Clout Charts is a streaming aggregator service that lets listeners explore music from all over the world while creating an equal footing for artists around the world.
Product Design Lead
1 Design Lead 3 Product Designers, 1 UX Researcher, and 1 Developer
THE CURRENT STATE OF MUSIC STREAMING SERVICES AND HOW WE CAN CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO
As a passionate audiophile with over 20,000 songs downloaded on a dedicated external hard drive, even I have great difficulty finding this kind of music. The industry feels very much limited to mainstream, even in 2020. I really want to disrupt the monopoly the mainstream has to make music more egalitarian. Subsequently, I set out to solve this problem with a group of designers, one brand strategist, and
Business requirement gathering, user journey mapping, information architecture, user decision flows, design sprints workshops, interactive design, rapid prototyping, visual design & usability testing.
PROJECT BRIEF: INITIAL IDEAS AND DESIGNS FOR CLOUT CHARTS
A few years ago, I created a blog ‘Clout Charts’ to help people can discover music through various charts. There’s a never-ending amount of music being added to the site and if your main goal is to discover new music for easy streaming and discovery. We're here to help you find the best new music first.
Clout Charts aims to provide equal grounding for every artist, while also exposing listeners to a unique and diverse music selection.
The idea to essentially create an updated version of Rate Your Music, where people can score and review songs while the site aggregates these ratings into different lists..
My Team Of Designers Began To Unpack The Challenge By Scoping Out And Conceptualizing How We Could Create The Minimum Viable Product Of a Unique & User-Friendly Music Exploration Streaming Platform In 9 Weeks.
TAKING A STEP BACK AND DISCOVERING NEW IDEAS
We got ahead of ourselves and assumed the original solution would be to create a chart platform that shows stats of the collective streams an artist accrued across all music streaming services. However, the research team found a number of flaws with the underlying logic of that solution. Charts, lists, and genres do not always help artists and can instead hinder music exploration.
Although rankings and statistics can provide valuable data to artists and labels, these can create psychological barriers limiting people from going beyond the charts to discover music by unlisted artists.
UNDERSTANDING HOW USERS LISTEN TO MUSIC
After taking a step back and realizing our missteps, the team decided to do ethnographic/qualitative interviews with people to see how they hear, consume, and discover music.
As a remote team, we were able to interview 30 male and female participants throughout Atlanta, Houston, Oakland, and New York between the ages of 17 and 55.
This wide range of participants uncovered some very comprehensive results.
KEY FINDINGS FROM MUSIC LISTENERS
We not only learned how people discovered music, but their biggest problems with streaming services and chart listings as well.
The overarching takeaway was that people are driven to discover music out of curiosity, but they run into critical roadblocks throughout the process. These barriers are shown below.
01 Listeners don't have time to discover new music
02 Listeners normally discover new music through social media or word of mouth.
03 Listeners that search for music on the web have a hard time finding music they care about to bias, ads, & artists not appearing on certain steaming services.
COMPETITIVE MUSIC STREAMING SCENE
We then carried out the second round of interviews to discover various music streaming platforms, which included music database sites like Rate Your Music and Hype Machine.
Examining the competitive landscape showed us that Music Streaming, Music Nerd, and Music Aficionado Listeners all had very similar critiques of the popular music streaming platforms and database sites: it was too hard to discover new music.
Whether it was due to limited recommendations, boring lists, or just a lack of knowledge on what is out there to be discovered, users needed more engaging ways to explore.
These additional user and competitive analysis insights led us to our next problem statement.
How Can We Create A Singular Listening Experience For Our Users That Incorporated The Current Gaps In The Market?
Answer: Focus On Exploration, Sounds, and Experiences
Not Charts, Lists, and Genres
DEMYSTIFYING MUSIC STREAMING
Inspired by a YouTube video called, "Gamification - How the Principles apply to real-life" I had an epiphany: Gamification would be a great way to solve this problem.
Rewarding exploration based on a total percentage of what options are out there would both make the music streaming experience more interactive, as well as incentivize the ‘charts’ to reflect a greater variety of music choice.
I then began brainstorming and observing many different methods of gamification, where I could not only engage the listener, but empower them in the process.
PROVIDING THE CRATE DIGGING EXPERIENCE
One vision I conceptualized through the creative process was figuring out how to make the music itself discover the users, instead of the other way around. A five-dollar bin in a record store is like a treasure trove full of rare findings and secrets. You can discover countless hidden gems and artists this way.
I wanted to create a feeling of a person walking into a record store, locating the five dollar bin, and discovering all kinds of genres. For most people, this would be a daunting and arduous task -- but imagine if the songs/albums presented themselves to the users.
CREATING THE LISTENER’S JOURNEY
The following user flow shows how the listener would interact with the application and its core features.
CLOUT CHARTS DESKTOP
The Clout Charts desktop app focuses on discovery above the typical trending lists. One of the major attractions is definitely the music heat map, where listeners can directly see what type of music originates from different regions of the world.
In the onboarding stages, users have the option to pick a light gradient or dark mode layout -- and can swap anytime for greater accessibility.
Below the fold of the homepage features favorite albums, recommended albums, and a spotlight for obscure styles of music.
Further down, we showcased the user’s search results based on their keywords. We also provided a section that populates with alternative music from different decades every week.
Feed: For the Likes page, I wanted to have a gamification-based layout that encourages users to be competitive with one another as they explore music.
Based on user feedback, it was important to have the likes section not only display music that they liked, but also to show badges for exploration, stats of what they listened to, what friends liked the same music, in addition to updates on things related to music they liked (such as news about the artist and their label/company)
MUSIC CATALOG - THE DIGITAL CRATE DIGGING EXPERIENCE
The idea of songs discovering the listeners very much sounds like the same recommendation system of typical streaming sites. My team wanted to tackle this challenge by having users put in keywords and using an aggregator to scrape music tagged with related metadata (such as moods, themes, semantic analysis of music reviews, etc) from all over the internet.
These keywords would be matched with the sentiments of the music as opposed to just the genre tags. Catalog explorers can also select tags to further expand on the specific type of sound they are looking for.
SEARCH FOR ANY AND EVERYTHING
Where the catalog page allowed for exploration based on moods and keywords, the search page would be where users can find specific songs, artists, and albums.
We didn’t want to create a regular search page. Instead, we designed a collage of albums that the user could scan. Inspired by Instagram, this feature has an infinite scroll and displays unique album covers.
FUTURE RELEASES AND USER RECOMMENDATIONS
For future releases, we want to focus more on community pages, music heat maps, and the artist’s dashboard. These features would establish a strong network effect and directly address the needs of music creators as well as listeners.
We also want to build out the artists’ side of the site allowing them to add and label their music as well as interact with listeners.
Building this project was an exercise in combating assumptions in favor of user testing insights. This project was very successful and has an NPS of +87%!
Throughout this process, I've gained some valuable insights into what makes a great product. The very name ‘Clout Charts’ itself became an ironic and constant reminder of these assumptions we all had going into this project.
FOCUS ON THE JOURNEY INSTEAD OF THE PROCESS'
I was too focused on checking off the boxes of what makes a streaming service earlier on, rather than understanding what users really wanted. Just like with writing a case study, good design is about getting down to the insights and taking the user on a journey.
GAMIFICATION IS MORE THAN POINTS AND COMPETITION
Focusing on points and competition-based achievements would make listeners feel inferior. Instead, I realized we could empower our users through positive motivation by rewarding curiosity, interaction, and creativity.
With These Lessons In Mind, Clout Charts Listeners Would Feel Energized, Delighted, and Inspired On Their Music Exploration Journey.