Interaction Design
Project Overview
This college project started as a group assignment with my colleague Shane Hennessy. After the initial research phase the project demanded from us to individually come up with solution proposals.
The module of Applied Interaction Design focused heavily on human-centered design approaches and research methodologies such as design probes. As we were allowed to define our design space ourselves in which we conducted the research we decided to take a closer look into modern music consumption and distribution. Our research was done through a state-of-the-art analysis, and furthermore design probes completed by potential end-users helped us gain insights into the common practices in modern music streaming.
At the end of this project each of us had to work on his individual solution to the analysed design space of music consumption and distribution. As a result I created a fully clickable mobile prototype of a music sharing application.
Try the clickable mobile prototype of TunePal and check out all it's features.
The way music is distributed and consumed has changed drastically. From old mediums such as Vinyls, Tapes and CDs to a completely digitized music collection our generation has seen it all. Where a few decades ago music enthusiasts were limited to the size of their record shelves and wallets we are now confronted with the issue of having almost everything available to us with a few clicks. This unfolds a whole new problem area where the user is overwhelmed by the selection and can't decide what to go for next. On the other hand musicians themselves have the internet and the enormous amount of music platforms as tools to their disposal to release new music into the world. From being involved in and with bands, DJs and music societies, we have been made aware of the capitalization of music. Platforms such as YouTube, Spotify and Deezer promise to release your content into the world wide web for affordable percentages of the income - but is this really as good as it sounds?

In today's society, we see that the industry has made some major shifts in regards to the sources of income. Today, shares are more important than clicks, downloads or even purchases due to the brand being the money maker. Advertising online has become a huge business in of itself and as a result, we see music videos now become a major component of the industry.  Due to the availability of these online platforms, over-saturation in the market has become a major issue for up and coming artists to make a name for themselves. The ease of access to multiple platforms floods the scene with hundreds of thousands of songs you may love, but can never find. This is an issue we thought is unjustifiable. All music should be equally capable of finding its place in the world regardless of promotion and investments for advertising. We wanted to reveal the truth behind some of the slippery details most of the public may be unaware too and come up with some form of resolve.
As physical mediums of music become less popular for the masses, streaming platforms such as Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube Music take up the majority of distributed music. The gigantic amount of available music on these platforms seem to create a problem of finding new independent and upcoming artists however.
University of Limerick
Jan 2019 — May 2019
Market leaders in music streaming
Our choice in recruits was based on those who wholeheartedly enjoy music, are seeking to pursue it as a career, or are currently struggling/succeeding in doing so. We felt this, for the most part, covered the base demographic of our design space.
To expand upon modern music consumption, distribution & interaction among users and artists, we used this opportunity to explore the music consumption of young college students and working professionals and gained an understanding of the music distribution. Is it aided by the social interaction between users or is it mostly powered by processes in the background that we might not even be aware of such as paid promotions to boost the visibility of an artist, album or song? Data is now a huge part of the music industry taking advantage of your listening habits and making song suggestions on your behalf.

Design Probes
The user research was conducted through design probes in the form of short surveys. Each day of the week we would send our participants a message with the new set of questions. In order to gain a broader field of results we created three different types of questions. The first type of question was focusing on the user's perception of their own music listening behaviors. For example a guesstimate kind of question we included was asking for the users most active music streaming hour of the day. Thanks to a third party website we were able to check the actual answers to these types of questions and compare it to the guesstimate of the users. The second question type was focusing on the user's general perception of the music industry nowadays by asking questions such as guessing how many monthly listeners their favorite artist had on Spotify. The last type of question we asked in our design probe surveys were ice-breaker or interaction questions. These questions were exploring some of the users favorite music, but also focused on keeping the user engaged and motivated.

