No, I’m not writing about the music, I want to talk about the design…
So we’ve all had around a full week now to really absorb the flurry of articles and tweets of people’s experience and review of the two services. While I can offer an opinion on the matter of sound quality or offering by each service, I won’t. There are 100’s of articles out there already that are talking about that. What I want to highlight here, is the design direction of the two “giants”.
To be honest, as a service that offers the opportunity to listen to high quality streaming audio, I kind of just took it for what it was and focused on the content and quality of the products it provided, but it wasn’t until I tried getting my wife on board to set up a family plan with Apple Music to test it out, that she slapped me in the face with a big trout (metaphorically speaking) about how she disliked the Apple Music service because of it’s design!
I mean my wife isn’t a designer, and she rarely makes a statement like that about an application, but it was very refreshing for me to hear that on two levels. First: while Spotify and Apple Music are both high quality music streaming services, they provide comparatively similar offerings in functionality and types of music content, but what they don’t visually do is speak to what I think are the same crowd (I’ll get more into that). Second: as you explore both services and their apps, you quickly uncover some major differences between how Spotify and Apple Music allow you to do something as simple as easily downloading a playlist of songs for offline listening.
It seems too that I’m not the only one that’s picked up on the design flaws of Apple Music. I came across an article from the Wall Street Journal yesterday that largely talked about how hidden and finicky the features of Apple Music were compared to Spotify was. I suppose that comes in good timing because it saves me a lot of time from writing extra stuff! Thanks WSJ!
I do however have more to talk about how they’re visually different and pose the question of whether or not their visual difference is enough to offset other users like my wife from catching on and waiting until Apple Music sorts out their UX/UI issues.
Right off the bat, there’s a big contrast between Apple Music and Spotify. Apple using a largely light colour palette and the other a dark palette. As a standalone app, you really can’t argue, which palette would be better I suppose. You can however start discussing a little bit about some basic colour psychology when you compare the two and why I prefer Spotify over Apple Music from a visual perspective.
The obvious use of black is the very thing that sets itself apart from Apple Music, and the very thing that sways me towards Spotify. It might sound like a stupidly simple reason, but the black and green feels really immersive for me. What that means to me is the feeling of being at a concert/club, just through colour alone. The consistency of the theme through imagery and colour certainly helps with the whole idea of creating an immersive environment to any listener/subscriber.
Taking a look at the Apple Music version, it’s clear it lacks that immersive feeling. It uses a very neutral colour palette, and tends to evoke no emotion behind the type of service it’s selling. Again that might not be a problem if you’re just a music player; but this is Apple Music. In fact it’s not just that, it’s actually Apple Music with the Beats brand embedded into it. Might it not be a sensible thing to do to infuse some of the Beats branding into your service?
My biggest problem with Apple Music is that, it looks too Apple. I almost can’t believe I’m saying that to be honest. But, as of this moment, Apple Music looks like I walked into a store (iTunes) sampling it’s music and having it sold to me. It feels no different, from that experience of previously buying a song from iTunes and listening to it on my own music player, and that to me is a problem when you’re up against Spotify that delivers an immersive experience.
In a market so filled with competitors of streaming music services, all peddling the same wares (ok maybe Apple Music has 1 up from everyone else because Taylor Swift…no I’m not a fan, but that’s an entirely different conversation), you’ve only got a few things left to set yourself apart. The visual branding becomes an important aspect to the dialogue you have with your target audience, and while Apple has the upperhand with the numbers game, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if people gave up their 3 month subscription to go back onto Spotify because of that immersive experience I’ve talked about.
I for one will be doing that in that situation. I love Apple products, and I think they’re largely designed well. But from a branding and experience level on their execution of the Apple Music service, I think they’ve yet to really nail it on the head to keep the people they’re trying to lure away from Spotify.