Desktop music player for the WD MY CLOUD App, 1 month
WD My Cloud Music Player
The first version of the desktop My Cloud app could access and download music files, but not play them. Many users had large music collections stored on the My Cloud, but there wasn't a media app that could stream from a remote NAS device. Users were clamoring for the ability to remotely stream their music.
• Defining user stories and feature prioritization
• Design research including competitive analysis, user interviews, & testing
• Information Architecture, Interaction Design, and QA
When I was brought in to the project, the feature request was lightly defined and there were only 2 weeks to deliver a solution. 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.
My original design included music tab so users could access their entire music library without having to know exactly which folder(s) their music was stored in. (This was part of my long-term goal to fulfill the personal cloud promise by helping users quickly find any media on their cloud.)
However, the hardware and firmware technology at the time did not have the ability to scan the drive to locate music files. This meant the app had to rely on the user to find where the music files were stored (never ideal).
Another tricky constraint was the app could not automatically play the next song in an album. This meant users could only play one song at a time. I knew this would not result in an acceptable music listening experience.
Adapting to the Constraints
After discussion with the dev team, I learned that the app could play more than one song in a row if it had a playlist to reference. This meant we could provide true music streaming, but only if we gave users the ability to create playlists. 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 friend to stream music from the My Cloud drive.
Another obstacle was that these "playlists" only existed as metadata files. Pressed for time, the dev team wanted to treat them like any other file and require the user to choose a folder location to store them. 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 Solutions
I sketched another solution, one 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, I proposed that we use the same functionality that allowed users to save Favorite folders. All we needed to do was create a permanent favorite folder called Playlists. Using this approach the dev team was able to add the needed feature using existing functionality, which did not significantly increase the scope of work.
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.