Design probe results
Shane and I went through the results of the surveys and tried to highlight interesting patterns or problem areas that emerged. It was already clear to us that the trend of music consumption is steadily heading towards a complete digitization and this was proven through the design probe surveys. A very interesting discovery of the design probes was the question of how users go about finding new music for their libraries. The answers in the survey were showing that a lot of users find new music through suggested playlists or through recommendations from friends. Others complained about the repetitiveness of artists in these playlists. These complaints were indicating a lack of personalisation and a missing variety of new artists on these suggested playlists. Additionally, the fact that equally as many people are listening to suggestions from their friends indicates that the act of sharing or listening to music from friends is just as common. But some users complained about those digital interactions as well because it usually requires a multi-step process through different apps just to send a song to a friend. Furthermore, some opinions in the design probes were saying that suggestions from friends often add a personal touch to the song and will stick around longer in their memories. The background data questions were a big eye opener for us. As mentioned above with the help of a third-party website we were able to extract user data such as streaming habits as well as favorite genres, artists and songs. We were taken by surprise about how many users were wrong about their most listened to artists.
Once we had analysed the results of the daily surveys my colleague Shane Hennessy and I held a brainstorming session in which we laid out all the problem areas we extracted from the research phase on a wall with sticky notes. After having these problems grouped in categories we tried to come up with potential solutions to solve these issues. This exercise would then fuel the next stage in which we split from our group project and started designing individual solutions.
Brainstorming results
Music is literally all around us every single day. People use it while commuting, working out, studying, working and many other activities. Even though everyone who listens to music, no matter if it is a music enthusiast or not, is always on the lookout for new music. We all have our favorite albums, songs and artists. But everyone develops and changes his music taste over time. And finding new music is always relevant. In a time where record stores and radio stations are becoming rarer and music streaming services are dominating the market, I found throughout this design process that users are being force-fed music and dictated what they are supposed to listen to. Suggested playlists are based on algorithms that analyse your music taste and are filled with artists users already know or artists that are on top of the charts anyways. According to our research and the utilisation of design probes, I was able to extract relevant problem areas and wishes from real users. With my final design concept TunePal, I am trying to answer to this demand.
As our research has shown the flood of music that is being released digitally every year is so big that finding new music that is interesting to users is like finding a needle in a haystack. During the research, we heard many voices from participants saying that finding a new song or artist through a recommendation of a friend will always add an extra touch to it rather than finding it in a computer-generated playlist. Changing the way, we share music with the people around us is the goal of TunePal. TunePal is a music community in which you suggest music to other users but also find new music through other users. It all starts with setting up a profile with a short bio about yourself and a profile picture. The next step is to grant TunePal access to connect with your music streaming services such as Spotify, YouTube and SoundCloud. After it has extracted all the relevant data it will generate a unique representation of your music taste in the form of a colour wheel around your profile picture. The colour that is framing your profile picture represents the percentages of each genre that you most listen to. Furthermore, you have six image tiles on your profile to your disposal in which you can display any interesting facts about your music habits. Do you want to show everyone about how much you listen to music? Want to show your latest find in the rock genre? You can pick yourself what the other users know about you. With these features and the creation of a profile, users will have a more personal representation of their music taste.
However, the main focus of TunePal is the personal connection between users to find and suggest new music. Just like it used to be before the age of emails some people used to have pen pals. But this is for music. You can choose between making a connection with a friend that you already have in your friends list or by finding a stranger through the search function. If you choose to find a stranger, you have two options to choose from. You can find somebody with similar music taste by letting your unique colour wheel do the work for you and find a match. Or you can change the colour wheel to a colour that you want to explore next. In case you are bored of the red wheel you have at the moment representing rock and want to explore a little bit more in the blue jazz genre. Additionally, you can include a location-based search parameter to ensure you are being put together with somebody who is from the same country or city. With this option, you might even find new friends along the way of finding new music as well. Once you and the other person have accepted and established the connection the interesting part begins. By accepting the other user as a TunePal you give him the control over your queue, and you get to control his. For a limited amount of songs that are pre-set by you two, the users get to choose what the other one listens to. The users listen to the songs in their own time and get a popup after each song that was played. The user can then decide to give this song a like or dislike. An option to discuss this song with the other user in a chat window is available and if the song was really good the user can save it in his library. When it comes to picking the right songs for the other user TunePal will help you. You search through the music databases of YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud etc. and icons next to the song will indicate if the other user has already listened to this song or if its already in his library. Each like you gather throughout your music suggestion career on TunePal will be included in your profile. Little badges will display your total amount of likes, your weekly streaming hours and the amount of positive TunePal connections you had. Positive connections are achieved by having a ratio of over 75% likes. Even though a user might have the same kind of taste according to the genres he listens to, we know that in reality there are big differences in music even within a genre. If a user thinks a connection is just not suitable anymore after a few suggested songs the connection can be cancelled. The ultimate goal of TunePal is to connect people through music and to enrichen the music libraries of the users.