Music

Of Personal Projects, Present and Planned

Public Announcement: I have a logo! The wonderful designer behind the TTP logo is Elaine Tai, a dear friend and an awesome web-everything. She's currently an apprentice at Galvanize's g-school, but you can find her on Twitter. I've been getting back to my mobile roots and experimenting with two very different platforms: Android and Windows Phone. My work is centered around iOS, so I want to familiarize myself with the interactions and design paradigms of these two platforms to supplement that.

Please note, all assets belong to their respective owners but the designs are mine. I don't know the Legalese needed, but all references to Windows Phone and its UI belong to Microsoft; references to Holo UI and Android belong to Google; and finally, Southwest Airlines and Rapid Rewards to Southwest.

Southwest on Windows Phone: One thing that I love about the design language of Windows Phone is how flexible it is in accommodating other brands. I used Southwest's existing mobile as a blueprint and built wireframes for a bare bones port to Windows Phone. In addition to that, I tweaked some of the information architecture around to follow the 20/80 rule (show the 20% of the functions users use 80% of the time).

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Android Music Wrapper: Remember this rant? This one too? I wanted to take a pass at designing what the software to wrap around all my services would look like on Android, so this is the first draft of the application. It doesn't have a catchy name, but it's a work in progress

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Please please please share any feedback you have with me! I want to let these sit and rest for a while before I iterate on them, but anything you have would be great. I'm definitely still learning as a designer, and I hope that in time these wireframes won't even be recognizeable with how different they'll be from the final products.

Those are things that I've been doing on my personal time, and in addition to working on these I have some thoughts that have been brewing in my head thanks to IxD13 and its inspiring talks. In addition to those ideas, I'd love to experiment with designing for B2G and go back to trying my hand at webOS. But here's what I've been thinking about:

  • The Flying Experience: Why is it that traveling is just AWFUL? Part of it is the experience of the airport. Yes, we will always need to go through Security, but what about the check-in process? Can mobile tech help make this better? Some airlines have QR codes for tickets, but what if we could eliminate the ticket altogether? What would that look like?
  • Museum Exhibit 2.0 - This is inspired by the talk from the incredible minds behind the Royal Ontario Museum's Incredible Dinosaurs exhibit as well as the Doctor Who Experience. I'm a bit of a museum nerd, and I'd love to use mobile to take an already inspiring experience and enhance it. I don't quite know what kind of exhibit just yet, but I want to try!

That's all I've got for now, but once again, please take a look and let me know what you think! These are just version 1.0, there's quite a long way to go on both.

It's Not You, It's Me.

Dear Grooveshark-

A while ago, I wrote a brief blog post about the split music library. While it didn’t delve deeply into the core problem I wanted to address (my bad, I’m hoping this will help to explain what it is I really wanted to get at), the fact remained that I had a problem. My music was everywhere. The way I picture it is like having a very messy closet. I had songs strewn everywhere. I had the same song twice in a few places, and organizing my entire music library feels impossible.

And then I met Spotify.

Don’t get me wrong, Spotify is not perfect. I’m incredibly frustrated with a few things - for example, I have yet to figure out if it’s possible to push my own personal library to any other device that I have Spotify on (I’m guessing it’s not possible). Instead, I found myself having to recreate my library using Spotify’s catalog so I could get to my library elsewhere. Not cool, especially when I’m used to being able to just log into Grooveshark and find everything there.

(Plus, they don’t have Asian Kung Fu Generation)

