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I love Spotify, I’ll just make that clear from the start. Spotify has completely changed the way I listen to music.

In fact, while I briefly linger in this positive mood, here are some more reasons why I love Spotify: 

As a part-time music journalist, I couldn’t function properly without its unlimited access to 20m songs. Also, new album releases for any given Monday seem to appear not long after midnight on the Sunday before. This is terrific for my Monday morning commute.

I can also use Spotify on as many devices as I like (desktop, laptop, phone, work computer) with up to 3,333 songs able to be synced for offline listening on up to three devices at a time.

Just in case Thom Yorke is reading, I will also add that far as I’m concerned, using Spotify has led to me spending more money on music through other channels (mainly independent record stores), purely because of the access I now have to music that I wouldn’t normally listen to

As a final bonus, in the free version of Spotify, it has jettisoned the limits to how many times you can listen to a song and how many hours a month you can use it. I would however suggest that £10 a month is a small price to pay not to have to put up with some of the most irritating adverts ever hosted on a platform.

And this is where we arrive at the major thrust of this article.

Perhaps because I love Spotify so much and because it’s a major part of my life, it also means that I’m profoundly aware of its limitations and frustrations. Just a few UX tweaks here or there could massively improve the experience. 

There’s an argument to say that because Spotify never really had any competition, it didn’t have to worry too much about improving its functionality.

Those days are over. Beats released its possible Spotify rival last month and with it, a much more streamlined design, intuitive interface and properly curated playlists.

Spotify needs to significantly up its game instead of wallowing in complacency.

Here I’ll be taking a look at the downloadable desktop version (Spotify Player), the Web Player that simply opens in a new browser and the mobile app to see where improvements can be made.

Spotify Web Player:

Recommends

There’s an absolutely baffling array of ‘personalised’ choices on the homepage.

I haven’t listened to Lanterns on the Lake for nearly a year. 

There are two suggestions for ‘if you like Metronomy you’ll like…’ and neither artist sound anything like Metronomy. 

Also I have hundreds of playlists featuring a huge variety of music genres, why would I want two suggestions for the same band right next door to each other, especially when there’s only room for three suggestions per row.

This is my favourite of all the erroneous recommended listens…

I haven’t listened to a single soundtrack using Spotify let alone a Jerry Goldsmith one. This along with a permanent insistence to recommend Talking Heads to me based on every single band I listen to, irrelevant of their similarity or lack thereof, makes for a baffling ‘curated’ experience.

I’m not sure how useful the ‘your friend has been listening to a lot of… lately’ links are either. The rather judgemental tone is also bizarre, seemingly outing Chris Lake as a Byrds fan as if it’s a problem in need of intervention.

Tiny play buttons

The player, permanently embedded on the top right hand corner is absurdly fiddily.

Volume?

I also remember it taking me forever to figure out where the volume control was on the Web Player.

It opens when you hover over the player.

This really should be a permanent fixture on the page.

Edit playlists

You can’t batch delete songs or albums from playlists. You can only do it one at a time.

You have to right-click on the track and scroll down to ‘delete’ to do this. You can’t just hit delete on your keyboard like you can with the Spotify Player.

Another frustrating thing about the Web Player compared to the downloadable version is you can’t drag and drop tracks into playlists. Again you have to right-click and ‘add’ to playlist.

You also can’t rearrange the order of tracks in a playlist, or delete the entire playlist.

Navigation

Links on a tab that perform the exact same function really annoy me.

Here the ‘Spotify’ button just takes you back to the ‘Discover’ page, when really the ‘Spotify’ button should act as ‘home’ and return the user back to what they were last searching for or listening to. What’s the point of having two links that do the same thing?

This is an annoying feature that’s not just limited to Spotify. The desktop version of Instagram does this too.

Spotify Player

I can’t find much to complain about with the classic, downloadable version of Spotify.

Although I realise that it’s barely changed since I first started using it five years ago. Perhaps it looks a little dated. The clinical font. The off-grey/black background. The general blandness of it.

User experience comes first though, and the above may just be down to my own personal taste.

Private session

As a music critic I often have to listen to music that perhaps would provoke derision from some of the more judgemental quarters of my friendship group.

As I have linked my account to Facebook, my friends there will see what I’m listening to in a constant stream of updates. Turning on ‘private session’ means they won’t question “why is this 34 year-old man listening to Ke$ha at 1am on a Tuesday night?”

