Friday, March 17, 2017

Usability Issues in the SoundCloud iOS Application

By Nishant Sood

SoundCloud ( is a social media platform for both music creators and music listeners, where music creators can upload their original content including music, podcasts, audiobooks and music Listeners can follow their favorite artists and listen to their songs. The service is provided to over 175 million unique monthly listeners and creators are using SoundCloud everyday. However, the holistic user experiences through usability, utility and user interface are controversial.
The user Interface of SoundCloud is already well considered and designed to satisfy user needs, but it is also true that there is always room for further improvements to deliver optimal user experience.
The evaluation covered two important tasks
  1. Determine the usability issues and difficulties a user might face.
  2. Provide some solutions to improve the user’s experience.

Product and technical information
Application version: 5.0.1
Operating system: iOS 10.2.1 (14D27)

Usability Issues

Issue 1 : Difficulty discovering new music
One of the biggest irritations for users was discovering new music as users were presented with a blank screen without proper description. Four out of five users tapped on the center of the screen anticipating more results and the fifth user tried pulling down the list expecting the same result. However, the screen did not change. Users were anticipating further options when prompted by the call to action on the home screen, “Hear the latest tracks” and became frustrated when they couldn’t select the center of the screen. This resulted in users leaving, often returning to look for new music using Search.

“Where is music” - User

Design Solution : Interactive guidance by bringing a clear understanding of the interface to inexperienced users
For new users, adding support with a clearer call to action that facilitates music discovery would help users understand the problem. By adding a clear call to action, users can more easily discover more music.

Another design solution would be to make Trending the default feed on the Home screen. By implementing the Trending feed as default, new users will be able to discover music more quickly and begin to populate their Stream with music they like.

Issue 2 : Following an artist was a daunting task
Not one user was able to locate where to follow artists. It was common for users to select the More tab, anticipating the option to follow. After being frustrated here, some users explored other areas of the navigation. Three of the five participants resorted to just liking the song, however, it did not help them to follow the artist.
I guess I’ll probably just like it instead… I hope that works.” — User
Users didn’t realize that the artist and title of the song on the music player page were actually buttons and that they would lead to the Artist’s page and an option to follow the artist. One user accidentally clicked on the hidden button which showed a new screen where one can follow the artist. This whole process of following the artist does not provide a good user experience.

Design Solution
Add a Follow button on the song screen. Users expected to find a button to follow artists directly from the media player screen  and this makes sense. You can like a song, so how about we add a button to follow artists, too? Add a Follow button as an option nested in the More tab. After seeing that there was no clear way to follow artists from the media player screen, users resorted to the More tab hoping to find a follow button. We can anticipate this move and add a follow button here.This would provide a better user experience and also increase the efficiency of the task.
Issue 3: User's session is not saved
Once the user is listening to a particular song and decides to quit the application and returns back at a later time, he finds out that the last song that he’s been listening to is not there. Moreover, the now playing button in the bottom also disappears leaving users frustrated when they want to load that song again.In competing apps like Spotify, the user’s session is saved and the last long the user is listening to can be played from the same spot where they left while quitting the app.
When the user quits the application and returns, then he is presented with the (1) screen without the now playing button. Which shows that the last session of the user was not saved.

Provide a  feature of saving user’s session, and allow users to listen to their last song being played or load up the playlist they have been listening to. Including this feature would not only help users to listen to their favorite songs from the last session but also provide a better user experience.

The goal of user research is to understand the target user’s needs and motivations so that we can develop products that they truly love. By running one of my favorite apps through a usability test, I was able to find some relatively easy fixes that could make SoundCloud even more rewarding for users. These suggestions are based on my observations with the intent to make the SoundCloud iOS experience even more intuitive and delightful.

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