Early in 2017, the Northwestern student Jason Yuan applied for a graphic design internship at Apple Music. When he didn’t get it after a second interview, he set out on a three-month-long quest: to redesign the service’s interface–and, presumably, get a little closure.
In a Medium post published this week, Yuan lays out the changes he’d make to Apple Music’s existing design and why–with a disclaimer that says he wasn’t motivated by “indignation or spite.” It’s an in-depth dive into one of Apple’s most troubled software products, which saw a major overhaul several years ago. Yuan’s ideas are convincingly researched and argued, and some of them could benefit any music streaming service.
Perhaps Apple and Spotify should listen up–or send him an offer.
A Tinder-Like Discovery Tool
As part of his user research, Yuan found that Apple Music users are often holdovers from iTunes, and tend to be what he called “hoarders:” more selective music listeners with large libraries that they rarely add to. On the other end of the spectrum are what he called “nomads,” or people who listen to music mainly through playlists and curated content, and who he says are likely already on Spotify (which makes sense, because Spotify’s Discover tool and curated and personalized playlists are some of its best features).
Instead of trying to double down on curated playlists, something Apple Music already features, Yuan tried to cater to the hoarders, who might not want to add an entire playlist of new music to their libraries. His answer? A feature he calls “My Sampler,” which has a Tinder-like interface. Users can swipe through songs, pressing and holding to hear a 15-second preview of the song before deciding if they’re interested in listening to the whole thing (a throwback to iTunes, where you could listen to a short snippet before deciding if you wanted to buy a song). All the songs you swipe down on are added to a playlist for listening. Swipe up, and the song won’t be added.
Search Like Google
Right now, Apple Music’s search function queries your library and the entirety of Apple Music separately–but the search terms you need for each are different. Apple Music can handle “fuzzy” search terms, like “Gaga songs,” while the library search can’t.
Instead of its existing tab-based, two-pronged UI, Yuan suggests creating one unified search bar, that then shows results from your library first and from the rest of Apple Music second.
Right now, in order to add a song to a playlist or to your library while listening, you have to tap the menu button on the bottom right corner, then select “Love” (or “Dislike,” as the situation may be). Yuan proposes a simple change. Instead of going through the lengthier menu process, why not just use a motion users are likely already intimately familiar with: the double tap.
In his version of Apple Music, users can double tap the album cover displayed when a song is playing in order to “Love” it, making it much easier for users to give the service’s algorithms feedback so it improves its personalized music selections. It’s just like Instagram.
Based on these three of Yuan’s design tweaks, it sounds like Apple missed out.