoundCloud popular playlist categories (black and white cards) vs. personalized playlists (the rest of the colorful content on the feed that draws in the eye)​

  • The user has greater visibility of personalized recommendations and a reduced overall recommendation page, optimizing the space of the page on mobile ​

REFLECTION

Looking back at this redesign, I can't help but think about how these proposed solutions would likely be a large lift for Data and Engineering teams to build out compared to the current functionalities that already exist in SoundCloud.

 

This sprint allowed me to design something on track to being an "11 star experience" (Brian Chesky), that may be less feasible to actually implement but is an experience designed to blow away the user. If I was a designer at SoundCloud, the outcome of this sprint would be a great place to start with, and I'd then work to reach a more feasible, middle-ground (in terms of personalization capabilities) with Data and Engineering teams.

All in all, this case study serves as a hypothesis on how to best create business value for SoundCloud through increased user retention.  

 

© 2020 by Sonal Kapoor