Redefining how music artists take control

Redefining how music artists take control

Project Summary:

Within 2 weeks I delivered a tested prototype MVP for demo to investors. Within 3 months, working along with a top-notch iOS developer, we were able to deliver a native-coded Swift iOS application in Apple’s TestFlight environment.

Timeline

Spring 2020 – 6 Months

Industry

Music, Finance

Tools

Figma, Miro, Adobe XD

Core Team

Michael Craig (UX Lead) Corey Livingston (Co-Founder) Ashley Magitt (Co-Founder & Designer) Stefan Progovac (iOS Developer)

Only got a second?

Watch the 3-minute video overview

Have a little more time?

Read the full case study

Brief

For this project I worked with Music Being Made, a Los Angeles based startup. They were on a mission to simplify the way music creators draft split agreements, distribute music, register copyrights, and collect payments. To accomplish this we designed Splitz, a complete music management solution that helped to automate many of the repetitive tasks that occur for music creators. My role included leading the entire product design from research, testing and a shippable MVP.

The Challenge

How might we build a streamlined application that allows creators to fully manage and protect their work?

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.

Insight #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.

Impact: The focused the app’s main features to allow for intuitive lyric creation, and a straightforward multi-platform distribution flow.

Insight #2

Many are confused about streaming analytics

Streaming platforms have different ways of calculating and displaying earnings, and streaming statistics. People wanted a user-friendly analytics dashboard where they could view statistics across all streaming platforms.

Impact: We included an analytics page that clearly shows cash per stream and number of streams along with the ability to filter.

Insight #3

Users need post-edit functionality

Many users voiced the need for the ability to edit their work after uploading for tasks like artwork adjustments, and lyric corrections.

Impact: Whilst the music file would be final, we would allow for post-edits on the project.

Insight #4

Reliable split sheet/document creation

There are existing mobile apps for creating split agreements, but these were not supported well and became useless for many.

Impact: We made the best, most robust split sheet app out there. That simple.

Personas & Sketches (Day 2)

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. Based on our personas our solution needed to allow for these use-cases:

  • Creators focused only on creating split-agreements for music projects
  • Artist managers overseeing all documents and copyright office
  • Creators who manage the entire end-to-end process

I then sketched out what solutions could look like and presented these to the team before starting with mid-fidelity mockups in Adobe XD.

Mockups & Usability Testing (Days 3 & 4)

I created a clickable prototype of mid-fidelity designs using Adobe XD. 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.

Revision #1

Better onboarding / in-app education

We adjusted onboarding to educate users that they no longer need PRO information since many users expected to see this for each user added to a split sheet.

Revision #2

Removing “collective” number field

The original split agreement flow included a screen where users input a number for how many would be on the agreement. Some were unclear what to input (like did the number include themselves or no?) We were actually able to improve the flow by removing that step entirely.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.