Overview                                                                                                                   
Role
Timeline
Lead product designer
The project took place over 9 weeks in November and December 2019
Clout Charts is a streaming aggregator service that lets listeners explore music from all over the world while creating an equal footing for artists around the world.
Responsibilities                                       
Team
Led the Art Direction for the Desktop App: Content Strategist, User Interface Design, UX Research, Product Design, and Asset Collector
1 UX Researcher, 1 Product Designer, and 1 Developer

CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO OF MUSIC STREAMING

These are just a few of the many, many artists that will likely never be heard by people who might enjoy this music; artists that I
only found by chance.

The industry feels very much limited to mainstream, even in 2020. I really want to disrupt the monopoly the mainstream has to make music more egalitarian. Subsequently, I set out to solve this problem with my team for an investor that wanted to make music listening fun.


PROJECT BRIEF: INITIAL IDEAS AND DESIGNS FOR CLOUT CHARTS

One of my team members came up with the name ‘Clout Charts’ to describe a site where people can discover music through
various charts.

Clout Charts aims to provide equal grounding for every artist, while also exposing listeners to a unique and diverse music selection.

The idea to essentially create an updated version of Rate Your Music, where people can score and review songs while the site aggregates these ratings into different lists.
MY TEAM OF DESIGNERS BEGAN TO UNPACK THE CHALLENGE BY SCOPING OUT AND CONCEPTUALIZING HOW WE COULD CREATE THE MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT OF A UNIQUE & USER-FRIENDLY MUSIC EXPLORATION STREAMING PLATFORM IN 9 WEEKS

TAKING A STEP BACK AND DISCOVERING NEW IDEAS

We got ahead of ourselves and assumed the original solution would be to create a chart platform that shows stats of the collective streams an artist accrued across all music streaming services. However, the research team found a number of flaws with the underlying logic of that solution. Charts, lists, and genres do not always help artists and can instead hinder music exploration.

Although rankings and statistics can provide valuable data to artists and labels, these can create psychological barriers limiting people from going beyond the charts to discover music by unlisted artists.

UNDERSTANDING HOW USERS LISTEN TO MUSIC

After taking a step back and realizing our missteps, the team decided to do ethnographic/qualitative interviews with people to see how they hear, consume, and discover music.

As a remote team, we were able to interview 30 male and female participants throughout Atlanta, Houston, Oakland, and New York between the ages of 17 and 55.

This wide range of participants uncovered some very comprehensive results.

KEY FINDINGS FROM MUSIC LISTENERS

We not only learned how people discovered music, but their biggest problems with streaming services and chart listings as well.

The overarching takeaway was that people are driven to discover music out of curiosity, but they run into critical roadblocks throughout the process. These barriers are shown below.

INSIGHTS ON MUSIC LISTENER TYPES

From the above insights, we discovered a myriad of listener types. These are roughly categorized by how much effort they put into their music listening habits.
Never listens to any music and doesn't care to.
Plays whatever is on the radio.
Gets their music through radio and billboard charts.
Discovers and engages music from what's around them; such as gas stations, tv shows, live performances, etc.
Uses streaming sites to discover music through curated playlists, and to support their favorite artists.
Frequents blogs and various other sites to find indie music and alternative genres. The main go-to sites are Reddit, 4chan, indie blogs, Rateyourmusic, and Piratebay.
Digs through vinyl, music shops, and other highly interactive mediums of music consumption. They're open to any and everything.

COMPETITIVE MUSIC STREAMING SCENE

We then carried out a second round of interviews to discover various music streaming platforms, which included music database sites like Rate Your Music and Hype Machine.

Examining the competitive landscape showed us that Music Streaming, Music Nerd, and Music Aficionado Listeners all had very similar critiques of the popular music streaming platforms and database sites: it was too hard to discover new music.

Whether it was due to limited recommendations, boring lists, or just lack of knowledge on what is out there to be discovered, users needed more engaging ways to explore. These additional user and competitive analysis insights led us to our next problem statement.
HOW CAN WE CREATE A SINGULAR LISTENING EXPERIENCE FOR OUR USERS THAT INCORPORATED THE CURRENT GAPS IN THE MARKET?
ANSWER: FOCUS ON EXPLORATION, SOUNDS, AND EXPERIENCES

NOT CHARTS, LISTS, AND GENRES
CLOUT CHARTS DESKTOP 
THE MUSIC APP THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING
The Clout Charts desktop app focuses on discovery above the typical trending lists. One of the major attractions is definitely the music heat map, where listeners can directly see what type of music originates from different regions of the world.

In the onboarding stages, users have the option to pick a light gradient or dark mode layout -- and can swap anytime for greater accessibility.
Below the fold of the homepage features favorite albums, recommended albums, and a spotlight for obscure styles of music.
Further down, we showcased the user’s search results based on their keywords. We also provided a section that populates with alternative music from different decades every week.

ACTIVITY DASHBOARD

Feed: For the Likes page, I wanted to have a gamification-based layout that encourages users to be competitive with one another as they explore music.

Based on user feedback, it was important to have the likes section not only display music that they liked, but also to show badges for exploration, stats of what they listened to, what friends liked the same music,  in addition to updates on things related to music they liked (such as news about the artist and their label/company)

MUSIC CATALOG - THE DIGITAL CRATE DIGGING EXPERIENCE 

The idea of songs discovering the listeners very much sounds like the same recommendation system of typical streaming sites.
My team wanted to tackle this challenge by having users put in keywords and using an aggregator to scrape music tagged with related metadata (such as moods, themes, semantic analysis of music reviews, etc) from all over the internet.

These keywords would be matched with the sentiments of the music as opposed to just the genre tags. Catalog explorers can also select tags to further expand on the specific type of sound they are looking for.

SEARCH FOR ANY AND EVERYTHING 

Where the catalog page allowed for exploration based on moods and keywords, the search page would be where users can find specific songs, artists, and albums.

We didn’t want to create a regular search page. Instead, we designed a collage of albums that the user could scan. Inspired by Instagram, this feature has an infinite scroll and displays unique album covers.

FUTURE RELEASES AND USER RECOMMENDATIONS

For future releases, we want to focus more on community pages, music heat maps, and the artist’s dashboard. These features would establish a strong network effect and directly address the needs of music creators as well as listeners.

We also want to build out the artists’ side of the site allowing them to add and label their music as well as interact
with listeners.

Building this project was an exercise in combating assumptions in favor of user testing insights. This project was very successful and has an NPS of +87%!

LESSONS LEARNED  

Throughout this process, I've gained some valuable insights into what makes a great product. The very name ‘Clout Charts’ itself became an ironic and constant reminder of these assumptions we all had going into this project.

With These Lessons In Mind, Clout Charts Listeners Would Feel Energized, Delighted, and Inspired On Their Music Exploration Journey.