Back in 2013, one of the most anticipated product that music fans were urging for its release was no other than Tidal. Investors and business experts were either anxious or excited to see if Tidal could reshape the streaming market and how it could contest with Spotify. However, in my unsolicited opinion, this was equivalent to the Silver surfer (Tidal) taking on Thanos (Spotify).
Unfortunately, five years later after its release, Tidal has drawn attention from its competitors, but as well harsh critics for its lack of design differentiation and user experience. Tidal interface was deemed as Spotify copy, and because of that, the product itself didn’t have the chance to offer noteworthy experience causing slow user-growth and named by business outlets as a failure. Many early Tidal users and designers had a similar reaction to my cat when they saw the UI/UX (Unimpressed)
But, as a designer with a background in Human factors psychology, I believe that it’s too early for calling it a complete failure. The company is a few years old and can redeem itself, by not trying to do what Spotify does best (Give people access to all the music they want all the time — in a completely legal & accessible way). Instead Tidal should focus on improving its mission: Bringing fans and artists closer together and creating a sustainable industry model that values music and artists.
What should TIDAL do?
Tidal is not a disaster, it is a good product that is staggered by its potential because the product itself has fallen into what I call the “Monkey see, monkey do business.” Wherein, a company, build its service by behaving like its competitors without an understanding of why it works or concern for the consequences. This model ultimately kills innovation and a companies’ true potential. However, along with the line of writing this, I ended up digging my teeth into UX research and design to fill in design gaps that can help Tidal unify user-growth and product differentiation. What you’ll find below is a case study offering “potential solutions” to address some of Tidal’s problems, as well as ideas for future development. My process was guided by qualitative user research that I kept from one of my UX class project related to music streaming service.
I approached my redesign in three steps while researching throughout:
1. Refocusing Product Objectives
2. Visual Interface
3. Brand Identity
1. Refocusing Product Objectives
As mentioned earlier Tidal should focus on refining its mission rather than trying to beat Spotify in its own game. It’s typical for competing companies to try to retain their competitive edge by matching and then outdoing each other’s feature or design and sometimes this work, i.e., Snapchat Vs. Instagram. But, getting into a feature parity war with your competitors puts you on a long road to nowhere. Tidal is an underdog in a market dominated by larger companies who share a similar vision, and Tidal needs to break out from that trend by creating an interface and experience that pays attention to music discovery experience centered on artists and albums instead of top 100 playlists that all streaming services offer. As a solution, I came up with this design:
Why this approach?
The interface is designed as a tool to make new users adopt Tidal as their primary music streaming service. The redesign was born out of the understanding that users who decide to leave their Spotify or Apple account for Tidal, expect the product to complement their expectations. This includes designing for the user’s needs and goals.
Upon redesigning Tidal, I wanted to make it easy for the end-users to understand what action to take when using the platform. Application user’s attention is amazingly limited, and they expect easy adaptation. Therefore, I have minimized the cognitive load by maintaining task-relevant information within the display while context-aware suggestions are offered to help the user decision more intuitive and pleasant. To provide “immediately search action,” I used horizontal navigator (thank you Netflix) for the user to scroll through music without effort, making music discovery easy and quick.
a) Rewarding experience through discovery.
On the redesigned interface, I tried to puts more emphasis on music discovery and recommendation. By presenting weekly curations, such as playlists and album suggestions give the user just enough information to explore music they might like (see image below), while making it more personal. For this to work, Tidal must re-conceptualizing music preferences by recommending songs and albums based on self-reported preference to provide genuinely unheard music to the intended audience. This could further help Tidal standing out from current music services that tends to decrease-quality recommendations by recommending popular tracks.
b) Focus on the Artists
The artist profile was designed to help the artist identity to pop out. Ultimately, this creates a clean, vibrant background. I have included a short biography to help the user understand what makes the artists unique. A short description of artists gives the user the knowledge to appreciate the artist more.
On the bottom right, I included Associated acts to help the user’s to explore more artists. I believe this is better compered to the similar artists approach, as associated acts often have worked together or do share similar music vibe, i.e., Barry White and Gloria Scott or Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Paul Simon. I have also excluded the vertical album scroll to retain the interface clean as well making it easier for the users to explore available’ albums without being overwhelmed with endless of songs that the user is exposed to or irrelevanent songs.
Redesigning Album flow
Upon selecting an album, a small transparent window on the right screen are shown with the album tracks, like and share button, the number of album streamed and track info. I grouped this info’s together like elements, by smartly organizing the content to make it less of a cognitive load on the user. In addition to providing aesthetic appeal, past research has found that grouping aids in information recall and results in a faster screen search.
2. Visual Interface
Easy & Familiar. End-users are more comfortable with things that they have seen before and action that they have taken before. This is because the users have built up skills and sense of self-efficacy, so it was important that I kept most element structure the same to maintain the familiarity by employing familiar concepts and using language that is familiar to the user.
To keep the interface easy, I reduced the amount of info and options, as in psychology the Hicks’ Law theory, points out that the more opportunities you present someone, the harder it becomes for them to make a decision. By implementing the Hick’s Law, I also insured that decision-making process was a simple task by reducing many repeated sections — especially on the Whats New section.
3. Brand Identity
Spotify’s duotone photo effect is one of it’s most effective branding strategy and identity. I wanted to design similar marketing effect, by implementing Tidals’s core business goal; bringing fans and artists closer together. The solution I came up with is called “TIDAL TRIBUTE.” The purpose of the new brand identity was to create a look that would signal to the core audience that TIDAL is a place that focuses on uplifting its artists as well their core audience.
My decision in forming this design was to boost the Tidal brand growth. Brand growth requires a unique blend of art and marketing. By carefully monitoring, the current marketplace of artist concern about lack of exposure and users desire to discover new songs or artist, I implemented Extension Strategy benefits/attribute/feature owned brand. This is when consumer tends to associate a particular attribute with a brand.
By uplifting both smaller and more prominent artists by exposing them to the targeted audience, will help Tidal establishing true attitudinal loyalty.
You have hit the finish line!
My redesign enhances the user experience by allowing users to navigate through new music without difficulty and increases the user engagement. Tidal’s biggest problem at the moment, is that its competitors are growing as they offer a different business model and features that help them retain user growth. Perhaps Tidal’s changing their UI/UX that matches their business mission might be the right push for the company growing its market as well becoming the actual music service that it was meant to be. But that requires more in-depth UX research and marketing research.
Nevertheless, my idea is one of 100 possible way Tidal can improve its service. This redesign is my second attempt trying figuring out the UI/UX problem, so there is still room for improvement — because I’m not completely satisfied with the redesign yet. As soon I leave this project behind I am 100% sure that I will notice small and big mistakes in my design, that I need to change.
Soooo… Yeah!!! lets hope for the best for Tidal fans that things turns out good for them.
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