Connecting emerging artists with industry experts
Soundie is a platform for emerging musicians to connect with one another and receive constructive feedback from industry experts. This was developed and presented as my Capstone project while enrolled in BrainStation’s full-time UX/UI design program.
Project Length: 10 weeks
Role: UX/UI Design, Brand Design, Prototyping
Tools: Photoshop, Sketch, InVision, Photoshop, Whiteboard
01: Strategy & Research
Due to the nature of the problem space, I relied heavily on primary research to speak with musicians and other artists (visual designers, photographers, etc) of all levels, from those that were just starting out to those that have spent an extensive amount of time honing their craft. The type of questions I asked where surrounding musicians current or previous experiences sharing music and receiving/providing feedback. A few key examples include:
“How do you go about looking for feedback at the current stage of your career?
“How does the way you seek feedback differ from when you were just starting out?”
“Tell me about a time when you provided creative feedback to someone else.”
I conducted ten user interviews on the BrainStation campus and over Google Hangout. Through this I learned the following:
What was surprising for me was that artists described feedback from people outside of their genre or instrument as “useless”. It seems to be very important to ensure feedback given to musicians is coming from a credible source. The insights received were extremely helpful and were consistently referenced as I worked towards solutions.
Who Am I Designing For?
After completing the user interviews and synthesizing the insights, I began building user personas for the artist (primary) and expert (secondary). The persona highlights the goals, motivations, and pain points that the users I interviewed either currently face or have when they were just starting out in their fields.
This was a huge learning point for me considering I had to remove my own experiences as a musician when I was younger. In order for the project to succeed, I removed my personal opinions and assumptions and allowed my research to guide the next steps.
He understands that feedback from loved ones is holding him back, and is looking to connect with other musicians and experts in his genre to get more quality feedback.
This takeaway guided the design to include a personalized experience based on genre and location.
She is accomplished in her career but still sees the benefit of helping others that are in a place that she once was in.
This takeaway guided the design to include a two-way communication between musicians and experts.
Mapping out Rodney’s experience was important because it presented opportunities for Soundie to relieve pain points. Narrowing in on when Rodney is ready to share and promote music stuck out as the most important because it can alleviate the doubt and insecurity he experiences.
User Stories & Epics
After defining the users, next up was refining the user stories to reflect the tasks Rodney would seek to accomplish towards becoming better at his craft. Below are 4 epics and their core user stories.
What I started with was the single task of uploading a song to receive feedback. After speaking with an educator I realized that this wasn’t the most unique feature to highlight considering uploading a song is not a feature that separates Soundie from similar apps. It was important to have ‘uploading’ as a feature but even more important was showcasing the feedback component. With this in mind, I changed my task flow to showcase an existing user (Rodney) viewing and replying to feedback from an expert (Susan).
This new task flow was not applied until after user testing wireframes and was implemented throughout the UI stage.
Sketches & Wireframes
I started with paper sketching to map out the content I wanted to include and then created digital wireframes. At this stage, I was still working towards the task of "profile creation and uploading a song". It wasn't until later on that I realized I needed to create the task flow above and demonstrate the feedback component.
Good ole’ paper and pen sketches allowed me to get any possible structure on a page to later refine below into digital wireframes.
I conducted two rounds of user testing in-person with 5 unique people each time using the above wireframes. Below are the key learnings from the second round of testing:
There were a lot of lessons learned throughout the different iterations. I wanted to ensure I had the studio page fully fleshed out as this would be the main screen for the user.
After completing testing of my initial wireframes, I began working on another round of wireframes following the task of viewing expert feedback. The screens below show a high-level view of the new round of wireframes and different iterations of the studio page.
The screens below demonstrate the different iterations and the evolution of the home page. Since this is the most central part of Soundie, I wanted to ensure I had this design sorted out before affecting the other screens.
The user testing was a very humbling experience considering I thought I had built something full-proof just because it made sense to me. After working on a project for so long, you absolutely need other eyes to weigh in.
UI & Visuals
After what seemed to be endless rounds of testing different concepts, I finally landed on a design system and the "final" screens. The colours are light and fun and were chosen to keep an approachable factor to the prototype without overly distracting from the artist or their music, as these are the focal points. The typefaces used are the iOS standard (San Francisco Display) to not deviate from a typeface that users would be used to.
The Soundie logo and wordmark are simple, clean, and contain an icon of a vinyl record to communicate the music aspect of the platform.
Below are the HI-FI screens
Reflection and Next Steps
I had a world of experiences working on this project from confusion, intense frustration, and excitement towards the end as the pieces were all finally coming together. As my first fully fledged prototype, working on Soundie taught me the importance of listening to users and coincidentally, the importance of feedback from others. You cannot design a prototype without checking in with other people and escaping from your own bias.
If you’re curious how the showcase of the project went at BrainStation’s DemoDay, it went well! Most of the interactions I had with different industry partners validated that there is a need for Soundie and they would like to see where else I can take the prototype.
The next steps would be to work on the community factor of Soundie and the interaction between emerging musicians that might want to collaborate or simply expand their network with other musicians, not necessarily experts.
”How can Soundie allow emerging musicians to grow with one another?”
”How can experts using Soundie advance their own careers?”
”If Soundie hit over 10 million users, what sort of cultural impact would that create?”
All great questions I’d love to discuss. Connect with me on one of the platforms below and let’s chat.
Design is where creativity, strategy, and psychology meet.
My portfolio is where we meet. Connect with me on one of the platforms below.