However, if you’re making a playlist in private mode, this still updates on Facebook. If you’re making a secret playlist as a surprise for a friend or loved one, and you’re adding tracks, each track added will be highlighted as an update on Facebook.

Yes you can unlink your account to retain your clandestine activities, however you would assume that by clicking ‘private session’, all of your activity would be hidden.

“So tired… tired of waiting…”

It takes forever to load up. It crashes if I use it too quickly after start-up. It crashes if I start it up and I have other programmes or even an internet browser running at the same time.

I have an i5 dual core processor and 4MB of RAM. This should not be happening. I have to pre-load-up Spotify, just so it’s ready and waiting in case I need it later.

Speaking of draining resources…

Spotify mobile app

Battery

The Spotify mobile app is an absolute battery killer.

Generally speaking, and this is even when I’ve made playlists available offline, I only get a few hours of Spotify pleasure before I have to shut it down and conserve battery life.

I’m using an iPhone 4 with iOS7, so I realise that this is not the best parameters for a test as I would imagine the latest Spotify app is optimised for the latest model of iPhone. But still, I would’ve expected better.

Privacy

There’s no ‘private session’ mode.

It also flags up on Facebook that you’re listening to a particular artist even when you’re listening ‘offline’.

Playlists

I really dislike the giant image that takes up the entire screen when you tap through to a playlist.

It’s not terribly clear that you have to scroll down past it to access individual tracks. The small play button in the middle is the only functional are of the image. You may expect to be able to tap-through to one of the albums highlighted in the image, but you can’t.

For more UX nit-picking, check out 13 major UX flaws on social media sites.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 18 February, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

686 more posts from this author

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Gabriel Diaz

I must say that I agree in almost everyhting, but one. In android the app is just delightful, specially when it comes to talk about the battery. I have a Galaxy S3 and usually travel listening to Spotify -off line songs- and have to say that it never takes more than 10% for the good 6 to 10 hours I usually travel.

over 2 years ago

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Sylvain Pingont

Hi,
quick comments about mobile player:

- you can have a private session by turning off "show on facebook"
- in case of playlist you can simply click on the title which is played in spotify and then close the main screen you will see all the tracks from your playlist

about spotify on laptop:

- they have significantly improve the load of music since few months already and i just have to wait 2 or 3 seconds to listen to my song (I'm based in Singapore and trust me for Spotify it's not the best place regarding latency)

I'm really satisfied by the player especially mobile version, remember that the objective it's just to play music ;)

Thanks

over 2 years ago

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Chris

If Spotify & Sonos could get their act together so Spotify Radio could be played via Sonos it would make my week.

over 2 years ago

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Rose

The Windows app is terrible. Full of bugs, not as much functionality as the andriod version and painfully slow. But, then again, these are the issues you have to put with on a Windows phone in general...

over 2 years ago

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Emma

You haven't mentioned THE most annoying thing on mobile...the fact that it displays all of your playlists in a completely random order...not in order of date you create them, nor alphabetical. So I have to scroll through loads of them before I find the one I want. It's soooo annoying. I'm not very tech savvy though so hopefully one of you will correct me and tell me this is actually possible.

Agree that its recommendations are useless. It regularly recommends stuff I already regularly listen to on and offline on Spotify...and the others are just totally random.

I wouldn't be without it though!

over 2 years ago

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Claire

Oh, I use Spotify all the time and I love it, but you're right. For a tool that is used heavily by its loyal users, you'd think the functionality would be fantastic. But it really does frustrate me.

I use only the desktop and mobile versions. Like you, I don't have much to complain about with respect to the desktop. But there are some issues:

- if you block a user, it's permanent. So that's not very helpful. Perhaps I want to unblock someone in the future?

- the inbox functionality drives me nuts. For an app that's meant to be social, the send music element really is poor.

The mobile on iPhone has many weird quirks.

- User profiles only display a small percentage of total playlists (I like to look at friends' playlists to see what they've added for finding new music) so that's annoying.

- I find it impossible to navigate back to my playlist I'm playing in one click to see the list view (not the cover image of the current song playing), after I have decided to wander around the app to find other music or playlists.

- I can't manage my playlists within the app on the mobile, which annoys me. I can't shift songs around or curate easily on the phone.

I have to say that recommendations have generally been quite good for me... Only the odd weird suggestion.

over 2 years ago

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