A detailed case study on the redesign of the 'Group Session' feature on Spotify.
A Cause for Concern.
I enjoy listening to music together with my friends, It’s a special experience. But since the pandemic began, we had to isolate. So we had to find other ways to listen. There were a lot of options but none was exactly what we expected and the UX was not easy or comfortable.
As a UX designer, I took responsibility and sought out to change this. Spotify is the best app to listen to music so I thought how would it be if a group sharing feature existed in it. As I was pondering over this, Spotify actually released the Group Session feature.
But I felt the feature was very restricting and had scope to improve. So I sat down and decided to work on it, redesign, and present a case study.
The redesign will be presented in 4 stages
“The Group Session Feature on Spotify is not clear, well known, and has some UX issues which I am aiming to solve”
That’s the problem in the simplest form. But what are these issues?
I started off by analyzing the app for pain points and where all does it feel like a bad experience. I divided this analysis into 3 parts so that it has a flow and gives me a clear idea of what to redesign.
Part One - Starting a Group Session and Adding People.
This is the first thing to do when starting a Group Session, I’ll explain the issues step by step...
- Keeping the Location of the Group Session Button in the Now Playing tab is the best way to hide it because a feature like that deserves to have it’s own clean navigation.
- And the button in Now Playing is a small Desktop Icon? That’s actually the Choose Device to Connect Tab. I feel there is no context to place Group Session there.
- At least Start Session is evident, But starting the session after adding people seems logical as that is the trend followed on other apps.
- The Invite Friends is not linked to the ‘Friends’ in Spotify.
- Same Point as before
- So we have to send a link through WhatsApp or messages, making us leave the app and send in another, which isn’t a very linear user journey.
Part Two - Entering The Group Session after receiving Invite
After task one is done, The person invited gets a message with the link in Whatsapp and then he clicks it. Let's look at the issues faced here…
- After clicking the link, It takes us to a tab which again asks if you want to join the session, but that option is already given. This again highlights the problem of having other apps.
- Okay, here is the main issue. There are two ways to enter the session. One is, enter as your own device where you will also be able to play music and enter as other person's device, where you won't be able to play, Only the other person can. First, this isn’t understandable from the text, Second giving options to the user makes it hard to control the group session as various people will prefer different choices, making a mess.
- I chose one option.
- After entering immediately, I reach a tab where I can’t see anything, like what’s playing. I feel that shouldn’t the tab you enter first as it becomes slightly confusing.
- We can check who and all are listening, but it doesn't show who is playing.
- I had to find how to go to the home page for a while when I tried the first time.
- Getting to Group Session again is going to be the same of entering Now playing and then now it shows that 2 people are listening in the smallest text size.
Part Three - Underlying issues that affect the experience of Group Session.
Group Session is a feature of Spotify. So It is related to other features. And these other features should slightly adapt to make sure when a feature like this starts becoming more used, It’ll be helpful. There are two things which have to be modified…
- One is the Profile and Friends. Profile navigation is kept inside Settings. Given in the current usage of the app, The profile isn’t relevant. But when Group Session is more used, profiles will be needed and has to be more clear and visible. And Importantly have separate navigation.
- Friends in Spotify Should have a more easy way to search because again, Group Sessions needs good cohesion with Friends in Spotify thus adding people as friends are important.
- Searching for people has always been confusing because it’s linked with Facebook which isn’t used much.
- And the Second is a Private Session. I feel it’s an important feature regardless of a group session or not. And it is placed in the depths of the settings.
Okay, Summarising the pain points again…
How to define the problem? We research it, we find the reason behind it and we understand who are we redesigning it for.
To define this problem more clearly and understand how other people also feel, I conducted A Targeted User Group Survey. In this, I interviewed 20 of my friends who use Spotify and learned how they felt about the app and got a few suggestions also. I have shown a brief and concise version of the interview and have chosen the answers which were relevant and doable to the study.
The survey results gave some important insights like…
- On how I can start the redesign which I got from the suggestions
- The problems the feature will be facing, like how to communicate between the people listening to music.
- Who the target audience will be so that the feature can be designed keeping them in mind.
- The number of people who can be added to the Group Session.
- The level of privacy expected by the users.
The next research was to get a more large scale data on some of the questions to solidify my case. For this purpose, I used Instagram polls, which helped in reaching the polls to a larger audience
This research was mainly done to get 4 answers, concluding that…
- A good amount of people find it hard to access their profile page.
- Many people are fine with other people looking at their music activity. This shows that music taste is also a social factor.
- Almost 80% of the voters didn’t know that this feature exists.
- The average number of people in the Session was voted to be around 8 people. Which I feel is just right, compared to 5 people currently.
Both these surveys helped in formulating the target groups and a few personas who will be using this app. These factors will make us understand more about the people who are using this app and how the group session feature will help them.
A General Persona of the people using Group Sessions.
I chose 4 arbitrary characters who are loosely based on my friends and created a persona and the scenario which will depict how they will use the group session feature.
General User Group who will use the feature.
There is a diverse crowd using Spotify. So obviously there will also be a diverse crowd using the Group Session feature. But from the survey results and basic research, I was able to identify a few user groups who will use this feature more than the others.
With a more clear idea of the problem, I feel more confident to start designing. But obviously, the idea needs a structure. And for designing a feature, it’s as much as designing a product. So I explored and analyzed the alternatives for group music listening. There are three actually, I’ll mention the inferences below.
