Case Study
SoundCloud
On Air was a project crafted with the purpose of connecting people around music in-the-moment through a shared listening experience. As a Senior Product Designer, I led the design efforts throughout the whole scope between October 2016 — July 2017. The project gathered huge interest in a way to bring a novelty to the SoundCloud platform.
IDEATION
We kicked-off the project with one generic problem statement: How might we enable Gen-Z to have deeper connections around music?
With the involvement of a dozen from different disciplines, we ran a design sprint for a full week to investigate possibilities around the problem. Amongst many bright proposals, I was lucky enough to have coined the idea that got most of the votes, in the end, to be prototyped: On Air.
Some of the flows we sketched for On Air during the design sprint, facilitated by Oliver Rich
PERSONA STORIES
Upon validation of the concept, we had received quite valuable feedback from certain creators, curators, and listeners - which later helped me construct persona stories for On Air.
As each type of user has specific needs, I wrote imaginary-but-realistic stories that intersected all in the context of a shared music listening experience. Written in direct collaboration with user researchers, persona stories widened our vision dramatically as we could see many other opportunities we had not imagined before.
An example page from the persona stories I wrote collaborating with Mike Rehrig and Basim Al-Baker
VISION
It was time to envision the product more concretely using the insights we had gathered. The personality and the mission we defined acted as the North Star for the project ensuring that we are on the right path while building On Air.
Working closely with two product managers and the stakeholders, I constructed a design-driven product vision picturing the main aspects of On Air both from the broadcasters' and listeners' point of view.
A quick look at the principles and the mission we defined for On Air experience.
An overview on the main aspects of broadcasters in the context of On Air.
Bird's-eye view on the main aspects of listeners in the context of On Air.
GOING ON AIR
Music creators and curators are the ones with the passion of reaching to masses by expressing their creativity and music taste. This requires full control over playback, engaging with listeners, branding, and discoverability to grow an audience.
Along with an extensive competitive research, I looked at how radio stations and DJs operate in the real world. Accordingly, I designed a simple system for broadcasters to maximize their audience reach.
A blackprint I used to communicate the information architecture of the view for starting an on air session.
Broadcaster names the on air session to provide clarity on what the audience should expect before diving in.
Additional information such as room description, tags and a custom artwork increases the discoverability of the session.
The last step (optional) for the broadcaster is to configure the session queue and choose the time to go on air.
Building a queue before the session begins, preferred by many, allows broadcasters to have a proper and timely start.
LISTENING
Listening to music together simultaneously has a more human and a momentary feeling that excites people. For this, listeners needed to meet the right people and the right music, interacting together in the right moment.
Observing humans and their reactions to the music, especially in festive environments, I designed a system that enables music lovers to discover airing sessions to their likings, react and engage with others unitedly as well as growing their collection with hand-picked music.
Listeners discover sessions via relevant channels such as instant notifications, recommendations, search and filtering.
Regional discovery on a map for the currently airing sessions in the world, inspired by Radio Garden
The core view of the shared listening experience, where listeners feel connected in-the-moment.
The web version of the room view where the core playback controls are disabled for the audience.
Audience reactions simultaneously reaching to the top, while the peak of the track is being heard.
Swiping right, listeners can view the room information as well as take actions on the currently playing track.
Listeners can view others that are currently in the same room, follow or interact with the ones who seem to be like-minded.
BROADCASTER CONTROLS
To ensure the reliability of an ongoing session, broadcasters needed to have a superior role in the administration and management of the room.
On Air sessions are designed in a way to fully equip broadcasters with the control over playback, session queue, voice-over, audience management and room settings.
The room view for broadcasters is slightly different than the audience's allowing them more with more control over the session.
Playback controls and editing the session queue are two of the core broadcasting facilities while on air.
Web version of the session queueI refined the playback icons in the web, in order to establish visual consistency in the platform.
I refined the playback icons in the web, in order to establish visual consistency in the platform.
Autoplay ensures that the session persists gracefully for a while more, in case the broadcaster is disconnected unintentionally.
Broadcaster ready to voice-over like in actual radio (left). The audience hears him/her along with subtle visual feedback (right).
Broadcaster can assign others as co-hosts, send direct messages and personally invite people to his/her session on the go.
Broadcaster ending a session with a timer. Right afterward, the influence of their sessions is shown via relevant stats.
CLOSURE
In April 2016, a four people squad including myself built a minimum viable product of On Air for cross-platform. Demoed internally the following week, our prototype received enormous support and excited many SoundClouders for an innovative opportunity.
On Air having become a cult project internally, we were prepared to test it in the field with thousands of hand-picked listeners, curators, and creators. Yet, SoundCloud faced a very unfortunate incident due to financial issues laying-off staff and having to limit development on certain projects.
Myself, designing in the offsite we had in April 2016. Photo taken by Cole Mercer
On Air was going to be the festive place betwen remote offices during the week of the 10th year anniversary of SoundCloud.
SHOUT OUT
I would like to thank to Cole Mercer for his restless product management efforts, Brian Egan for dedicating himself to implementing it, Jori Bell for her support in market research, and to Peter Minarik for making it work cross-platform.