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Spotify began rolling out a brand new redesign for its users last week. It’s a sleeker, darker, apparently much improved revamp across all three of its platforms: web, desktop and mobile.
Apparently both YouTube and Apple will be launching similar subscription based streaming services this year so Spotify’s multi-platform redesign seems like an early attempt to set the pace.
I took a look at the previous incarnation of Spotify just over a month ago in Seven reasons why I love Spotify and 17 why I don’t. I use Spotify more than any other music platform (I actually use them all on an almost weekly basis) and I couldn’t function without its unlimited access to 20m songs and ability to sync playlists to multiple devices.
However I am profoundly aware of its limitations and frustrations. Just a few UX tweaks here or there could massively improve the experience.
There’s an argument to say that because Spotify never really had any competition, it didn’t have to worry too much about improving its functionality. However with Google Play, Beats Music and now iTunes and YouTube launching rival services, it’s time for Spotify to up its game.
Let’s see if the redesign has done just that?
“How much more black could this be? And the answer is none”
The first thing you’ll notice is that someone in the Spotify design team has hit the ‘negative’ switch.
Apparently this super-dark new redesign is to draw complete attention to the album cover artwork. As Spotify's director of product Michelle Kadir explains: "It's like when you go to the cinema, and they dim the lights, and the movie steps forward and takes over the room”.
It does look great, especially on a HD quality smartphone, however the problem arises when an album cover is dark itself. A few of those dark grey covers above look quite lost.
For all of my complaints about Google Play, that functional light grey background really makes the album covers ‘pop’. (I felt as uncomfortable with that as you did).
“You don’t do heavy metal in dobly”
Spotify used to present albums in a slightly uneven, scattershot manner on the discovery page.
Now they’re a uniform size across the page and if you resize your browser window you’ll be presented with a different order and amount of albums per row.
It’s not perfect in a truly responsive way, but it is certainly an improvement and looks far more cutting edge than it did before.
“As long as there's sex and drugs, I can do without rock and roll”
The best new feature that Spotify has launched is called ‘Your Music’.
You can now save an entire album on its own just with one-click of a button, rather than having to create a brand new playlist for it or adding the album to an ever-growing playlist.
Just click on ‘save’ and it will immediately create a link to it within your playlist section. This can then be downloaded or synced to your other devices at your leisure.
The album can still be added to another playlist just as before by clicking on the circular menu button next to ‘Save’.
“Why don’t you just make 10 louder?”
You’ll be relieved to learn that Spotify is faster. Much, much faster. The loading time for each platform has been improved dramatically and the navigation is far more slick and efficient than it used to be.
Spotify has jettisoned the fiddly play buttons which made controlling the music from your browser a nightmare.
Now we have lovely bright green call-to-action buttons in keeping with the logo and much bigger buttons for playing and skipping tracks. The volume control is also no longer hidden in a hard-to-find hover menu.
The new ‘Browse’ page presents users with bespoke playlists and album choices based on what time of day/day of the week it is, personal preferences and listening history.
It’s currently Monday morning and here’s the selection Spotify has for me.
‘Morning Glory: Let’s Go’ is meant to energise the start of my week with U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ and Oasis. Taste arguments aside, it’s a feature heading towards more of a personalised feel and I’m happy to see direct access to ‘New Releases’ which is something I do use a lot.
“Bizarre gardening accident”
My other favourite feature from the update is the greatly improved ‘Related Music’ tool. When you play a track, the list below is immediately populated with relevant recommendations.
These choices are specific to the track, not the album, so when you skip through the current album tracks you’ll be presented with 10 different yet highly relevant choices.
‘Dress Me Up’ is recommending me nothing but 80s pop gold. However if you skip ahead to a slower Madonna track, let’s say ‘Crazy For You’ the ‘Related Music’ tab repopulates with loads of great romantic slowies.
I was genuinely impressed with this.
“Enough of my yakkin’, let's boogie!”
All in all it’s an impressive redesign and definitely puts the service in better stead for competing with the forthcoming onslaught of rival services.
There are still improvements to be made. In the web browser I’m still not convinced I like the way pages overlay on top of each other when I’m browsing, but that may just be a personal preference and time will tell if the ‘Discover’ page has improved its previously erroneous recommendations.
However the personalised ‘Browse’ page is a step in the right direction and again the ‘Related Music’ tool is brilliant.
With faster navigation and load-up, clearer call-to-action buttons, a contemporary looking aesthetic that now brings continuity across all three platforms and the ability to save albums with one-click, this really is an excellent update.
For more on digital music platforms, read Death to iTunes! Comparing Google Play, Amazon, Spotify and more.