But the big reason why I’m moving onto Spotify completely is best explained when we take a look at what I really do with my music:
  • Listen to a song/playlist: I really like the visualization of the playlist in Grooveshark. It’s nice to know when my playlist ends, but that really matters to me when I’m actively listening to my song or playlist (versus having it on in the background while I do something else), which is pretty rare for me.
  • Search for new songs: The way I really discover music is through Last.FM’s recommended radio. When I find a song I really like... unfortunately I check Spotify first. If it’s not there, I check Grooveshark second. This is because Spotify stores the majority of my music (and my personal library if I’m on my home device). Grooveshark is usually better for choices like Japanese music.
  • Music organization: I’m a little crazy about organization of my music. The way I view it is this:
    • My personal library: this is everything I’ve collected over the years that is stored locally on my device. Some of it I listen to still, some of it collects dust
    • The supplements: This is every other song that I have. It doesn’t exist on my device, but it’s associated with an account that I have with either Grooveshark, Last.FM, or Spotify.
    • Earworms: my current addictions. They can be either a supplement or in my personal library. I play them over and over.
So that’s the first level of organization. And then there are my playlists. Like my earworms, what I would like for my playlists to do is be able to contain music from both the supplements and my library. Trouble is, I can’t do that on Grooveshark because that would mean having to import my entire library. While having access to everything wherever I go is nice, I’m not sure I want to invest the time on doing that. Spotify on the other hand imported my playlists from iTunes directly, and I was able to add on my songs there. But even that’s not a perfect experience, because the task that I perform the most often is...
  • Play music on my phone: About 50-90% of my music consumption is done on my beautiful Samsung Focus. Like Grooveshark, Spotify’s mobile app requires having a paid account, but unfortunately, there isn’t a Grooveshark app on Windows Phone. Actually, the only devices I had a Grooveshark app on were my Palm devices, but that’s another story (sob). I can’t justify paying for both a Spotify and Grooveshark premium account when Spotify fits my mobile needs.


Which brings us to this moment. I’m sorry, Grooveshark, I like you a lot and I like where you’re going, but it’s time for me to move on. I’m trying to unify my music as much as possible and make it accessible to me anywhere and everywhere... that means I have to pick an app that will get me there.

For right now, it’s Spotify.

I’ll be by even after I move over since there’re a few songs left over, but for now... so long.

The Awkward Record Scratch

I love music. I can't go a day without it - my current addiction is Tron: Legacy from Daft Punk. Much like my music evolved, my music programs have changed. Here's a history of what I use*:

Kinda complicated, huh?

When I was in high school, I started off with iTunes and YouTube, and it's evolved over the years. Part of that is the evolution in the technology I use - iTunes became pretty entrenched in my music system due to syncing with my iPods. YouTube was the way I discovered new music, but now, there are many ways to discover it.

With this, my library of music has become extremely fragmented. It lives locally and in the cloud, but there's no way to access all of it at once.

A lot of it has to do with the basic positioning of each program:

  • Last.FM - It's a radio station with social underpinnings - a good portion of programs out there allow you to scrobble to Last.FM, thus building your library there. Unfortunately, it's luck of the draw on your radio - you can't access a song directly. 
  • Grooveshark - Store your music online via the cloud - you could potentially recreate your entire library onto Grooveshark and access it via the web, your desktop, and your smartphone. The cons here is that Android and iOS do not have *sanctioned* Grooveshark applications and Grooveshark doesn't have every song . 
  • Spotify - Spotify allows you to supplement your library with licensed offerings and provides an alternative music management system 
  • YouTube - it's a video service. Yes, this includes music videos, but YouTube's focus is on social sharing. Plus... I'm not entirely sure these videos are legal....

The focus that each program accomplishes is fairly different from each other - at the core, a user can listen to music, but each program is now focused on answering 'what else can you do with music players?'. 

I started this post a while ago, so while this was percolating, Google Music came out of beta. Like iTunes, Google Music will lock you (more) into Google's ecosystem, which fits into the company's strategy. This is why it will be hard to make a unified experience for your music - in creating this experience, you create an escape from using the music services directly. 

Of the services that I use, Spotify comes the closest to what I want - it's a free cross-platform service and I can import almost all my music to varying degrees of difficulty (easy from iTunes, headache inducing from Grooveshark). I don't have to spend money on a Zune Pass, more space from Google Music, or music from iTunes, but that means I'm dealing with Spotify's UI, which is not perfect. But the question of music 'synergy', to borrow a term from webOS, still remains as a pretty interesting design question, and I hope that I can help solve it some day. There's a lot left to be said, from the possible effect on the music industry to playing nicely with competing companies, but I'll stop here.

*This graphic was created right before I discovered MOG - it should be under the category of 'Not Used Yet'