Competitive Feature Analysis Chart
This project was a 1-week sprint at the Ironhack UX/UI bootcamp. The challenge was to pick a well-established App, find pain points that users have, and figure out a way to solve for them. I picked the Apple Podcasts App because of its popularity and diverse user group. In 1-week I was able to recruit users to interview, identified their main pain point, formulated a solution and implemented it into a clone of the Apple Podcasts App that I made.
During this challenge, I found that the biggest frustration users had with the app, is that you cannot resume playing a podcast that is not part of your subscribed list of podcast. However, this issue seems to be a programmatic issue so I focused on solving the second biggest issue, which was that users were frustrated by the layout and navigation of the App.
The main focus when solving this problem, was to figure out how the users would like to see the content organized in the App, and how they would want to navigate. If I could figure this out, then I could redesign the App to take away the users' pains and provide a more intuitive App.
Overall: 1 week
Discovery & Research: 0.5 weeks
Design Cloning & testing: 0.5 weeks
I began the research process by taking a look at the competition. The biggest competitors are Google podcasts, Spotify and Pocket Casts. By analyzing these apps, and seeing what features and functionalities they have, it will help me understand where Apple podcasts stands in the market, giving me an idea of how the app could be improved.
The feature analysis chart shows that there Apple podcasts is well positioned in the market when it comes to features and function. Compared to the competition, Apple only lacks 3 features, Music Player, Like Button and sleep timer. If user research shows that these are wanted by people, it would be a good idea to incorporate into the app.
I interviewed 5 people to get an idea of where the user’s experience lies with the Apple Podcast app. All the interviewees have used the App in the past or are still using it. Some key findings from the interviews are listed below:
3 out of 5 interviewees said that Apple has the best variety and selection of podcasts.
4 out of 5 interviewees recently left Apple podcasts for Spotify.
4 out of 5 interviewees indicated they will not use Apple podcast app anymore.
From the findings, it is interesting to see that eventhough Apple seems to have the most variety and largest selection of podcasts, there is something about the App that is turning people away from it and in the direction of the competition. The main user pain points identified in the interviews are listed below.
5 out of 5 interviewees complained about the way the app’s content is laid out.
5 out of 5 interviewees found it difficult to navigate the App to find a podcast episode.
5 out of 5 interviewees expressed frustration with the App’s “Resume Playing” function.
The first two pain points are directly related with the Information Architecture of the App. These findings indicate that if we improve the information architecture of the App we might be able to improve navigation within the App and help Apple retain users or even attract new ones.
To help dissect and analyze the data gathered in the research, i created an affinity diagram. I extracted pieces of data from my interviews and created post-it notes to put them on a board. By then grouping the data, we can identify trends that will help us more narrowly define a problem statement.
The data that is enclosed in red boxes in the affinity diagram above, shows those pain points that are associate with the information architecture of the App. As you can see, there are many instances were the users expressed frustration with the IA.
To further empathize with our user base, I created a User Persona. This persona is a representation of the users interviewed and posses their characteristics and goals. Creating the persona, we are able to understand our user more to empathize further with them. This persona is a good way to get out of my head and into the head of the user to promote user-centered design process.
Customer Journey Map
Next I created a Journey Map to visually show Curious Jorge’s mood throughout the process of using the Apple podcast App. The journey will help us visualize where Jorge will be the most frustrated in the process.
We can quickly see that the lowest mood point in Jorge’s journey is at the end, when he tries to Resume playing a podcast that he had previously started. However, when looking into this issue, it looks like the App has the structure and functionality to Resume playing podcasts, but it seems it is not functioning properly. This issue is more programatic than a design issue, and therefore, it is outside the scope of this project. The next lowest points are in the journey are when Jorge arrives at the home page, and when he is browsing and selecting a podcast episode.
The Apple Podcast App was designed to allow people to quickly find and listen to Podcasts. In my research, I have observed that the App’s Main screens are not providing clear navigation and content which is causing users to switch to other Podcast Apps.
How Might We Statement
How might we help listeners find an episode that interests them more quickly and efficiently?
I believe that by helping listeners find an episode that interests them more quickly and efficiently, Apple can retain users and attract new ones. I will know this effort will be successful if there is an increase in the number of App users.
We can conclude that the main problems that users are experiencing with the Apple podcasts app are related to the information architecture. There is room for improving the way that the pages are laid out and grouped within the App. In order to improve this, I started by taking inventory of the main pages and subpages of the app by creating a site map.
Creating a site map helps us take inventory of the pages included in the app and also gives us a birds-eye view of the grouping of these pages. After taking inventory, we can use a card sorting exercise with users of the app, to see how they would expect these pages to be laid out.
Card sorting was performed with 5 users. They were given index cards with the names of each of the pages and sub-pages from the App. Then they were tasked to group the sub-pages within the main pages that they believed they would be grouped under. This will shows us where the user expects to find the different content. The below site map was created by using the card sorting feedback from users in an effort to organize the site in a more user friendly way.
Due to user feedback, the main changes to the site map are listed below:
2 main pages changed names: the “Browse” page changed to “Discover” and the “Library” page changed to “My Library”.
4 sub-pages moved to a different main page.
3 sub-pages changed names.
Mid-Fi Wireframes & Testing
To better understand how users interact with the App and try to hone in on ways to improve navigation I created mid-Fi wireframes that I could use to test with users. The lack of color, images and content in the mid-fis will help the user better focus on the flows and structure of the app rather than the aesthetics. I recruited 5 testers and gave them the below list of tasks to perform.
Find a podcast episode that is part of your subscribed podcasts
Find a podcast episode that is similar to your subscribed podcasts
Find a new podcast of any topic
Find a popular podcast episode of any topic
Find a podcast that you have downloaded to your device
After testing with the mid-fi prototype, the user feedback I received resulted in 3 sub-pages being removed from the App since users thought they were redundant and only made the App seem busier. The sub-pages that were removed were “If You Liked…”, “Explore Collections”, “New to Podcasts?”.
Hi-Fi App Clone & Prototype
After a round of card sorting and mid-fi testing, I created Hi-Fi wireframes incorporating all the user feedback and the Information Architecture changes that resulted. I kept all the same style and colors that the Apple Podcast App already has, essentially creating a clone of the App. This exercise taught me how to mimic the design of other Apps and by doing so, gain insight into what fonts, colors, layouts, grids and spacing works well together. Below the Hi-Fi photos there is a link to the Hi-Fi prototype I created of the Apple podcast app with the new layout and organized pages.
Next steps & Learnings
The next step for this project would be to test the prototype with users and present them with tasks to complete, similar to the tasks we gave users with our midfi prototypes. Then we can gather the feedback from users to see if the process of finding a podcast was made quicker and more efficient. We can have the user perform the tasks using the existing Apple Podcast App and the Prototype I created, and ask them which one they felt was easier to navigate. Alternatively, we could use testing software such as Useberry to gather metrics such as click maps, heat maps, time-to-complete tasks and success rates.
The key learnings from this project were how important it is to layout an App like the user expects to see it. I found that not only is the layout important but also the naming conventions used to identify content within an App. Also very important is the sizing of the different elements within the app since it can either make the App visually balanced or unbalanced so extra care needs to be taken to avoid the latter.