Brief

Splitz is a mobile app for songwriters and music creators to easily create split sheets, distribute music, register copyrights, and collect payments. My role included leading the entire product design from research, testing and a shippable MVP.

 

The Challenge

Music creators are creating more than ever. This is quite evident with thousands of songs being submitted to various music streaming platforms each day. The problem is, creators often aren’t able to properly protect their work. Without proper documentation, copyright registration, and performing rights organization registration, creators risk losing out on royalties. The Los Angeles, CA based startup Music Being Made wanted to create a new platform to help creators protect what belongs to them.

Design Sprint

The client wanted to get the project up and going quickly, so I setup a Design Sprint, a short 4 day process with the goal of validating the initial concept and solving design challenges through prototyping and user-testing. This project happened during the initial heat of the COVID-19 Pandemic, so this meant doing a completely remote design sprint. We used tools like Miro for collaborating, Notion for housing research/analysis and Lookback.io for live/moderated user-testing sessions.

 

Initial Research & Competitive Analysis (Day 1)

At the time we began the project, there were no direct competitors trying to accomplish everything that Splitz would. We did find that there were a few mobile apps and web applications that accomplished a few of our functions, but not all of them. However a few months into the project, we found out that a well-established independent music distribution service was planning to release a mobile application that would likely include features we were building.

My research included getting a thorough understanding of existing products & services along with their audience, usability, structure, and design. We analyzed numerous user reviews and feedback requests to get an idea of what music creators really needed. I found that many people suggested the same features, features that were not yet readily available in many applications. We also gathered a group of people with various roles in the music industry including: Music Artists from various genres, Producers, and songwriters.

Research Findings (Day 2)

  1. Creators want to mobilize the Music development process
    We found that many music artists, producers, and song-writers wanted to be able to handle pre and post-production functions on their phone. This included writing lyrics, uploading songs, distributing to streaming platforms, and managing payouts.
  2. Many are confused about streaming analytics
    It’s common for various streaming platforms to have different ways of calculating cash per stream along with how many plays. People wanted a clear and understandable dashboard where they could see analytics across all streaming platforms.
  3. Users wanted Post-edit functionality
    Many users voiced the need to be able to edit their work after uploading for things like artwork, lyric adjustments/corrections, etc.
  4. Easy and Accessible support options
    People wanted an application that would allow them to access support options if they ran into any roadblocks. In-app chat support was the main recurring request.
  5. Reliable split sheet/document creation
    There were existing mobile apps for creating split sheets, but often were not supported well so the applications would become useless. In addition, music creators would need other legal documents prepared along with split sheet agreements.

Personas

After analyzing the initial data, I created personas to define the groups of individuals we’d be targeting. This better equipped me to understand who our users were and how the Splitz mobile app could alleviate pain points and help them accomplish their goals.

Initial mockups & Usability Testing (Days 3 & 4)

The client presented me with mid-fidelity screens that had been completed by a previous designer in Adobe Illustrator. I imported the screens, made a few updates, and created a clickable prototype using Adobe XD. I made 2 versions of the app to test different navigation structures, so one group would test an “A” version and the others would test a “B” version.

Once the prototypes were ready I prepared a Usability testing plan, scheduled the testing sessions with 5 people per version and performed live moderated tests using Lookback.io. After completing the tests I compile a report showing where users were having issues and suggestions to improve the overall experience.

Visual Design & Mobile Development

After the 4-day sprint, we moved on to the next steps suggested in the report. I redesigned a number of screens, implementing suggestions made in the usability test report. I also started the design system to house all of the main colors, typography and components. After producing the MVP, I worked with Stefan, iOS Developer to bring the design to fruition. We worked together for about 3 months to get the first version to Apple’s TestFlight application before going into the App Store.

Outcomes

  • I was able to produce completed developer-ready designs within about 2 weeks after the initial 4-Day design sprint. From there I worked with development to get the MVP into Apple’s TestFlight.
  • Design enhancements and new user flows from additional TestFlight app testing
  • With the completed designs for Splitz, the client presented a Pitch Deck showcasing the app to investors for further design & Development.

UPDATE

  • As of April 2021, Music Being Made, LLC is expecting it’s first round of investor funding for further development of the Splitz iOS application.

 

Key Learnings

  1. Iterate and Test quickly New concepts require regular testing and validation. Even after doing a first round of user testing, it’s easy to make assumptions about the user and trust intuition for new features. Many of these features were quite complex, and usually were actions performed on desktop, so even though it made sense to me while designing, flaws in the design quickly became evident once testers got their hands on it.
  2. Involve development early in the process Since this was a start-up, funds had to be used sparingly. So I had to balance features and feasibility. Getting development involved earlier in the process would have helped us better prioritize what was needed for the MVP.
  3. Journey Maps and User Flow Diagrams are a must This definitely wasn’t one of those projects where I could get away with not having flow diagrams. As the project continued over the next few months, more and more features would be included, many of these features would include multiple ways of performing an action. Flow diagrams help to expose holes in the user experience and visualize whether the proposed design solution is really the best solution.
  4. Re-use familiar design patterns The Splitz app started out with the main function of creating split agreements, later we would add the ability to create “projects” which could include music uploads, lyrics and other documents. By re-using the “create split sheet” flow it made the rest of the app familiar to use. It also helped development to go smoother since one pattern could be used for all of the action flows.