WD My Cloud Music Player
Seamless Music Streaming From Your Personal Cloud
When the My Cloud desktop app was releases, users were happy that they could access their files remotely with a simple desktop app. However, the first version of the app could not open files, only access and download them. When it came to music files, this meant that users could download files individually but not stream them. Many users had large music collections, and there were no music or media apps that could stream from a remote NAS device. Users were clamoring for the ability to remotely stream music directly from the drive within the My Cloud desktop app.
- Contributing to user story development and feature prioritization
- Design research including competitive analysis, user interviews, & testing
- Information Architecture, Interaction Design, and QA
THE INITIAL APPROACH
I was asked to design this new music player feature, but it was no easy task. When I was brought in, the feature request was lightly defined and there were only 2 weeks to deliver. In these time-crunch, high-pressure situations I have always found it best to identify a single core concept to design around. I dedicated a couple of days to research existing music players, and incorporated what little user data I had into the mix. I brought some ideas to the developers and collaborated with them to identify what we were capable of delivering.
While discussing my initial concepts two key technical constraints became evident that ended up as dominant factors in shaping the final outcome. Originally I wanted to provide users with a music tab so they could get access to their entire music library without having to know exactly which folder(s) their music was stored in. (This was part of a larger future idea to fulfill the personal cloud promise by helping users quickly find any media on their cloud.)
However, the first key technical constraint was that the hardware and firmware technology at the time did not have the ability to scan the drive to pull only the music files out for the user. So the app had to rely on the user to find where the music files were stored (never ideal). The second constraint was that if a user started playing a song in an album, the app could not automatically play the next song in that album. This meant users could only play one song at a time. I knew this would not result in an acceptable music listening experience.
I went back to the drawing board and played with a few more ideas, and eventually decided to go with a "playlist" approach. Since the app could play more than one song in a row if it had a playlist to reference, we could provide true music streaming if the user could create a playlist from their music collection. The product team agreed and I ended up designing for a “playlist” experience, encouraging users to create playlists of the music saved to their drive. This ended up being a well-received solution since most users' music libraries were organized by artist or album, so it was easy to drop an entire folder/album into the music player and generate a playlist. It also had the added benefit of boosting the sharing value proposition of the My Cloud product line, as users could share a playlist to allow a fried stream music from their cloud.
Another obstacle to overcome was that these "playlists" only existed as metadata files. At first the dev team intended to treat them like any other file and require the user to choose a folder location to store them. However, I knew this could lead to the user forgetting where they were saved or accidentally deleting them - which would be catastrophic to the music listening experience. We needed a different approach.
LAST MINUTE SOLUTIONING
I presented another solution to provide users with a "Playlists" tab (replacing my original "Music" tab concept), where the app would automatically save the playlist files for the user. At first the idea was met with resistance, an understandable response since it was an increase in scope of the feature and we were already pressed for time. However, after inquiring about the inner workings of the hardware and application, I came up with the idea to use the existing functionality that allowed users to save "Favorite" folders. All we needed to do was create a permanent "favorite" folder called Playlists. Using this approach development team was able to add the needed feature using existing functionality, which did not significantly increase the scope of work.
THE FINAL VERSION IN ACTION
I worked closely with the visual and dev team throughout the sprint cycle to polish the UI and interactions. The final release was relatively quiet, but the feedback was quite positive. Users were happy that the product team was listening to their feedback, and expressed confidence that Western Digital was making good on the promise of the personal cloud experience.
Like so many projects that are pressed for time, many aspects of the intended experience were cut. However, much of my work that ended up on the cutting room floor ended up informing what would become the MyCloud.com web experience.