One of my favourite sites is the music listening platform Stereomood. Being such an avid user of the platform, it’s appropriate I give my thoughts on the new design of the site and its app too. As with any such review, it’s subjective nature does not mean that it is ‘the be all and end all’. Rather, it’s a personal take on what draws me in towards using Stereomood and what I would like to see changed. It is the attention to detail on the smallest things that make websites and apps easy and intuitive to use. Here are some of things I’ve noted with Stereomood.
For the purpose of this review I am going to ignore the fact that Stereomood does not have a mobile optimised website as generally I think that user behaviour for music listening platforms occurs predominantly through apps rather than mobile site.
Things I like:
Speed and loading time on the site
The improved speed of loading pages on the site. The new site is incredibly faster than the previous Stereomood. This vastly improves the user experience and reliability of the site and rids the site of the previous slow loading experience.
Inspiration-like search on the site
Inspiration search is something that works well on many other sites and apps (e.g. see the Cheapflights.com app and mobile site). The inspiration search functionality on the the Stereomood site constantly changes with different “I feel…” search prompts appearing in quick succession. These quick changing search prompts provide inspiration and promote engagement with the search box
The Stereomood logo
- I really like the Steremood logo. The changing colour scheme throughout the logo mirrors the core nature of the product – the variety of moods of the music platform that match your music tastes. That is all.
Advertising to fund the damn thing
I know it seems strange that I actually like advertising on a web page. However, I am fully appreciative of the fact that such advertising, or affiliate and display advertising, funds Stereomood’s continuing existence. The current ad placement at the top of the website; the nature of the brand, music related content, and font type, all contribute to an extremely positive first impression of how this ad mixes in with the rest of the site. This is of course a fine line as an ad placement that mixes messages or doesn’t compliment the Stereomood brand and experience will have a negative impact on the site experience.
Advertising on the app cannot be said to be of the same complimentary nature. The ads on the Stereomood app, as are often found on apps, are not related to the product and do detract from the mobile user experience. Since this is a common trait I often find with apps, I will not penalise Stereomood on this occasion for this. A caveat this final point is that you do have the option to remove the ads from the app for 69p, which is a nice to have option built into the app.
Homepage and navigational UI on the app
The drifting nature of the moods, varying in size, speed, and shade, encourage browsing and discovery of music. I find this navigational method much more inviting and calming when compared to the static desktop site experience. Spicing up the desktop site with a navigation similar to the app would be a smart move, in my opinion.
Social media icons on the site
I really like that when you hover over the social media icons, they light up in their true brand colour scheme – Flickr visualised above. A small thing but again shows attention to detail and has a positive impact on impression.
Ecommerce icons for Apple and Amazon
Similar to the social media icons, I really like that when you hover over the social media icons, they light up a lime green colour – one of the primary colours used on the site (albeit not enough when compared to the app, to be discussed later). A small thing but again shows attention to detail and has a positive impact on impression.
Abstract library of music
After building up a healthy library of music added to my playlists, generally of a chilled out nature, I’ve realised that the vast majority of the music artists I’ve added were unknown to me beforehand. The library of music in Stereomood has opened me to a variety of new music artists, abstract and otherwise, that I would not have come across otherwise. One being a Vietnamese artist below as well as some acoustic version of popular songs not heard by many.
Display for a playlist for a mood on the app
The app uses touch and swipe navigational functionality to quickly bring up the playlist for a mood. This enables playlists to be hidden from view and reduce clutter on the screen, whilst also allowing it to be quickly to brought into view for scrolling through. A nice solution to hiding and quickly finding songs on a given mood.
Ecommerce functionality in the app: attention to detail
Another feature in the app that compliments the ecommerce functionality (or linking to iTunes) in the app is Tap Anywhere To Close functionality. Again, exhibits attention to detail – easing the exit of redirecting to the iTunes and a recognition of the nuisance of pressing on an ‘X’, or exit button, on a touch screen. Again, it exhibits Stereomood’s attention to detail and having a keen eye on every aspect of user journeys including a feature like this.
Things I dislike:
Lack of consistency across site and app
There is lack of uniformity on the user experience between the site and the app; colour schemes, font, layout and structure, user journeys. Generally a consistent approach to site and app design is seen as a best practice approach to design for digital web and app properties. A lack in consistency can lead to a degradation in user experience and confusion in user interaction with the product. In other words, people will sometimes have to think twice about clicking on a certain feature or completing a user journey, rather than it being second nature to them and intuitive by being comforted by a distinguishable design and layout. Here are some areas that need consistency:
The lack of commonality in the navigational method between the desktop site and the app discussed above.
The lack of commonality in the colour scheme between the desktop site and the app. The below image shows how a lime shade of green is a prominent colour in the app, whereas this colour does not play a prominent role on the site, indicated by the red circled area typifying this. A common colour scheme would reinforce the brand and the user experience across both platforms.
Different focus on personal profile on website and in the app.
The personal profile and bio section on the app is a strong feature, indicated by the blank profile photo silhouette. Wheres on the site, this blank profile photo navigates to the homepage. In order to find your personal profile, you click on your username on the desktop site. One approach needs to be clearly defined for what the objective of this logo should be, how you navigate to the profile, and what purpose it serves.
Search box(s) and app store links
The actual images used for the AppStore and Google play links are not of a high enough resolution quality. A quick and easy change this, and one that needs to be done as low resolution or grainy images annoy me.
The location of these images that act as links to the both app stores is located next to the search box. Although people are generally smart enough to know that these buttons do not act as the ‘go’ or ‘search’ buttons, there are in-buil cognitive behaviours associated with completion of search with click on a button next to the search box. Thus placing these buttons in this location do have an impact on search behaviour on the site and how people will complete a search. Clicking on these buttons and in-completion of the search will lead to confusion and a negative impact on user experience.
Google, the trend-setter in search boxes, have a ‘go’ or ‘search’ completion box located beside the text area. A deviation of this layout can cause confusion for users of search boxes. The location and placement of the arrow at the end of the search box may lead users to think they click on the arrow to complete a search, which is not the case. People have ingrained expectations with search boxes from using Google and the Stereomood search box has a number of features which deviates from this.
The human silhouette located at the beginning of the search box is hyperlinked to redirect the Stereomood homepage which seems inessential. Normally clicking on a logo of this nature I would expect to be redirected to my personal profile or bio page. Overall the main search box, calls-to-action for completion of searches, and location of the images that link to external app stores need to be looked at again.
Finally, there are two search boxes located on the desktop site too is confusing. I get that main is aimed to be used as a discovery or search engine for music moods and the smaller search box to be used to search for artists or songs. However, if Stereomood is looking to expand its user-base, which I’m sure it is, it will need to simplify the search functionality – whittling down to one search box.
Ultimately, the site and app have some really great features and examples of attention to detail. However, I would like to see a more common approach to the user experience on both the site and app as user behaviour (including myself) dictates that people will use the site and app product at different times.