Easing social connections in Spotify

Product Designer - Research, Wireframing, UI Design, Prototyping, Usability Testing | 100+ hours
Sharing music. Sounds straightforward right?

Well, not quite.
The process is arguably straightforward. But when human emotions come into play, it gets complicated pretty quickly.
But why would sharing music be complicated at all?

After two rounds of user interviews, I found:

“Sharing music is very intimate. It’s like sharing a big piece of me with someone.”

People constantly expressed that sharing music is a vulnerable activity for them. To them, it’s like they’re revealing a special part of themselves that is usually hidden away for when they’re alone. When a person doesn’t like the music that a user shared, it’s like that person doesn’t like the user, and the rejection is scary.

“My friend shared a song with me that I liked, and I felt closer to her because it’s like she gets me.”

Being understood is one of the most valuable aspects in relationships. When music comes into play, it adds a level of complexity to it. It’s not just understanding words anymore. It’s also understanding the how a person is tied to the music they enjoy, and it’s a powerful feeling when someone gets it.

“I didn’t like this song that he shared...but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”

Sharing music is sharing a part of yourself. So when users are faced with this from someone else, someone who is sharing a piece of themselves, but it’s with music they don’t enjoy, they get stuck. They don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings because they know it’s a sensitive matter.

This was how I approached the music-intimacy complexity.
Sharing music that you love...

There’s a strong connection when you find that a friend likes the same music that you do. It’s like discovering a piece of yourself in them, and when you do, it’s a good feeling.

But what about the potential rejection—someone not liking your music?

Well, why do people still date and seek out companionship, despite the past heartbreaks? Because the feeling of a possible connection with another person tends to overpower that fear. Something that all my users mentioned was enjoying the ability to share their music on social media. In one user’s words, it was like “casting a net” to see who would respond positively.

It was exactly the direction that fit the bill.

...and finding out who loves it like you do.

So how does a user know if their net caught anything—aka, if anyone enjoys their posted music as well?

Through simple reactions. Similar to social media “likes”, people can react to posted songs to let the poster know that they enjoy the music as well. Through this, users can tell who might have similar music tastes as them.

The magic in all this? It’s just a simple reaction...or not. If a user doesn’t particularly enjoy a friend’s posted music, they don’t have to go through the emotions of rejecting a person’s music.

That’s the goal of this feature—to ease the heartbreak and frustration of giving and receiving rejection.

Here’s a glance at some of the work I did.
Research, empathize, and research again

One round of research was not enough. There was so much that my users talked about that I wasn’t able to contain it all in the 30 minutes I had set aside for each interview. The goal was to improve the music-sharing process, and I had thought I’d be adding a straightforward sharing function.

But after hearing the emotional aspects that my users have in terms of sharing music, I couldn’t help but go through a second round of research to dive deeper into that fascinating area. And it was worth it.

Crazy, rapid ideating like crazy

Ideating was hard for this project. What was I supposed to do when it came to designing not just a good experience, but one where I wanted to improve users’ emotions in the vulnerable sharing experience?

Crazy Eights and rapid storyboarding were the answers, and it was indeed both crazy and rapid. I went through so many ideas and flows and rounds that it seemed endless. But it proved be just what I needed.

And a ton of sketching and testing
Curious to see how it turned out? Try it out below.
Looking back...

I learned a lot about how users feel that they are sharing a piece of themselves when they share music, and, in a way, how they are opening themselves up to others in an effort to connect and deepen relationships.

What ultimately makes users hesitate before sharing music, or deciding against it altogether, is the anxiety of not knowing if the other person will reject this piece of themselves. And on the opposite end, what makes users open themselves up is when they receive positive reactions and responses to music they shared.

It doesn’t end there—many other emotions come into play, depending on what music comes on for users. For instance, a user mentioned that sometimes, the music they listen to triggers past an oddly complicated but good way.

Moving forward, this is something that I would definitely spend more time on in the future, as I feel there are many ways of enhancing and improving the experience of listening to and sharing music.

Let’s take a look at other work I’ve done.

Tackling large party reservation problems

I designed a responsive reservations website that focuses on helping users who are looking to make reservations for a large group of people.

Read case study