Spotify Concept: Creating memories with collaborative queues

Renee Hoh
7 min readDec 12, 2019

Whenever I’m faced with a long walk to class or tedious amount of studying, I open my Spotify app. Boredom is my poison, and a good Spotify playlist is my antidote.

It’s easy when it’s just myself. But when I get together with friends, it can be difficult to gauge what music is fitting for the mood. Everyone wants to DJ, but at the same time, it’s awkward to take turns playing songs even if we want to share our music with each other. It also seems unrealistic to create a playlist on the spot to appease everyone. More often than not, we would settle for one person to take control of the AUX. It felt like music was becoming a less integral aspect of my social experiences.

I didn’t want listening to music and social interaction to be mutually exclusive. So I began my journey to find a creative solution.

What Spotify does for Users

Spotify does a lot of things well. There’s no doubt as to why it’s one of the top music-streaming apps on the market:

  1. It gives users like me more control to customize their music than the radio does
  2. Users get access to millions of streamable songs with or without a subscription

Yet, I find that I rarely use it socially.

Yeah, sometimes I’ll scroll through my friend’s playlist or try to collaborate on a playlist. But it’s not a big part of my Spotify experience.

I think that the community informing one another on the latest news, trends, or even songs, is a valuable interaction that Spotify could encourage.

User Research

I spoke to frequent Spotify users to see how they used their app in their day-to-day. In particular, I focused on how they explore music and archive the songs they like. I found that:

  1. Users don’t see self-made playlists as the easiest way…(“it’s too tedious”)
  2. …Or the most organized way to curate their music (“I end up just creating one large playlist”)
  3. Users explore new music with Spotify-made playlists, rather from friends (“repetition is boring”)

It seems that users are not creating personalized playlists that they could share with friends, because they didn’t want to overthink or agonize over the process. Instead, users often rely on the “skip” and “queue” feature to customize their experiences.

Potential Gamechangers?

Market Research — How other apps do it

I was curious about how popular music apps encouraged users to create playlists that can be shared. I found that apps had nearly identical entry points, a “New Playlist” or “Create Playlist” button.

So, no I didn’t stumble upon any game-changers.

But I did realize that this entry point requires the user to have the intention to create a playlist, making the process of curating a playlist less organic.

Tackling the Problem

Brainstorming

I spent a Saturday afternoon with my friends Alice, Lucy & Grace (all avid Spotify users) to come up with potential solutions. We went through a timed brainstorming exercise and filled up a wall with sticky notes.

We identified three solution spaces and (thankfully!) some potential solutions as well:

Solution Space: More collaborative features

  • The collaborative queue: multiple users add to the same queue

Solution Space: More efficient playlist UI

  • Archive songs within the playlist: auto-skip songs if they are archived

Solution Space: More playlist customization

  • Play from multiple playlists: shuffle play from more than one playlist

Focus on Active Interaction

After sketching potential UIs for the three solutions, I decided on the collaborative queue idea because it directly tackled the issue of interaction. The other two focused more on improving the existing playlist feature.

Collaborative Queue sketch

A potential roadblock

At this point, I realized that Spotify had a similar idea in the works. They might implement social listening, which lets multiple users add to the same queue.

Again, I conducted market research in hopes of refining my idea and taking it one step further.

I was inspired by Google Play Music, which allowed users to save their queues. I imagined Spotify users could add songs to a queue and then save the queued songs in a playlist to capture that moment.

My Proposed Solution 💡

I wanted to implement a Collaborative Queue feature in Spotify where users can create/join a session and any member can add songs to the same queue. When a user leaves the session, they will have the option of creating a new playlist from the songs that were queued in the session to remember that moment or event.

The collaborative queue is intended to be more interactive and an in-the-moment activity. I imagine this being used for road trips, (themed) parties, etc. when music is played over a speaker.

While Spotify is primarily a music streaming app, I think it’s important for users to start conversations outside of the app itself, and to use music to create new collaborations or friendships.

Medium Fidelity Explorations

Since this feature needed screens that do not exist in Spotify, I worked through many different workflows with varying entry points and call-to-actions. Here are a few:

And I played around with visual design:

Whenever I felt stuck, I would user test with Spotify users and heard what users had to say.

Iterating, Iterating, Iterating…

I created a few more explorations on pages or components that were completely new.

First, I looked at how users can share this queue, which is integral to my initial problem.

I decided on both the second and third options.

The Spotify barcode is consistent with the functionality and visual design of the rest of the app. The social media options allow for a convenient option to share links in 3rd-party apps. Convenience is key to encourage sharing.

Then, I looked at how users can toggle between their personal queue and a collaborative queue.

My medium-fidelity has a pop-up , which Spotify doesn’t usually use. Instead, I mirrored the “Your Library” page which slides between different tabs. This also introduces users to this new feature by associating it with the existing queue.

Users click to begin a session or scan a Spotify code, but the page doesn’t require action.

Finally, an important component of the queue is, of course, your friends! I needed a way to show how many contributors there were, and who they are, so I created three screens of the queue playlist page and one. The screen on the right is the contributors page, which enforces a limit on the number of people, which is currently set to six, and shows how many songs each person has queued.

For the queue playlist page, I chose the third UI because it uses space most efficiently and moves the large “Leave Session” button is in the three-dot icon. My users did mention they were afraid they might accidentally leave the queue.

(And yes, that’s Dwight Schrute)

Entering the Realm of Visual Design

I created a UI kit with the necessary font sizes, colors, icons, components, and spacing. The icons were native to Spotify, but I recreated them in Figma just for good practice. This made my high fidelity models a lot easier to create later on and made me think about how to construct simple, yet intuitive icons.

Introducing the Prototype

Visual Design

After user testing and experimentation, here is the workflow I decided on! 🎉

Eventually, I want to develop the two workflows and create two separate prototypes (one for joining and one for creating a queue). For now, I have a prototype that shows the steps to creating your own queue.

Prototype Video:

https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/oisrc6d8xsg4dxeiq2d9j/Spotify-Collaborative-Queue.paper?dl=0&rlkey=uv2ec4vqj11t768p8xas00rgk

Reflection

Spotify is already a successful, easy-to-use app, and serves its purpose for streaming music, but I wanted more interaction among users. The collaborative queue intends to make sharing music feel more natural and organic. I can imagine my friends taking turns to queue songs and listening together, creating a unique experience with each session.

None of the apps on the market have implemented collaborative queues so it felt like I was in uncharted territory. But relentlessly user testing and iterating through designs helped guide me to finding this solution.

I hope my design challenges you to think beyond the conventional ways we engage with our apps, because sometimes it may take an unorthodox approach to encourage interaction!

I learned how to think like a product designer, use Figma, and prototype for the first time this past semester. I’m delighted to share what I’ve been working on for the past 10 weeks; thanks for scrolling!

Created for Cornell AppDev’s Intro to Product Design course.

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Renee Hoh

@cornell / writing casually, creatively, and (sometimes) professionally