A Reflection on Product Design

Though all good products must function and provide a benefit to the end-user, I believe the magic of a truly inspiring or great product happens in the realm of user experience. As designer and writer Joshua Porter writes, “The experience is the product.”

Spotify is one example of a great digital product, as it provides an unmatched listening experience. I believe that Spotify excels because of its ease of use and its ability to foster feelings of belonging, being understood, and being heard.

Ease of Use

Spotify has made it easy to weave its use throughout the fabric of users’ day to day lives. What device do you want to use to listen to music? Spotify has an option for it. I use the iOS app on my iPhone 6s when I want to listen to music on the Bart, or on my iPad as I play games on an airplane. I access the web version from my Dell work computer and use the desktop app on my MacBook Pro; I can even skip to the next song using the new TouchBar. I’m logged in simultaneously on all devices, and my listening is synched and seamless.

Integration with Amazon’s Echo has been one of the biggest game changers for me. Of course, Echo/Alexa is a whole other article on user experience; however, now that I can control Spotify by yelling “next song” at Alexa while I get ready in the morning (and never have to go through a bluetooth pairing process!), I’m listening virtually 24/7. In truth, I have a record player and pretty decent vinyl collection, but I find that I’m far more often asking Alexa to “turn on my Discover Weekly playlist” than putting on a record.

Besides shouting voice commands at Alexa for a specific song or playlist, I can browse playlists and recommendations on one of my devices, press play, and have it function as a virtual remote control. The status is updated everywhere, live. Spotify has even integrated with Waze, though I have to admit I haven’t tried that yet.

Spotify is everywhere, and it’s easy.

Feeling of Belonging

Not sure if Spotify’s for you? It is. As their tagline says, it’s “Music for everyone.” Can’t afford a premium subscription? No problem; you can still listen for free, albeit with some ads.

Once you’ve logged in and connected Spotify to Facebook, you can follow your friends. As I type this, I can see that a friend is listening to The xx. Another friend seems to be on a Bob Dylan kick. We all really like Discover Weekly on Mondays. Spotify lets me know that I’m not alone: there are others listening, just like me, right now! I feel a part of something bigger.

Spotify also seems to be the ubiquitous listening service for anyone in the know. Friends tell me about a new band they’ve discovered through Spotify’s “radio” that takes over once an album has finished, and I’ve bonded over playlists and recommendations on first dates. Shared playlists remind me of past events. Are we just dorky music snobs, or is this what everyone does these days? I think it’s the latter (or maybe both). In any case, I’m part of it, and chances are, you are too.

Feeling of Being Understood

If no one else understands me, Spotify does. The twice aforementioned Discover Weekly playlist, a “playlist made just for you” is exactly that: a curated set of songs that is updated every Monday. Once updated, the old songs disappear — but the recommendations are usually such good finds that I don’t want to lose them. I’d taken to creating my own “Keepers” playlist, and now even use the IFTTT applet that automatically keeps a master archive of my Discover Weekly recommendations.

I’m not alone: a quick twitter search tells me that a lot of people are into the playlist. For example,

Or, my personal favorite,

That’s not all though. There is a section with six “Your Daily Mix” playlists, a Release Radar curated with releases from “artists you care about,” and abounding recommendations based on previous listening.

Overall, Spotify allows us all some introspection, kind of like taking online personality tests, and makes us feel like at least someone knows us (even if that someone is a robot).

Feeling of Being Heard

No matter how great of a product, there are bound to be bumps in the road, and my experience with Spotify is no different. A few months ago, I realized that I must have been hacked, as I started noticing some aggressive French techno showing up in my Recently Played section.

I contacted Spotify one evening via live chat (thanks for working late, Anthony N.!). He was quick and methodical in assisting me and securing my account. When Anthony needed me to show account verification, I was able to upload it using an integrated function in the chat window — no other emails or frustrations needed. Not only did Spotify help me with my problem, but they apologized for the inconvenience and gave me a month of service on the house. I mean, c’mon. It wasn’t even their fault; I had logged into Spotify via Facebook, and my Facebook password had been stolen. At the end of the evening, I felt I could trust Spotify to listen when needed and address any issues that may arise.

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