Redesigning the troubled streaming platform
In light of several negative accounts of Apple Music and my own experience as a daily user, I redesigned Apple Music and published a Medium article that documented my design process and the story behind my solutions. It was soon featured on Medium's official technology column on its homepage. With Apple Music, too many things are crammed in, navigation is confusing, and essential features are hidden — this was my response based on my own experience using the streaming service.
I also gave a presentation on my findings, including UX flow, visual mockups, and a working prototype of my redesign as a Dribbble Meetup talk in Irvine on May 2016.
Much of Apple Music’s problems stems from its inadequate navigation. Music follows a conventional tab bar, which I have no problem with in and of itself. My main gripe is how Apple’s organizes it.
5 confusing sections with a great deal of overlap: For You, New, Radio, Connect, My Music.
For instance, what’s the difference between “For You” and “New”? I only found out after going back and forth several times. Saving content from these curated playlists into my own “My Music” library is a troublesome process as well.
While on “My Music”, petite icons visually litter the page, which distracts the user from finding his song or artist of choice; “Library” and “Playlists” are separated within a segmented control (aren’t playlists a part of a library?); and switching between different categories of music is only possible when the user is at the top of the screen.
Connect is another painful point. Connect — in Apple’s words — “is a place where musicians give their fans a closer look at their work, their inspirations, and their world.” To translate, Connect is yet another failed social network by Apple (anyone remember iTunes Ping?), mainly because it competes in a crowded space against the Twitters and the Facebooks. Engagement has been low on the network compared to its counterparts.
My not-so-secretive hypothesis is that users are more interested in what artists are listening to and what types of music they recommend, or even recommendations of similar artists, a feature which Spotify has nailed.
My Solution and Process
When designing my own response, I carefully considered these pain points and examined how other streaming services did it right. It can be broken down into 3 parts:
- Better navigation that properly segments discoverability and my own library.
- Improved social integration with a new “home” section.
- Lightened visuals with more whitespace and focus on content.
I kept the format of the tab bar the same, but instead of 5 categories, I shrunk it down to 4.
Home, Library, Discover, Search.
I flirted with the idea of a hamburger menu, but in the end decided against it (thanks, Louie). The tab bar works well, and by simply clarifying which section does what, I think it clears away much of the initial confusion the user experiences.
Home is the central hub of Apple Music, which combines the former “For You” and “Connect” (more to be explained below).
Discover is more or less the same as “New,” just given a different name with Radio consolidated onto the segmented control. This is the vast ocean of content available in Apple Music, nothing personal or curated per say.
Finally, I dedicated the last section to “Search.” Search is a crucial component in finding content, and rather than cluttering an already crowded navigation bar, I moved it to an accessible spot on the bottom of the screen. I also incorporated hashtags to Search, which allows easier cataloging of content beyond a simple playlist. Albums, playlists, songs, artists can all be hashtagged. I can also see what types of hashtags are trending as well.
A New Home
Think of “Home” as your favorite social media news feed solely dedicated to music. The feed typically is what drives users to addictive social networks because it provides personal, engaging content.
Home is no different, showcasing music from followed artists (not tacky status updates) and recommended playlists and artists. It organically updates as my own taste evolves, in addition to the music updates from artists.
While as a designer I can appreciate the technical feat of pulling off so many gradients on one screen, it certainly does the user no favor whose main focus is to get to the content as quickly as possible. Apple Music lacks negative space, which can often be overwhelming.
In response, the new design introduces much more whitespace to give a visual break, and enlarges album artwork for easier legibility. The now playing screen is also updated to focus more on the color of the artwork, while detracting unnecessary elements like the volume slider, which dedicated physical buttons are there for.