Introducing a new feature on Spotify: Netflix Soundtracks

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

If you’ve ever seen a musicless music video online, you probably realized how funny and all the while sad the world would be without music. (If you didn’t and you’re feeling down, I strongly advise you to do so, it’ll cheer you up in no time). That being said…

The power of music

You’ll see a lot of popular quotes saying that “music equals life”. It’s a little cliché, it’s true but it’s not that false. Music is a cultural means that can both bring people together and leave room for individual expression, and that’s, to me, where the real strength of music lies.

When I got interested with Spotify and did a little research on their brand vision, I became aware that they are really focused on keeping in mind why they do things — it’s not just business.

[They want] to create great experiences and [make] meaningful connections between listeners and creators.

And to make sure that they do, they spent a lot time trying to know their users by identifying their habits and embracing their uniqueness.

The challenge of designing for a mass

I realized also how much Spotify designers face the challenge of designing something as popular as a music service.

Here at Spotify, we often ask ourselves who we’re designing for. And since listening to music is so universally popular, it might seem at first that the answer is ‘everyone’.

That’s where it struck me.

Designing for a mass can be difficult but it shouldn’t mean designing the ordinary to fit everybody. It should mean designing the extraordinary so that anybody can feel as though they belong.

That’s something that Spotify deeply believes in and as a user of their service, I feel that they managed to integrate that belief into their design.

The Story of Spotify Personas by Maddy Tores de Souza, Olga Hörding & Sohit Karol

The concept

Research

If you’re a Spotify user you know that they have a great suggestions algorithm. The more you listen to music the more it’s improved. So at first when I started thinking about adding a feature to Spotify I didn’t focus on suggestions because I didn’t believe there was a need there. But as I was ideating I thought about Netflix and made the assumption that Netflix and Spotify users are pretty much the same and that something could be done between the two companies. I wanted to infirm or confirm this assumption and my research, both interviews and online research, made it clear that they indeed share the same type of users.

Most of them are we call Millenials and Post-Millenials (15–34). Regarding Spotify they prefer using it on their mobile and spend an average of 2 hours a day listening to music (all devices). Also playlist are very popular and they all feel like music is a huge part of culture.

In terms of culture, it’s difficult to ignore the general enthusiasm for Netflix — as the online platform boomed these past last years, it completely changed our way of consuming TV shows and movies.

From these thoughts came my idea of feature:

Integrating an option for Spotify users to link both their Spotify and Netflix account in order to get immediate suggestions of their favorite TV shows and movies soundtracks.

Testing the idea

As much as I liked this idea, I kept repeating myself that I am not my users and that as a designer I need to take a step back from what I believe and listen to what the users have to tell me. So I did some concept testing with 5 people and they were all very excited about this new feature idea and even told me that it would be a great plu value for Spotify. Moreover, the content already exists on the platform, so it’s only about allowing this link between accounts to improve the already existing suggestions algorithm.

But first, trust.

Designing for Tomorrow — A Discussion on Ethical Design by Lun Han

Of course this feature means gathering data from the users, but at Spotify it’s only something that they do if it allows for some useful personalization. Privacy and personal data confidentiality is something that they deeply care about, and since they are acknowledged as the 1st platform in term of safe content, they want to keep this reputation by ensuring an ethical design.

Speaking of Design

Of course, when I started designing this feature I used all Spotify branding guidelines to ensure a coherence between what already exists and what I wanted to create. As I analyzed Spotify style guide I became aware that the minimalism of their color palette was in fact more assertive than it seems. Having such a dark background can be seen as risky choice but, to me, it’s quite a bold one. Plus it allows for music album covers to pop up and for music genre categories to be immediately identifiable. The strength of it is to see that people can instantly know that we are talking about Spotify just by seing the green, dark and white altogether.

Challenge: integrating the new feature into the current app

The user flow shows how the feature is thought to be integrated within the existing navigation. After changing their settings allowing to link their Netflix account, they have 2 simple way of finding the Netflix soundtracks categories in the app.
Hi-fi wireframes of the Home page (with scroll), Search page (with scroll) and Netflix Soundtracks category (no scroll). Made for iPhone XS.

Prototype

To give you a clearer idea, here is the prototype I made from hi-fi wireframes using Principle:

In this prototype video you can see that the users have 2 main choices to find their favorite soundtracks. Either they access the soundtrack albums from their home page where suggestions and history are displayed or they directly go the search page. From there, again two choices are available: browse through categories or go directly from the search bar.

Testing insights

I tested this prototype with 5 users and got great insights. They all confirmed that the feature was very relevant to them and they liked the prototype flow. However at first the soundtracks category was not marked with “Netflix” and they felt that it could be more precise so that they exactly know which content is related to this new category. They also wanted to go through the search bar directly instead of browsing through categories, so that’s why I added this part of the flow in my final prototype.

Next steps

  • Improving the search bar with maybe more filters in order to search for soundtracks with more than just the Netflix keyword and ensuring relevant results.
  • Adding a widget to Netflix for people to like the soundtrack directly on the TV show or movie page.
  • Digging the suggestions algorithm in order to keep them up-to-date and relevant always.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to let me know what you think :)

Sources: spotifyforbrands.com/spotify.design/developer.spotify.com/Numerama, Siècle Digital, Blog Ariase.

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Ella Forté

Ella Forté

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Product Designer based in Paris. Huge fan of Friends. How you doin?