Shazam's Favourite Tune: User Experience Optimisation
Name that tune? Shazam can. Like magic, this mobile app can identify the title and artist of nearly any popular song playing on the radio, TV, or just about anywhere else. Shazam also lets users learn about musical performers, buy copies of songs, watch related videos, share songs with friends, and much more. These music-rich features have made Shazam extremely popular on Nokia’s Ovi Store, where the app has been downloaded more than one million times.
Shazam didn’t get that popular by accident. In fact, its developers have treated the user experience (UX) as a key consideration through design, launch, upgrade, and beyond. They improve the overall UX through a variety of channels, including usability studies with test users, advice and guidance from third-party consultants, and the recommendations of the company’s own in-house UX design team. ‘When we do something, it needs to be for the benefit of the end user, and not for any other reason’, says Iain Dendle, senior business development manager at London-based Shazam Entertainment, the app’s publisher.
The net result: Shazam’s overall user experience and branding is consistent among various platforms. That is important, because Shazam runs on Nokia devices as well as those from other manufacturers. What’s more, this kind of user-oriented design and development work also helps make Shazam’s UI more intuitive and its branding more consistent for newer, up-and-coming platforms and scenarios.
Shazam recently participated in Nokia’s UX Evaluation, which helps developers improve and optimise their applications for their users. As part of the program, Shazam received two rounds of evaluations: one by a Nokia UX expert evaluator working with mobile usability heuristics; the other by a panel of test users who were familiar with mobile applications in general, but not Shazam in particular.
The initial evaluation praised Shazam’s user-oriented attention to detail, but also pointed to several aspects of the user interface that could be improved on Nokia devices. ‘Overall, the usability is very good’, the evaluator wrote. ‘Small adjustments should make the application great’. These included a change to the homescreen that would make the app’s main function – ‘Tag Now’ – more prominent. In an early version, the first screen had instead displayed a prominent ‘Pay Now’ message.
The Nokia UX expert evaluator also suggested increasing the size of certain text messages and buttons, as well as changes to onscreen terminology that would make the application more accessible to new users.
The homescreen suggestion was especially useful to Shazam’s designers, Dendle says. In fact, the homescreen change – it now says ‘Touch to Shazam’ – was deemed significant enough to warrant its own release. ‘We thought about it, and we made the payment messaging much more about the benefits’, Dendle adds. ‘That was due to the feedback from Nokia’.
In the second Nokia evaluation, a group of test users was asked to use Shazam to perform certain basic functions, including finding a music album, recommending a song to a friend, and selecting a song to buy. After trying the app, the test users praised Shazam for its wealth of information, ease of use, and intuitive use of colours and fonts.
‘The actual feedback from real people was interesting to hear’, Dendle recounts. ‘When we do our testing, we tend to have feedback from experts, so it’s nice to also have feedback from real users. And while the user feedback didn’t highlight anything that was startling or new, it reinforced a lot of the reasons why we made some of the changes’.
Also useful was the way the Nokia reports rank usability along a scale. These rankings range from 1, indicating ‘a cosmetic problem only’, all the way to 4, which is reserved for a true ‘usability catastrophe’. All of Shazam’s issues were ranked along the lower end of the scale. ‘The fact that there were no critical issues was good’, Dendle says. ‘We were encouraged by a lot of the positive feedback’.
In fact, the Nokia evaluation results were delivered at nearly the same time a new version of Shazam was going through its quality assurance process. The timing was fortunate, says Dendle. ‘Having that reinforcement from Nokia really helped our process’.
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