I always meet the same issue on Apple Music so I tried to solve it
Since 4 years, planning songs in the queue irritates me. Let’s see why ? And how can we fix it ?
Apple Music is an easy-to-use streaming music service which keeps the library of the user as the main section of the app. It keeps the simple aesthetic of Apple and provides a distraction-free interface to browse your songs easily. The service is also available on Android and will have his own app on the futur MacOS Catalina.
In 2019, Apple Music has more than 60 million paid subscribers worldwide but is far away from Spotify which reach the 100 million paid subscribers worldwide for a total of 210 million monthly active users. However, Apple Music is the first music streaming service in the US.
To fill this gap, I believe Apple has to continue to improve his in-app experience. To continue in this way, we will analyze one of the main pain point I encounter as an Apple Music user.
Apple Music comes as second iPod revolution. 18 years ago it was “1,000 songs in your pocket”; today it became “Lose yourself in 50 million songs”. It’s also the masterpiece of the music ecosystem of Apple, it mades the link between the AirPods, the HomePod, the iPhone, the AppleWatch, the Beat’s products and all other Apple products.
Apple targets a really large audience with this offer. First, all the music lovers, then the (famous) apple addicts and finally all apple users (and futur new apple users). The Verto’s study show us that Apple Music subscribers are older than the users of other music streaming services despite the fact that they promote Apple Music to the young. Usually, Apple main target is an urban one with a medium/high education level and managerial jobs according to the report of research-methodology.net.
Make such a large target happy is just really hard; however, we can say for sure that Apple users want things and are use to things that are fast, easy-to use and cognitive overload free.
Apple users want things and are use to things that are fast, easy-to use and cognitive overload free.
Currently, on iOS 12, it takes one long press (or force touch) and then one tap to add a song to the queue/ a playlist / a station or to share it. If we consider these actions as secondary actions, 2 taps to perform them are ok… However, the full process takes next to 5 seconds for an experimented Apple Music user.
As an iOS developer, I’m currently trying the iOS 13 beta version. Like each year, I’m waiting Apple to fix this issue like they just did with the volume indicator; but it’s not the case and it’s not really taking a good path… Nowadays, with iOS 13, it takes me between 5s and 6s to add a song to the queue thanks to an all new mind-breaking secondary actions sheet without any hierarchy.
Apple users are used to fast interactions, aren’t they ?
That’s why I want to propose some solutions to this issue. First, I extracted 3 pain points we have to solve to improve the Apple Music experience :
- Slow process for common actions
- Cognitive overload due to too many options
- User’s frustration caused by recurrent waiting times
Nevertheless, we have to take into account the rigorous Apple design guidelines to keep the consistency of the OS and simplify the user experience.
First improvement : An unobtrusive success notification
One of the main black spot which leads us to this issue is the obstrusive notification which signals the success of the action to the user. This notification make the user wait for next to 3 seconds by taking most of the screen.
It reminds me the sound controller of iOS and MacOS which appears exactly the same way as this success notification. But this sound notification issue is now fixed in the iOS 13 beta and everyone agree it’s a good thing. It’s more discret but it’s also more contextual, thank’s to his positionement next to the physical sound controls. I was inspired by it and it led me to this prototype of contextual success notification which let the user free to navigate on the application while following these new Apple guidelines.
The track concerned will be now displayed on the notification and the action icon stays prominent to reduce cognitiveload. A descriptive text appears behind the song title to provide usefull informations about the performed action to unaccustomed users. Following the Apple design guidelines, it becomes a clear notification which is contextual, informative and nonobstrusive.
Then, I designed the incoming and outcoming notification animations which provide context to the user. It’s coming out of the player bar which makes the link between the action performed and the area of the interface where the user can manage it. We can add the incoming and outcoming curves to the animations to perfectly integrate these transitions to the Apple guidelines.
Now, it takes only 2 seconds until the user become able again to perform other actions on the application. As soon as the secondary actions sheet is closed, most of the interface is free and let the user do what he wants.
Second improvement : Swipe to access to main secondary actions
The Swipe Action is a common feature in iOS. This feature is relatively easy to implement because it’s a default feature of the UITableView which is a component of the UIKit library for iOS developers. That’s why we found this feature in so many iOS apps which use lists as Medium, Youtube, Messenger, LinkedIn. iOS users are really used to execute this gesture to access secondary actions.
Finally, Apple Podcast and Spotify also uses the swipe action to respectively delete a podcast from library and add a song to the queue. Yes, Spotify uses a default iOS feature to provide a quick access to a secondary action.
By adding this feature to Apple Music, we will allow regular users to perform common actions in a mater of milliseconds instead of seconds. We can also allow users to custom these quick actions with a settings sheet we will see later in this article. All of it will improve the user experience by speeding up the access to their most used actions.
Then we combine this swipe feature with the new notification and we reduce the time required to perform a secondary action from 5s to less than 1 second. By now, just perform a single gesture with no waiting time.
Third improvement : A clearer and more hierarchical sheet
iOS 13 introduces a new kind of sheet which is used all across the OS. It brings consistency however a big issue appears simultaneously : a lack of visual hierarchy which results to a recurrent loss of time because of cognitive overload. Each line uses a different icon but the repetition is quite confusive. In a more recent beta version, Apple tried to fix this by grouping actions by category and putting the “favourites” category (which is customizable) on the top.
To keep consistency across the OS while improving the experience in Apple Music, I decided to just implement a new component for favourite actions which can be used in every situations into this kind of sheet.
We implement this new element in the Apple Music sheet and the favourite actions of the user now appear proheminent at the top of the sheet with a larger tap area than the other actions. The first and second favourite actions also appear respectively for the swipe right and swipe left gesture. By default, we propose “Play next” as the first favourite and “Create station” as the second favourite action in order to allow the user to use swipe feature without editing anything.
A last important thing is : how to visually manage more than 4 favourite actions ? First, I imagined a scrollable area which allow as much favourites as we want. However, it’s totally incompatible with the idea of a favourite section which has to be a small selection of easy accessible actions. Therefore, it’s better to limit the number of favourites up to 4. It allows significant customization without making the “favourite” concept useless.
Now, with these 3 improvements , we speed up Apple Music, reduce cognitive load and finally prevent from user’s frustration by allowing him to appropriate his favourite streaming application.
Following Apple guidelines, this Apple Music redesign supports dark mode. Let’s take this opportunity to visualize what Apple Music could be once these improvements are integrated.
Every digital product can be improved and nothing is totaly perfect but if Apple Music wants to become the world leader of Music streaming, it has to be as simple as the best Apple products. Today, Airpods grow exponentially because it provides an amazing user experience. Spotify is moving towards this kind of experience thus Apple Music needs to be better to reach its goal. I really hope this issue will be fixed by the Apple Music team !
To conclude personally, the writing of this article learned me a lot of things about the history of music at Apple, the constraints linked to a gigantic design system as the one of Apple and the difficulties that are present to create a consistent experience across a so large operating system with its bundled apps.
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If you are francophone, I talk about this article’s behind-the-scene in an episode of my podcast called “Parlons Design”. It’s a hand-made weekly show where I talk about a lot of different design topics.