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There’s no denying that Spotify has taken the world of online music to a new (legal) level. Their ever-increasing catalogue of artists and albums, coupled with the acceptance of their app into the iTunes store will, no doubt, alter the way millions of people both pay for and consume music.

The application is a model of elegant simplicity. It easy to find your way around the service, listen to music and create and share playlists.

However, there are times when you open the app and you have no idea where to start. To torture the metaphor – you have a potential fire hose of music content but turning the right tap can sometimes be difficult. What do I fancy? What’s my mood? What am I doing? Do I just want some background noise or some hum-along favourites?

And there’s the problem. Discovering music on Spotify is difficult. They have the ‘Top Lists’ tab but that’s far too coarse to be an effective browsing or recommendations mechanism. And the chances of the ‘What’s new’ tab giving me a starting point for listening is remote at best.

So I thought it would be a great idea to look at some ways to enhance Spotify. To devise some mechanisms which could more effectively surface a wider range of their catalogue and help me both decide what to listen to and discover new music.

I will caveat at this point that what I have done is by no means exhaustive. It’s not a usability review or an interface rework. It’s an idea, a sample of how we believe the Spotify experience could be extended and enhanced. Also, I have the luxury of not having to work out the technical feasibility of these ideas. Although it’s all ‘doable’ no account has been taken with regard to performance issues or other potential technical constraints.

With that sorted out, let’s take a look at some ideas. First, the ‘home’ screen. For a start, you’ll notice that I’ve relegated the ‘What’s new’ to a different tab. I’m not sure if there is With that sorted out, let’s take a look at some ideas. First, the ‘home’ screen. For a start, you’ll notice that I’ve relegated the ‘What’s new’ to a different tab. I’m not sure if there is record label pressure commercial reasoning for this list but it seems like a bit of a space filler to me. Anyway, for the purposes of this exercise, it’s gone. commercial reasoning for this list but it seems like a bit of a space filler to me. Anyway, for the purposes of this exercise, it’s gone.

Your activity

Instead of the ‘Artists you might like’ panel I feel there should be more of a ‘Your trends’ space. This is an easy way to get back into music you’ve listened to. A 30 day (or longer) retrospective on your listening habits. Like what you put together last Wednesday? No problem. Click the chart to line up the tracks again and away you go. Also, should Spotify wish to develop more community features longer term this could be a great way of comparing tastes and habits with other users.

activity

Play by mood

Play by moodAs I mentioned earlier, sometimes you just need to listen to music but have no idea where to start. Artist, genre or album don’t always cut it. The creation of a mood browser would open up a whole range of music unconstrained by genre or artist. Clicking one of these links could take the user to a screen showing maybe 100 tracks as a starting point for listening.

moods

Playlist generator

One of the great things about digital music is that the old barriers and constraints of albums have disappeared. A playlist generator would work by allowing the user to input some simple criteria and generate a body of music. The way I envisage this working is that the user could input as many or as few criteria as they like. Add some genres, add a couple of artist names to ensure they get added to the mix, set how long you want the playlist to last, hit generate.

playlist

Outside of your own experience (the middle of the screen) the right hand side could provide a glimpse into the activity of other listeners by location. Sparklines accompanying each track could click through to show listening trends for that piece of music. How has its popularity risen or declined over time compared to other tracks? Providing feeds from other services such as We Are Hunted also gives the opportunity to find out about emerging bands and tracks which may be popular right now but may never appear on the ‘Top Lists’ longer term.

SpotifyHome_d01

A reworked Spotify Home Page

Music related to an artist or band

Music related to an artist or bandOnce you’re off the home page and listening to music there are some other problems with the current experience. Related artists is, in my opinion, currently very inaccurate. And, once you have listened to an album from an artist there is no way to extend that experience. It’s back to search or one of the list pages.

Creating a side bar which could accommodate useful information such as artist influences and a ‘likeness’ finder would help prevent the current staccato experience. Influences could be real i.e. from the artists themselves as opposed to generated. And the ‘likeness’ slider could find artists or tracks which are either very related or completely different to what you have just listened to – updated in real time as you move up and down the scale.

artist

In surfacing the rich data that Spotify holds there’s potential to expose some very interesting content associated with an artist. Their maximum number of simultaneous plays, how often their tracks appear in playlists, how many total plays their tracks have had. In fact, there’s probably a whole data visualisation project right there.

But that’s a different blog post. Back to music discovery.

What I’ve done here is just a few quick ideas to release the potential for a much richer experience facilitated by opening up Spotify’s database and manipulating the content in more interesting ways. More useful music discovery could also convince a greater number of people to sign up for the Premium account. Alternatively, it could provide a case for a fruitful middle tier account which allows rich music discovery coupled with some social features to allow easier sharing but is still largely display-ad supported.

What I’ve discussed here is just a starting point. A catalyst for ideas to enhance what is already a great service.

SpotifyArtist_d01

A reworked Spotify Artist page

To stimulate the debate and because I in no way own the Spotify design, here is a link to the PSD files I created to do this exercise. If anyone wants to pick up the mantle, run with it, remix further then be my guest. Just be sure to post a comment with a link to your work.

Simon I'Anson

Simon I'Anson

Since the end of the last century Simon's career has traced a meandering path through a number of different digital and print agencies, consultancies and freelance gigs. The variety of agencies worked at only paling in comparison to the sheer diversity of work he's undertaken. Simon is most at home when simply producing great stuff to go on the internet.

@simonianson