Design student imagines simplified navigation and gamified experience for Apple Music

After he got turned down for a dream internship at Apple, Northwestern University design student Jason Yuan took matters into his own hands, deciding to teach Apple a thing or two about good user interface design. The result of his endeavor: beautiful mockups of a completely overhauled user interface for Apple Music.

Yuan explains in a post on Medium that the current Apple Music design is not well-suited for people without massive music libraries who prefer to listen to curated playlists.

On creating the mockups:

At first, I was frustrated — Northwestern University doesn’t offer any sort of undergraduate graphic design program, so whatever growth they were looking for would have to be self taught. But as soon as I came to this realization, I became inspired to embark on what became a a three-month long journey to the holy grail — the iOS app that Apple Music deserves.

For me, this was an opportunity to really dig my teeth into UX research and design, an excuse to spend way too much time on Sketch and Principle, a reason to bore everyone around me with my notebook of crudely drawn wireframes.

He says his Apple Music redesign effort was informed by qualitative user research, Apple’s official Design Principles and his own designer intuition.

He imagined what a video-centric experience on Apple Music could look like.

As you know, the Cupertino firm is gearing up to launch its first original shows on the service. According to Yuan, videos would be served via a new Watch tab, with a Daily Stream feature pushing exclusive video content to Apple Music members based on their preferences.

Apple is also underestimating the power of gamification, the student said.

“I have come to understand that, through a gamified experience, the user is able to establish an immediate connection to the music they discover,” he added.

His proposed My Sampler feature would replace the current New Music Mix playlists.

Here’s an excerpt from Yuan’s post:

It was born out of the understanding that users who are picky about what goes into their library would also be more reluctant to sit through an entire playlist full of new music. A better experience would be presenting snippets—or samples—of curations that gives the user just enough information to decide whether or not to add it into their library and weekly playlist.

Upon entering a Sampler section, the user would be presented with a series of artist headshots that corresponded to a curated song. After tapping and holding, the system would play a 15-second preview of each song from the album. The user could swipe up to reject the song or swipe down to add it to their library.

Once the user has finished sampling, their selections could be used by the system to create a New Music Mix that the user can listen to. “I chose to use gestural interaction so that users can use the Sampler even if they’re not looking at the screen,” he writes.

In Yuan’s view, Apple should focus on integrating existing social media with Apple Music instead of trying to push yet another one on its already overburdened consumers.

“Truth is, I didn’t see any data from my research that would justify keeping the Connect feed in the app as is,” he said. “Users were more interested in connecting with friends and family through music (a la Spotify) instead of with artists through a watered-down Twitter.”

After making it through the first seed, Yuan was selected for an interview with Apple.

Unfortunately, they turned him down.

Though his work was OK, Apple told him it preferred candidates with more growth and training. Yuan eventually completed his internship at Sony Music, where he learned that a brand’s visual presence in a streaming service “must be recognizable yet invisible at the same time.”

Be sure to check out Yuan’s post on Medium for additional mockups and his thoughts on how Apple Music could be rethought from a user experience standpoint, including an enhanced For You section and more.

How do you like Yuan’s user interface ideas for Apple Music?

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