Jonathan Lantz (Lead Designer)
Carolina Dela Cruz (Researcher)
Grayson Doub (Generalist)
Google Surveys (screener)
Adobe Illustrator (logo design)
End-to-end product design based on the theme of music education
Why do so few of us play an instrument proficiently when music is so core to the human experience?
This was the key question that I and my group considered when tasked with developing a product based on the theme of music.
Music and technology are not strangers to each other, and yet, with all of our modern advances and the presence of music in our lives from a very young age, a surprisingly small amount of people have little to no musical skills.
Is there a better way?
Figuring Out the Problem
Going into the problem of why current music education experiences may not work out, we made the following assumptions:
High initial investment (buying/renting an instrument, lessons, etc.)
Requires substantial time commitment
Lack of guidance
From these assumptions, we saw an opportunity to create a product that might resolve issues for instrument learners and came up with an initial problem statement and hypothesis to validate.
Initial problem statement:
Adults are struggling to commit to the process of learning an instrument due to the strenuous demands inherent to this activity, and thus have trouble investing their time, money, and energy. How might we make the process of learning an instrument a worthwhile investment for these adults?
If adults are unburdened by time, effort, and money, they will be able to see a clearer path to learning a new instrument, in turn becoming successful musicians.
To validate our hypothesis and find our direction for possible solutions to realize in a product, we conducted user interviews that began with a screener survey to find people who might provide insights into how adult learners approach music education and why it doesn’t pan out too often.
Screener targeted adults with past experience in learning an instrument
11/18 participants interviewed
From our interviews, we were able to note the following observations:
People learn when they are children and often lose their skills in adulthood
Schedules are busy and demanding, often leaving a small window for practice time
Wants and Needs
Reliable help and support in learning a new instrument
An achievable schedule to keep goals on track
External motivators to provide encouragement and accountability
Teachers that are more like mentors and coaches
An encouraging and engaging learning environment
Feedback and validation to ensure progress and results
These observations were further analyzed using an Affinity Map, and the results of that were distilled into topics and i-statements.
This allowed us to break our takeaways into three categories:
Optimal Learning Styles
Adult learners are motivated to learn with songs they enjoy
They need to feel supported in there pursuit
They need a teacher who treats them like a colleague and has the following traits: knowledgable, challenging, encouraging, passionate, exciting, and patient
YouTube is good for fundamentals but is not enough for advanced learning
Adult learners have limited time for practice
Not enough external motivators and validation
Progress is unclear
Often pushed too hard by strict teacher
Learning should be enjoyable
Goals should be realistic and attainable
Music is a uniquely personal experience—individualized lessons work best
Who's This For?
The data and insights that we gathered from our user interviews gave us what we needed to construct a profile for our typical user, Elliot. This model user (persona) gave an identity to the target of our product so that we could move forward with a clear direction.
Important facts about Elliot
He's a busy professional! 💼
He's motivated to perform a song at his sister's wedding 👰🏾
He needs to practice at least twice a week 🎹
He has experience with musical instruments from school 🎓
As an additional aid to guide us through the process of product creation, we also mapped out Elliot's journey to achieve his instrument-learning goals. This journey was based on our interview data and helped to inform our product-design decisions.
Highlights of Elliot's Journey
Elliot's full journey can be found here, but I also created a storyboard to visually summarize his experience across four "chapters."
A promotion at work comes with highs and lows as Elliot works to meet the demands of his new role.
To take a break from the grind, Elliot attends a piano concert and is inspired by the performance.
Elliot takes piano lessons and decides he wants to perform at his sister's wedding.
Tax season begins and Elliot is too busy to continue in-person lessons, so he uses YouTube. It doesn't really work for him.
Elliot becomes overwhelmed and gives up on the piano. He dedcides to forgo the performance and does a speech at his sister's wedding…but it doesn't go well.
From this point, we were able to go into the design phase that would end with the creation of the Affinity Music prototype.
Using all of the research from user interviews along with an investigation into the landscape of music-learning apps and platforms, we created a website that would give users a customized and flexible learning experience with supportive mentors (teachers) and a system that provides feedback as well as motivational messages to users.
To arrive at the exact features of this platform, we first used a MoSCoW Map, and decided to focus on the “Must” and “Should” features.
As a result, we went into the creation of features with a focus on the following key themes:
Making sure that students create goals from the start so that lessons are tailored to meet their goals (based on SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely)
Reminders and notifications
Reminders and notifications prior to lessons and due dates to keep students on track.
Real instructors who provide detailed feedback
Assigning real, human instructors who can provide feedback after every lesson, so students get actionable information to help them improve at each step.
Giving users a way to adjust their schedule to accommodate the busy lives of adult learners.
Providing motivational messages and a points system backed by positive language to create an encouraging environment that will keep students engaged and committed.
With those themes in mind, we decided to put our efforts into three core features:
1. An onboarding process that would result in a customized learning experience
✏️ I wrote all customer-facing messaging in plain English that features a playful and encouraging voice based on user-based research.
2. Human teachers that would provide detailed feedback framed with encouraging language
3. Flexible scheduling that would allow users to easily make changes when their lives inevitably get busy.
I also designed the logo for Affinity Music. The concept was supported by the double-f that is used in musical notation to communicate that notes should be played loudly (fortissimo). I thought that this also carries into the supportive environment of Affinity Music that gives its users "strength" to play an instrument well.
The final logo design is contained within the green box.
As we got into designing our wireframes, we produced close to thirty screens in order to create a full experience for testing/prototyping.
A sample of the many screens that were created for our prototype.
And with our wireframes in good order, we were then able to move into testing to validate our original hypothesis and assumptions.
For testing, we used an InVision prototype created from our high-fidelity wireframes and had 10 total users across 2 rounds complete 3 timed tasks.
Between Round 1 and 2, we made improvements based on the user feedback and observations, and by the end of our testing, we saw significant improvements in the success rates for each task as seen in our scorecard, validating our results.
We also received very positive feedback from the testers, including enthusiastic comments from one experienced musician expressing that he couldn't wait to see Affinity Music become a real platform and also saying that he would actually use this website to practice the piano.
Our Round 2 usability test scorecard showing positive improvement to validate our prototype
You can view an example of our final prototype below.
We feel confident from our research and the results of our testing that Affinity can be a viable platform to change the narrative of music education for adults who want to learn a new instrument.
With further development, it would be possible to launch an MVP, but there are also a few areas that we would like to explore to enhance Affinity’s offerings and create a more robust product. Possible next steps include:
Designing and testing a mobile and tablet version of the responsive website
Incorporate other features that weren’t part of our MVP features on our MoSCoW map
Conduct user research and testing with a focus on instructors, who represent another set of users who are vital to the existence of the product