We began by interviewing multiple people from various musical backgrounds - everyone from casual listeners to music enthusiasts. We gained some valuable insight into points of friction across this spectrum, and narrowed down our results to three main pain points: Distracting features, difficult playlist creation, and incomplete music libraries.
Cross platform library integration proved to be the most feasible and opportunistic design, so we moved forward with this idea as our main foundation. (Spoiler alert - this one ended up not panning out.)
Moving forward, we researched other prominent existing platforms, in order to understand what aspects of our goal had already been accomplished and what gaps we could find.
Through interviews, surveys, and statistics, we ranked each one of these products based on 3 different aspects of a listening experience: Strength of music library, cohesive listener community, and connection between the artists and this community. This allowed us to understand what design opportunities to follow.
(In retrospect, this graph was pretty subjective, due to trying to combine so many variables into just three facets. We intended it not as an objective analysis, but a means of facilitating possible directions and opportunities.)
We quickly realized we had stumbled upon a crowded design space of already existing solutions. A combination of overlapping music libraries and existing solutions to our problem left us without a clear direction.
Not gonna lie, we were pretty bummed out at this point. But this actually allowed us to think bigger and dream up a much more intriguing idea: connecting communities through music.
We expanded our scope beyond the individual listening experience and looked into how people aim to connect with each other through music.
Discovering music has become an individualized process that often bypasses organic discovery through local communities.
It's easy to feel disconnected from people in your area when your methods of local discovery are from intangible, global databases. Existing music communities through platforms like Spotify, YouTube, and SoundCloud have no correlation to localized areas. We decided to focus on improving ties to local communities through sharing music.
Our goal: Connect local communities through shared music.
Now that we had a general idea of our end goal, we drew up some storyboard scenarios to imagine in what context our app could be used. Since we had a joint goal of intertwining community connection and music discovery, we wanted to allow our app to be intuitively used in both contexts.
We envisioned an app that shows users a live stream of music being listened to in their area of choice. An upvoting system procures a list of trending music in a given area. Comment sections allow users to connect with each other over mutual interest in specific songs.
Once we had solidified the general usage of our app, we drew out a wireframe map of the fundamental screen interfaces. Users navigated through this map by clicking "buttons" and highlighting current screens with a cutout iPhone frame. We gave users different tests to see what elements worked and what needed refinement.
After testing, we discovered some pretty significant flaws with our initial design. We realized we had left out multiple important screens for various tasks. Accessing the comment section was difficult, along with elements of the music player. Many features such as upvoting and recommending music didn't provide adequate feedback to show they had been completed. Returning to the home screen was also confusing.
We recreated our interface map via Sketch and aimed to fix the multitude of problems that surfaced from our last round of testing. This version had clearer visual cues, stronger visual hierarchy, and more intuitive navigation through different elements of the app.
To our dismay, users ran into many of the original problems we sought to fix. After a lot of research, testing, and some intense soul-searching, we realized that the roots of the problems lied in the features themselves.
1. Posting music recommendations was confusing and tedious, and wasn't necessarily the best representation of an area's trending music.
We decided to remove posting music and instead replace it with an automatic feed of what users are listening to through connected platforms like Spotify, SoundCloud, YouTube, etc. This allows for more content that accurately reflects the music being played in an area, as well as removing tedious and confusing steps for users.
2. Upvoting and submitting music became complicated when users were looking at areas besides their own.
In conjunction with the posting solution, we replaced our voting system with an automated running total of the amount of times a song had been listened to. Again, we felt this was a more accurate representation of what music was being listened to in an area, and it removed another confusing facet of our app that wasn't crucial to our main goal.
3. Multiple methods of playing music, disjointed comment sections, and confusing navigation made it difficult to seamlessly use all the features of our app.
Instead of having separated static screens for each feature, we brought together multiple features into dynamic single-screen interfaces that created a clearer sense of a users' place in the app.
For our final deliverable prototype, we used Framer to create full interactions for Proxi's core elements: Location, Music Feed, and Commenting. We took the previous problem solutions into account to create a dynamic, simplified music feed interface that seamlessly opens up commenting features.
We spent the last two weeks of the quarter simultaneously finishing a final prototype and shooting a mock promotional commercial video.
We began with some quick storyboarded ideas for scenes that would best communicate Proxi's potential. Once we nailed down a general progression of scenes, we wrote a general script and started filming.
I was responsible for all the post-filming work, including editing the video and audio together, green screening the phone interfaces, and creating all the motion tracking visual effects. I gave myself a crash course on After Effects overnight in order to make everything happen.