Boris Yu
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SoundCloud

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CHALLENGE:
Soundcloud has been the home for grassroots musicians to share their music with a community who appreciates the indie scene. Yet with the influx of music-streaming services, Soundcloud has lost a considerable amount of market share and attractiveness. As an independent study challenge, I looked at redefining the experience of Soundcloud from the perspective of introducing discovery into the business.

*Please visit Medium for the full article*

 

ROLE:
UI/UX Designer

DURATION:
2 Months

SKILLS:
User Experience, User Research, Wireframing, Rapid Prototyping, Visual Design

 
 
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CONTEXT

I started using SoundCloud about four years ago to upload my own music and to discover new grassroots musicians. It was around May 2016 however when news broke out about the company potentially going bankrupt. In less than a year and a half after SoundCloud released its subscription service “SoundCloud Go” to the public, we see this $10 premium service slashed down to just $1 for three full months. July comes around and the internet is flooded with articles about SoundCloud running out of money, laying off 40% of its employees and the potential loss of all user-generated content. As an early user of the service, the platform allowed me to listen to artists I would have otherwise never had the chance to. This discovery process was unique to Soundcloud and made listening to music much more personal and entertaining.

Fast-forward to the present, increase in competition and a lack of updates positions Soundcloud at the bottom. Instead of capitalizing on specific functions, the service lacks a clear direction. To start this project, I was curious about one question: “can we introduce a new business model powered by discovery?”

 
 
 

RESEARCH

Based on this initial research about SoundCloud’s business model and the comments I received during the user research phase, two key questions were derived to guide the design process:

  1. On a design level, how can the mobile app better support discovery and user engagement?

  2. In a situation where SoundCloud redefines their business with features such as Patreon and Bandcamp, how will the experience for listeners change?

Working off of these two questions, several ideas were mocked up to demonstrate their impact on Soundcloud.

 
 
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CONCEPT

Based on this initial research about SoundCloud’s business model and the comments I received during the user research phase, two key questions were derived to guide the design process:

  1. On a design level, how can the mobile app better support discovery and user engagement?

  2. In a situation where SoundCloud redefines their business with features such as Patreon and Bandcamp, how will the experience for listeners change?

Working off of these two questions, several ideas were mocked up to demonstrate their impact on Soundcloud.

 
 

PLAYLIST/SONG
Through my research, the feedback I received for the Playlist and Song screen has been positive. Using the music’s waveform as a progress bar is unique to SoundCloud and provides an engaging visualization for the user. One point that was made however was the inability to comment on another user’s comment. Digging a little further into this feature, I realized it was rather difficult to even make a comment.

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My solution to this was to change the way the comment tool is triggered. The waveform allows users to scroll across to skip ahead in the song. What if the comment feature appeared during this moment?

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ARTIST/COMMUNITY
SoundCloud attracts a range of users; some may be on SoundCloud to discover new grassroots musics while others are using the platform to promote their music. Let’s assume in this scenario that SoundCloud decides to take a similar approach such as Patreon and Bandcamp where creators can be supported through either song sales or subscriptions. If this is the case, then a stronger presence of artist and communities will need to be established.

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ARTIST/COMMUNITY
SoundCloud attracts a range of users; some may be on SoundCloud to discover new grassroots musics while others are using the platform to promote their music. Let’s assume in this scenario that SoundCloud decides to take a similar approach such as Patreon and Bandcamp where creators can be supported through either song sales or subscriptions. If this is the case, then a stronger presence of artist and communities will need to be established.

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Similar to discovering new music, I am proposing two new tabs where users are able follow artists and communities and be notified of their latest updates. SoundCloud in a way is similar to Vimeo where there it is a platform for both users and creators. Rather that just promoting new content, it works for SoundCloud to showcase the amazing talent and provide a method of promotion for artists and communities.

The subscription page contains the most recent updates from the artist/community and also a screen listing different subscription packages. This feature was added as an extension to SoundCloud’s business model. The current monthly-fee has not worked for the company

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WHAT I LEARNED

This independent study only scratches the surface of the type of work that SoundCloud may potentially have to go through with their new CEO. In no way am I suggesting that the redesign above is all that is required to save SoundCloud. Rather, it serves as a reminder to anyone in design that a final product is only the tip of an iceberg. Throughout the two months, I was able to map out a basic ecosystem between user needs and the user experience. Yet these different simple tools for interaction and engagement is built upon a more complex foundation of what SoundCloud is and offers.

If in the case that SoundCloud does go through with a restructuring of their business model, how will those services be included in both the web and app platform? Will interactions such as commenting/liking or the current layout of tabs be different? How will the user journey for a listener be different from that of a creator?