WD My Cloud Music Player
Seamless Music Streaming From Your Personal Cloud
When the first version of the My Cloud desktop app came out, it allowed users to access their files remotely, but only allowed users to download files. When it came to music files, this meant that users could download them 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 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. At the time the feature request was lightly defined and there was only 2 weeks to deliver. With such a short time frame I knew I had to keep the design simple, and identify a single core concept that I could 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 UI had to rely on the user to find where the music files were stored and assume they were well organized. 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 mean 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 had well-organized music libraries, 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 give a friend access to stream music from their cloud.
It is important to note that these "playlists" only existed as metadata files, and 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 a solution to provide users with a "Playlists" tab (in place of my original "Music" tab), 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" folders called Playlists. Using this approach development team was able to add the needed feature without increasing 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 so 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.