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A SOUNDCLOUD

 EXERCISE

Background: Personal Project, 2 weeks

Role: Mobile UX/UI Design, User Research

Tools: Sketch, Principle

OVERVIEW

BACKGROUND

For a personal project, 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 lot of functionalities and there are a multitude of usability and UI considerations. However I’ve always been passionate about music, so I was really excited to design for a user of a streaming platform.

PROBLEM

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

SOLUTIONS

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

2) Content Shares: creating a platform specifically to share new finds between friends within the app

3) Improved UI: reorganizing the recommendation page to increase visibility of personalized recommendations

RESEARCH

PRELIMINARY RESEARCH

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 that the SoundCloud user comes in 3 different forms: 

 

  • The Creator: records and uploads music to SoundCloud, can share music privately or publicly with friends, can access statistics to evaluate performance, engage with fans

  • The Listener: discovers recommendations and new music, can follow creators on SoundCloud and access a “stream” of those creators’ music, save tracks and playlists in a variety of ways

  • The Curator: gathers a following, listens/saves/follows creators and builds playlists for their followers

 

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. 

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 finds a new song , stores content in the app, etc.). My goals with these tasks were to observe the ease and intuition of the user’s interactions with the current SoundCloud design. 

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 and difficult to navigate interface, but they were incentivized to use it for the one-of-a-kind mixes, artists, etc.

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

    • found the recommendation page to be "overwhelming" with an overload of content that wasn't necessarily personalized to their taste​

  • 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

    • users said​ their friends were often their go-to source for new, good music 

PERSONAS

User: The SoundCloud Listener (ages 14-28)

Name: Mia F.

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 M. 

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”.

INSIGHTS

1) SoundCloud's value proposition for listeners: offering unique music not offered on 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 the ultimate 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

 

Based on my research, I found the problem above to be the most pressing and common issue among users. Therefore, finding a solution to this problem would most directly improve the user experience and help SoundCloud capture and retain more users by capitalizing on their value proposition. 

PROTOTYPING

SOLUTION #1: THE FILTERED LISTENERS' FEED

PAIN POINT

60% of users said they looked at their friends’ profiles (likes/reposts/playlists) to find new music. This process is tedious, unintuitive, and requires a lot of work on the user’s end.

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. 

SOLUTION

  • Algorithm shows the user tracks in their feed based on the following factors: 

    1. How often a user visits that friend’s/connection’s profile 

    2. How relevant the track is to the user’s music taste 

    3. Popularity of track 

    4. Time (When the friend/connection listened to it)

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

    • Allows user to expand their network of people they trust with music recommendations (can follow new users directly from this feed)
    • Helps a user if they are looking for location based recommendations (ex. Bay Area rappers), which multiple interviewed users said was important to them

FEATURES

SOLUTION #2: CONTENT SHARES 

PAIN POINT

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 friends content recommendations. They will receive a push notification when a friend shares a recommendation with them. A user can then look back and see all the recommendations they were sent in one place, through the platform.

FEATURES

  • Can easily access the “Content Shares” platform from home page 

    • SoundCloud offers music that isn’t on other platforms-makes sense to create a specific sharing feature for music within the app, so a user doesn’t have to leave the app to see recommendations

    • "Content Shares" denoted with a friends icon

  • Organized by time (most recent on top) and sent vs. received​​

  • Can send friends various content including tracks, artists, albums, playlists, and profiles 

  • Heart button: Can like a share that a friend sends to you

    • Took out the messaging capability that's available on web, as the greater emphasis should be on sharing recommendations

      • more in line with the the user goals of SoundCloud

SOLUTION #3: IMPROVED UI

PAIN POINT

80% of users said they actively didn't use or disliked the recommendation page. Multiple users interviewed said they found the recommendation page to be "overwhelming". 

There are 15+ categories that the user can view on this page, with a jumble of personalized recommendations based on what the user listens to, and popular recommendations that every listener sees on their feed. The overload of listener recommendations is especially problematic for SoundCloud, considering the sheer amount of diverse music this specific platform offers in comparison to other streaming platforms. 
 

SOLUTION

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

 

A couple popular playlist categories that may be relevant to the listener's taste will be sprinkled throughout the recommendation feed, however the majority of recommendations that the user sees on the page will be personalized. 

 

This will focus the user’s attention on just a few personalized categories of recommendations they are more likely to enjoy. SoundCloud has the ability to obtain valuable data by storing what the user listens to; therefore they should lean into this data and capitalize on presenting these personalized recommendations.

 THE CURRENT RECOMMENDATION PAGE 

Within the existing recommendation page, SoundCloud has popular playlists that fall under categories such as “New Music Now”, “Scenes to Watch”, “Rap Corner”, etc. There are also personalized categories that have playlists and content such as “More of What You Like”, “Artists You Should Follow”, and more. SoundCloud mobile and web have the same layout; the majority of these categories consist of playlists displayed as squares that the user has to horizontally scroll through. This long, homogenous feed is less conducive to a small mobile screen, where you can see less options at once, than a large desktop screen. 

FEATURES

  • SoundCloud orange branded cards represent these popular playlist categories at the top of the feed, putting less relevant popular playlist categories behind a click

  • Better visibility of personalized recommendations and reduced overall recommendation feed size, optimizing the space of the page on mobile 

  • Users can intuitively differentiate between SoundCloud popular playlists (orange cards) vs. personalized playlists (the rest of the content on the feed)

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

NEXT STEPS

I plan on getting feedback through user testing on this redesigned recommendation feature. Additionally I found other interesting usability challenges with SoundCloud mobile during my initial research; I hope to redesign more components of the app in the near future.