Project Background shAIR is a project that was designed as a Spotify plug-in for a user experience design class I was taking at Northwestern University. There were no limits to the scope of the project; this was more to exercise using the design thinking process. The idea behind shAIR was to create a way for friends to experience the act of listening to music together even if they weren’t in the same physical space.
Choosing the problem We focused on music and tried looking to our own personal experiences for pain points as well as enjoyments. With enjoyments, the strongest theme that we came across was the act of listening to music with your friends. But with that came a countering pain point: listening to music with your friends at the same time and in the same space. This not only applied to friends that lived a few blocks away from each other, but friends that possibly lived miles and timezones apart
We framed our project around this problem statement: How might we help people feel more connected with each other when listening to music if they aren’t necessarily in the same physical space?
Research We began with some competitive analysis to see if there were any apps doing anything similar to the problem we were trying to solve. But after combing through a myriad of apps, we couldn’t come across anything that was a direct solution. A lot of the solutions we came across around listening to music co-currently involved people being in the same space (funny enough, I came across two apps that were released over the summer after the completion of the project).
We decided to conduct some user interviews around our design problem to see if there was a valid user need, as well as to gain insights around the experience of listening to music with other people.
From our interviews, we found two common themes:
People shared music with their friends because they enjoyed it and hoped their friends would as well, but most of this interaction would occur digitally since these friends weren’t with each other all the time
If our idea were another social network or app people had to sign up for, they would only be convinced if all their friends were using it
Solution With the insights that we gathered, we focused our design to make sure that it incorporated a way for friends to share music with one another, learn about each other's music interests, and listen to music together while not being physically “together”.
We chose the medium of a Spotify plug-in because Spotify was already known as a social network for music. This addressed the need of having to design an entirely new platform and instead, allowed the use of an already popular app. To address the idea of listening to music together wherever a user is, we created a “Tune In” function that would allow a user to listen in on their friends’ music streams; this would be visually shown on a map where in the world that friend was using Spotify.
Reflection Given the timeline of the project, we unfortunately couldn’t do as much user testing and iteration as we would have liked but ideally, we would want to further test this and see how users would react specifically to our “Tune In” function.
I think one potential pain point is if “Tuning In” to your friend’s stream poses any “creepiness” factor, which one of our classmates had addressed during our final presentation. Another thought that came up was that the “Tune In” function wasn’t personal enough and that it might not evoke a strong sense of feeling connected, so that would also be an area, if given the time, we would have liked to dive more deeply in to.