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Pencil and Paper

We recently did a Show & Share with our crew where we raised up some mention-worthy copy and elegant UX design from around the web. This chat got our gears turning, and we found ourselves looking for other great examples of copy and UX design greatness. At P&P Labs, we regularly fire up Spotify during sprint planning meetings and retros to add a bit of playfulness and fun to our internal team interactions. So, what better place to start this new spotlight series than with one of our most-used auxiliary tools. Without further ado, the first installment of Good UX Copy, Great UX Steal Spotlights: Spotify.

What makes Spotify worthy of our first edition of Good UX Copy, Great UX Steal Spotlights? Though Spotify isn’t considered enterprise software in our books, they’ve made some excellent UX design decisions over the years. Enterprise UX designers can and should learn a lot from user experiences built for B2C. In fact, we’ve identified as of late that the concept of building enterprise software using B2C assumptions is becoming a common thread in today’s design world. So, what are some of our favourite Spotify decisions that are worth considering as you look for inspo on your next enterprise endeavour?

1. They put user experience first, even when it’s hard.

We all know Spotify for its dark palette, but it actually took them a few years to get there. They debuted their dark redesign in 2014, with the intention of ‘dimming the lights’ on the rest of the experience so that the music and artwork would pop. This was one of the first products to go dark exclusively, and they’ve held strong on that decision despite various public demands for light mode. Keep in mind that although dark mode is trendy today, when Spotify did it that was not the case, and the implementation was a challenge. Can we just say, we appreciate that kind of badassery.

Today the list of justifications for going dark has only expanded. From an environmental standpoint, it’s better on energy consumption (a dark palette consumes as much as 90% less energy than one with a light palette) and, since dark mode is trendy nowadays, many operating systems support it, which makes it easier to build, test and launch. Should you follow this particular trend? We suggest taking the cue from Spotify. They went dark because they interpreted a need, and the decision has been memorialized because their interpretation was correct. As always, context is king when it comes to UX decisions – and Spotify has demonstrated time and again that they know how to decode and move on that context successfully.

2. They understand that mobile = opportunity for innovation.

It’s common with enterprise software to open a tool on mobile only to discover that optimizing the mobile experience was obviously a stretch goal for the product team. Because assumptions are made about desktop use in this field, optimization for smaller screen sizes is relegated to the bottom of the  ‘nice-to-have’ list. B2C music streaming software doesn’t have this luxury. But, as a result, they benefit from an opportunity that Enterprise tools tend to miss out on. Designing for touchpoints that are mobile-specific reveals new opportunities for experience enrichment across all devices, which leads to more innovation and better tools overall. Spotify has demonstrated this so profoundly in the evolution of their mobile experience – from small details in component simplification to big feature additions like the relaunch of a

new and improved Car Mode

.

Of course, we know Spotify’s target market may not map to yours, and focusing primarily on the mobile experience for most if not all enterprise software builds would be an epic fail in prioritization. But, what an opportunity missed for product teams that think of mobile development as an exercise in puzzle-piecing desktop components and features onto a smaller screen. Imagine the opportunities for innovation that are thrown away with the bathwater when we blast through this process in favour of a quicker launch date.

We strongly believe that taking the time to use mobile design and development as a launchpad for innovative growth will improve both the consumer’s experience of your product and their assessment of your company overall. Every time your users have the opportunity to benefit from a new touchpoint, whether that’s a new notification on their smartwatch or a voice cue on their mobile, it reinforces the belief that the people behind the product are innovating with users in mind. Who knows, over time you may even find that, depending on the nature of your product, your users are more inclined to perform even time-consuming and complex tasks on small screens if presented with well-executed workflows to do so. Sounds like a playground full of potential market differentiators to us!

3. They recognize the need for speed.

As a music streaming service, Spotify is in a unique product seat. They’re not in the business of trying to get more eyes on their UI – instead, their goal is to get users to open the app, and keep it running behind the scenes. If you think about how you use your streaming service of choice, they get very little of your focused attention, even if you’re a power user.

Instead of attempting to remedy this with wholesale bids for attention, Spotify has leaned into the need for speed by developing clever just-in-time bids that ultimately take less the user’s attention – ironically resulting in increased usage. Car-mode is a great example, as is the ability to interact with Spotify from your mobile device’s lock screen. Basic UI decisions also really underpin Spotify’s commitment to quick navigation – the vibrant green buttons complemented by ‘ghost’ secondary buttons expedite decision-making, while clear click interactions keep the user well oriented and on task with no distractions. The success of Spotify’s simple UI is also the direct result of attention to detail and a focus on making every interaction intuitive and natural.

Again, different target markets. We get it. But the reality is that too many enterprise software tools slow users down with needless bids for attention, unfocused flows and confusing UX. If you imagine that your user trying to complete their task list for the day is represented by a Spotify user trying to drive their car, how many distractions could you remove from their experience to allow them to focus on the task at hand? Why not commit to providing tips, updates and even bids for more engagement with speed and context in mind? Our premonition? You won’t see a drop in usage as a result.

4. They help our brains process information.

Our brains are on a constant roll of prioritization, categorization and hierarchical referencing. To produce thoughts and actions, the brain needs to process millions of bite-sized nuggets of information, and the speed at which that happens impacts our efficiency. Spotify is a proven master in this realm. If you open Spotify and squint your eyes you’ll notice that you can still perfectly grasp the app’s grouping and hierarchy structure. A simple, strong and intuitive information hierarchy reduces cognitive load and increases Spotify’s general accessibility. Building within these structures, Spotify’s simple UI components further support quick prioritization and execution within the app.

So, what can we learn from this? When it comes to Enterprise UX, sometimes a single user journey can be as complex as the full Spotify experience. If you were to break your product down, how might you transform a complex workflow into a solution that allows users to effortlessly navigate through multidimensional data in almost any direction while retaining a clear context? If you can manage to simplify your information architecture to support quicker information processing, you’ll find yourself with yet another market advantage.

5. They prioritize performance.

The speed at which a user can engage, process information and navigate within a product is key, but if the technology behind that app is slow, or inconsistent, all of that front-end work might end up being for naught. The best experiences are the ones where you don’t even register that there is a backend at work. Spotify seems to rarely have blank loading screens or any other foundational hiccups, whether we’re searching for artists or clicking through content. A delay of a few seconds is enough to warrant a bad review or a lost customer, especially when it comes to high-competition music streaming apps. These high stakes have made performance a requisite for Spotify, and their determination to deliver has paid off.

Enterprise software, on the other hand, is notoriously guilty of failing to prioritize performance. Enterprise users are engaging with products for longer, and completing more complex workflows. In our opinion, these usage characteristics should further reinforce the need for top performance, yet somehow we see time again that the pendulum swings in the opposite direction. Taking another cue from Spotify, how might beefing up the backend performance of your enterprise software boost productivity and improve user morale?

That’s a wrap… for now.

Spotify launched in 2011, and at the time they were a completely different company. They didn’t have the same handle on their target market, and they didn’t have access to the kind of technology they’re leveraging today. But, they had the drive and the dedication to come out on top, and over the years they’ve successfully evolved and adapted within the bounds of the digital climate. Ultimately though, they’ve never wavered on prioritizing user experience. We suspect that if they continue on this path, we’ll be revising this list soon to edit in additional applicable lessons from the Spotify platform and the inspiring team behind it. Until then, we’ll be over here testing out the new car mode. 🚙