Producing music is hard.
Not rocket science hard, but not that far. Drum programming, chord progression, Sound Design, Mix/Mastering, Arrangements, there are a million things that go through producing music.
Every little quirk, technical challenge can slow down the creative flow, and your progress as a producer. And the goal of Splice was to avoid that, so that you focus on only one thing, making music.
In 2017, we had a growing business, a solid product but we barely knew our producers and what they were facing in the everyday life. We wanted to help them out, in the journey, for this, we had to be in their shoes, the kickstart of a fascinating project, the producer journey.
What is the typical day of a music producer? What are the common obstacles they face when producing music? Can we identify common patterns? To identify the biggest challenges, we used a card sorting exercise as the foundation of the conversation and identify which struggles user resonate with the most. Here are the key insights:
Zooming in, we started to have a clearer picture of these creative blocks and what they mean for the user. Some common pattern started to emerge that we could divide in various theme that impact the producer at various steps of the creative process.
Social media and internet is a distraction loophole for music producers, that interrupts the creative flow
Users are often overwhelmed about the amount of sounds available and creative routes they can take.
Experienced producers have smaller, curated libraries, tools of choice and go-to plugins at their fingertips.
Many producers have tools located in various places with random names and folders. But they find their way in the mess.
They enjoy the creative part. The mixing/ mastering part, not so much. Even though they know how important it is, they get bored.
Tons of unfinished
Which leads to many songs unfishined, sitting over folders. Going back to these is not exciting, especially since they have no specific goals.
This led to a broader vision for Splice in the long term. Becoming the producer's creative companion from inpiration to expressing yourself musically. Of course, we can not tackle all these opportunities at the same time.
We started with a few surveys and usability testing to gauge the opportunity and what resonates with people.
One of the key aspects people were expressing was how unorganized they were. Also, the fact that their assets were fragmented and all over place.
"Yesterday, i was at a session, the cpu didn't have the sounds i needed, it made lose 30min"
"i wish i was better at labeling stuff instead of kick1, kick2 because it gives me a million kicks"
We focused our efforts to solve the organization/unification of your assets. To solve the feeling of a fragmented library, we wanted to help the users import their personal libraries they accumulated in various places in one single place, all organized with full backup. This led to the Sample Import Project.
“Centralizing all my sounds would be awesome, both that and the tagging sounds great”
“if i’m working on a session with a client, it would be dope to access my go to sounds without having to plugin my hard drive”
Sample Match auto-organizes your samples by attributes (BPM, Key, Instruments..), and backs them up in the cloud
Unify your library
All your personal samples can be quickly accessed from the app. Easily switch between libraries and get to that sound you want.
All samples are auto-organized by instrument, key and BPM. Without any extra work required.
Access from anywhere
Splice syncs all your samples so that you can preview, and download them from any computer.
Behind The Scenes
High Level Flows
Before jumping into designs, it was key to fully understand the user flow. From the introduction of a new section, to adding folders, to having your samples organized. It helped understand how it ties to the overall Splice Architecture.
From Wireframes to Prototypes
We were ready to test with real users and get a first gut check of the experience. The company wanted to learn more about the business value of the feature and if people were ready to pay for it. Nothing fancy, we put together a clickable prototype that users can use and understand to test the core experience.
Overall, the high level experience was clearly understood by users, everything was clear from onboarding to how the feature works.
“I expect I will put all my stuff in and it’s gonna do a bit of thinking and spit back and all these samples are kicks, hi hats, loops, etc..”
“If it was possible, then you guys have something special for sure.”
One of the biggest surprise was how much people wanted their folder structure to be reflected in the feature. They wanted to quickly switch from library to another. Also, almost no users were ready to pay for the feature if some kind of backup solution was not included.
“I want it to keep the architecture I already have. If you throw all the samples, nobody’s gonna be like that, it’s gonna be less organized”
“The cloud storage: that’s the thing I would be ok to pay for”
From prototype to the MVP
After all these feedback, we were ready to dig deeper on the design with more confidence. Technology was more solid, we were ready to move towards an MVP. This meant, higher fidelity design and closer collaboration with engineers.
Redlines and high fidelity specs
To save time, we don’t provide specs on a static base anymore. We moved from tools to others over time, now we use the “Inspect” mode in Abstract to quickly provide redlines to engineers. Faster and easily updatable way to provide the info that is needed.
Given the wide array of interactions (hover, click, editing, clicking outiside..) I worked on a Principle prototype to quickly convey the feeling of what the interaction should be. It helped save some precious time in the building phase.
This is a pretty heavy project, design and engineering side that require various moving parts (match API, folder structure, how it tiesties to overall architecture..) to work well and match user’s expectations for the feature.
Once all these core elements are put together, we are ready to do real testing ! First while dogfooding to the company and with a core list of beta users.
Once we have a solid MVP and the feature is well integrated to the overall Splice experience, we will be ready to launch! Of course, the work will not be over. From surveys to metrics, there is a lot of ways that still need to be done to monitor the success of the feature.