Mini App Critique: Spotify Desktop App (macOS)
15-day App Critique Challenge: day 3
About the “15-day App Critique Challenge”: for 15 days, I’m going to critique a popular web/mobile app each day, to improve my critical thinking skill.
Today I’m going to critique the Spotify Desktop app, the most popular music listening platform in the world.
What makes Spotify special? Besides numerous songs and artists available, Spotify is creating its “Playlist Ecosystem”, in which it encourages users not only to listen to songs they know but also to discover new songs of their preferences. This ecosystem is beneficial to both the listeners and the artists, as listeners could find more beautiful songs and artists have greater exposure of their work to potential fans by Spotify’s recommendation algorithm.
For this critique, I will critique the desktop from the perspective of a music listener, who is also the primary user for Spotify. I start by setting up the critique context and going through major pages. I will focus on visual, interaction, and information architecture of the app, and analyze how the design aligns with the unique value employed by Spotify.
This is the first page users encounter upon opening the app. I can see a clean layout, with the menu on the left, friends on the right, and main content in the center. The three main pages are clearly represented using icon+text. The current page is highlighted by a brighter color (white vs. grey) and annotated with a green flag. Green is also the theme color of Spotify, so the design is consistent here. Following the three main page tabs, I can easily access my own Playlists and Library. I really like this design as I could start to listen to my songs with just 1-click without going to my personal page.
The major part of the page is different music playlists and collections. This design aligns with the value of Spotify — encouraging users to explore. Browsing from the top-recommended playlists collections to the bottom ones, I could tell the recommendations are going from personalized to general. For example, “Recently played” and “Made for Jessie” are more personalized recommendations so they are towards the page top, whereas “The state of music today” and “Get things done!” are more towards the page end. However, I’m still curious to know how the system makes recommendation collections for the user, as my recommended collections are different from my friend’s.
If I want to play a playlist
I like the micro-animation when I hover over a playlist. The “play” button is shown in the middle so I could directly play this playlist from the home screen. Along with the “play” button, I see “like” and “more options”, I also like the micro-animation here as explanation text is popped when I hover my mouse over the icon. Even though I think the two icons are already self-explanatory, adding more explanation helps users to understand the purpose of UI elements. And this is a very clever design as it doesn’t occupy any space by default but reveals when needed.
In terms of visual, all text and UI elements are using greyscale colors. Even though the theme color is green, but green is used minimally on the interface. Additionally, the app is employing a dark design style. I think the minimal and dark visual language better highlighted the content the app wants to promote — playlists since all playlists are very colorful and have a great contrast with the background. The app cleverly uses whitespace and Gestalt law to set information hierarchies. The font system is also very obvious and standard, as the white bolded text is used for headers or playlists’ titles, and grey text is used for the body.
I also think the design of each playlist’s cover picture is under thorough considerations. First of all, they are very consistent in general, as square-sized pictures are playlists and circle-sized pictures are artists. No matter the type, they all have a title text and an (optional) description below. But we could find variations under the consistency. For example, Daily Mix is of one design style, and Spotify recommended playlist is of another style. In this way, users are able to tell the playlist type by a glance but have a comfortable viewing experience with the consistent design overall. In addition, since the app wants to draw users’ attention to the playlist cover pictures, the most essential information is also shown on those pictures. Users could tell what the playlist is about by just looking at the cover picture.
How does the user save a song to his/her own playlist?
However, to save a song is complicated on Spotify. Users can’t save a song to his/her own playlists from the play window at the bottom. Even though it is easy for users to like the current-playing song, to save it users need to navigate to the song’s page and save it from its album. If the user wants to return to the original playlist, he/she needs to use the back button at the top to navigate back. I’m curious about the reason for making saving to playlists multiple clicks. I’m assuming the research might indicate people are more willing to just “like” a song than “save” a song. However, for many users like me, save might still be very useful. I think this experience could be improved by adding a “+” button next to the like button for 1-click save.
Search an artist/song/album/…?
Lastly, I want to critique the search feature of the app.
I tried to search for “Coldplay”. Upon clicking the search bar, I see my search history which makes it easy if I’m looking at something I searched before. The search is a real-time search, which means the result will be popped, and while I’m typing. I don’t need to spend another click to “search” the result. I think this very useful as users might not perfectly remember the artist or song name.
The search results are categorized by different types: artist, song, album, etc. The categorization greatly helps the users find the desired result.
For this mini critique, I only went through a few pages. Overall I really enjoy using Spotify not only because of its content but also its recommendation system. I think the user experience design of the Spotify Desktop App greatly reflects its core value.