JQBX is an app that uses Spotify to play songs and people create rooms and there is a DJ who controls the playing. We can listen privately with our friends creating a private room, but they have to install this app and have Spotify Premium. (That is anyway necessary)
- Keep a chat box feature to communicate
- Private and Public options
- Classify Search Option for Friends.
Netflix party was the next product I checked, But it isn’t a very large product, but there are a few things I learned…
- Show Activity Log in Chatbox
- Priority towards the main element — Listening to songs.
And finally, Discord. It is probably one of the best apps with the integration of voice calls, video calls, and chatting features added with third part bots which help in listening to music together. These bots work on a command basis and have the base issues of everyone being able to skip and put new songs. But other than that the co-ordination is done through the chat room.
It is ideal in every sense. But choosing songs is the only problem. And it’s always better to have all these features in-app so that there is no other distraction while listening to music and the UX of both the apps won’t clash.
Now I got some proven ideas on how to construct this feature. Next up…
As all UX redesigns start, I also started with some ‘paperwork’.
After a few minutes of sketching on notebooks (not really), I laid plans for the wireframe. Which also went through many iterations.
I have made a more color-filled wireframe, mainly for presentation purposes and to highlight the changes I have made in the existing UI of the Spotify app, through the use of a yellow among the greyscale background elements. This is the initial wireframe I designed after which I tested this with some users after which the design went through a few iterations before reaching its end result. But the core of the idea is still depicted in this version of the wireframe.
This also shows the information architecture vaguely. So after completing the initial draft of the wireframe, I sent it to 6 of my friends and conducted user testing. I gave them a few tasks and told them to complete the tasks without guidance, So after that, I noted how they navigated and got suggestions from them with which I iterated more and that finally evolved into a High-Fidelity. I’ll explain the final design in the same manner as the user research. I’ll present it in the manner of Solutions of the Tasks.
One small thing to mention before starting off, I haven’t redesigned any visual elements on the page, It’s mostly the experience that I have redesigned. I have tried to Maintain the Visual language as much as possible and have not designed anything else other than ones that I had mentioned to have issues.
Task 1: Starting a ‘Group Session’ in the redesigned version of the app and inviting people.
- So starting the session is quite simple as the tab for the Group Session exists on the home screen itself.
- After typing the name of the session, you are asked for two options. Curated and Open Session, Which will be explained below.
- Frequently connected friends are shown as suggestions but search options are also available.
- You add friends, send a request and probably wait for them to join, or start listening to songs alone until they come.
- For now, 10 people is the limit for the session but can change depending upon the need.
Task 2: Accepting an invitation after receiving from the person and accepting it.
- The Notification is simple. You get it with the info of who sent it and you are provided with 3 options.
- You can either join immediately, Later, in which you can decide after how long you can join, and you can click busy and put peace. The other person will get a notification that you are busy.
- And then you enter. (If you clicked join)
Task 3: Adding songs to the playlist queue.
- Okay, the session has started. Now have to add some songs in the queue and chill. First thing, click ‘Add Songs’.
- Next, you’ll go to ‘Your Playlists’ where you can choose a song, or you can search and find one.
- After you choose the song, you can click the three dots and then add them to the session queue (Something I added)
- Add more songs and started working.
Task 4: Texting in the app and sharing song excerpts.
- Communication is key. And while listening to music together, there should be a platform to communicate easily, rather than going to other apps.
- I was skeptical of this choice, as I felt it’s too much for a Music Listening app, It diverges from its scope. But it is necessary for a wholesome in-house experience.
- The texting feature is simple, but it has one small unique feature called ‘Excerpts’ Which helps in listening to a small excerpt of the song before listening to it or just to show what song it is.
Task 5: Exiting a Group session.
- Leaving the session has its own navigation. After a small warning, you can exit the session.
- It's fine in an open session, but in a curated session, if the curator leaves, the session ends.
Task 6: Starting a private session and finding how to search for friends in the Following Tab.
- The private session is such an important feature but isn’t displayed properly in the app. But then the survey results did show that people didn’t mind others checking out their music, still, I feel listening to a few songs should be personal.
- And then searching for friends specifically is not a feature in Spotify, so I added that inside the Following tab which actually searches for people and also showing mutual friends which can help identify easily.
- I have also made one important segregation in the Following Tab. Segregation between Artists and People, so that it becomes slightly easier when searching.
Task 7: Underlaying changes in the Search tab.
- As I said before, searching in Spotify has been an issue, in the sense that there is no easy classification. For songs, or people, or anything else.
- So, I made a small search redesign, which can help people search for songs, albums, and people, which can help while creating a group session.
The group session is one feature that I believe has the potential to evolve into a more widespread group listening feature and also provide creators an opportunity to share their music live and also maybe pave the way for the future of concerts in this pandemic situation. But as a start, listening to good music or informative podcasts and discussing them will pave a new way of entertainment and also, make work more productive considering work from home is becoming the norm.
Here ends my case study on how the Group listening feature in Spotify can be redesigned. Thank you for coming this far. This is my first full-scale project on a User Experience problem. I have been using Spotify since it released in India and I personally love the app. I also like listening to songs together with my friends. Thus I felt like I had to provide a solution for this feature on the app. Since this is one of my first projects, I might have made some small errors or discrepancies, if so please feel free to inform me.
Thank you for going through the article, You can also check my work in