Case Study — Designer research

David Peralta
7 min readMay 30, 2021

Welcome reader, In this blog I’m going to be trying to solve a UX problem from a Designer's point of view, using the Design thinking approach to look for a practical solution.


Spotify is one of the most popular audio streaming and media services, it was founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek, the headquarters is located in Stockholm, Sweden, but has 44 offices that operate internationally. Today it has millions of active users around the globe and operates in 178 countries, the service is available on most modern devices (iOS and Android smartphones and tablets and smart speakers), the desktop application includes Windows, macOS, and Linux computers.

Spotify operates under a freemium business model, which means everybody can have basic service for free, but additional features are offered via paid subscription.

Spotify app — Desktop

Problem Statement

A UX Research team gathered data and conducted user interviews, trying to “Improve how Spotify users find music to listen to”. The team is looking for opportunities to make users steam more content and have a better experience with the product.

Whit this information we are looking for a practical improvement over the UI of the Spotify desktop application for a specific ‘persona’ without negative impact for the rest of the users, maintaining the platform functionality and simplicity.

User & Audience

I’ve chosen a persona (basically a representative user based on available data and user interviews. The persona may be fiction, but the information used to create the user type is not):

  • Story:
    Alex is a student at Seattle University and lives in a dorm room with his roommate. He usually studies for 3 hours on average at night, but he finds that he lacks focus when his roommate is in the room. He recently acquired noise-canceling headphones as recommended by a friend, but, as he loves music, his attention tends to shift to the lyrics. After looking for non-lyrics songs, he found a few but they were too mellow and he began to feel sad.

Roles & Responsibilities:

I’m a Web Developer, in this project I’m putting myself in the shoes of a designer, to understand the user and try to improve Spotify’s desktop app without causing bad effects in the UX/UI, by taking the information available and using the Design thinking approach to identify pain points and making proposals to solve them.

Scope & Constraints:

For this project the timeline is two weeks, the platform to analyze is the desktop application, I’m using the persona and user journey available.

Paint points:

  • When looking in the search bar the playlists found are not satisfactory.
  • Reads playlists’ titles have not enough information.


The challenge/problem:

  • Alex wants to find in a more effective way what he is looking for in the app.
  • Music is a very important instrument to focus on for his study.
  • The number of songs and possibilities the Spotify search bar offer is overwhelming.
  • Looking for playlists that fulfill all that Alex is looking for can be challenging and cause frustration.
  • Spend a lot of time finding music is not good for Alex.
  • Spotify has a lot of data and songs related.
  • Creating a playlist can take a lot of time for users.

Research and discovery notes:

About the user:

Alex wants to:
- Cut the distraction from his roommate.
- Be focued while studying and think music tempo can help
- Better ways in the search process (refine search, better classification, save time)
Alex needs:
- Find existing playlists of songs with no lyrics and good tempo
Alex Fear:
- Spend to much time looking
- Not knowing what to type in the search bar
- Find lots of playlists and songs that doesn’t match his needs

About the App:

- Have a huge amount of music and playlists
- There are ‘official’ playlists and user playlists
- Every user can create playlists and not categorize them
- The search bar is too open and does not allow for refining


Different brainstorming sessions give the following mindmap result with different ideas:

Mindmap after brainstorming.


  • Advance Search bar: give the capability to select different options to refine the search, for Alex: only playlists, with high tempo and other options can give a better solution.
Filter options search bar
  • IA that makes questions and generates a playlist based on the answers.
IA that makes questions
  • Live chat with friends and other people:
Live chat with friends and other people


As this investigation was only done by myself, I just ask for feedback from other personas to have a better approach to what could be more useful. After different conversations, I had good findings of previous ideas (+ positive perception, — negative perception)

Idea 1:

  • + The advanced search bar of filter feature is a commonly used feature, very useful in other applications.
  • + Not making this mandatory and giving options to the user is gives a lot of control over the results.
  • - The challenge is creating a UI that doesn’t affect the current one.

Idea 2:

  • - The time to interact with an AI can be frustrating.
  • - It is not an intuitive approach.
  • + It can give the sense of innovation and high-tech, but not necessarily a practical solution.

Idea 3:

  • + Interacting with other people can be exciting.
  • + Your friends know you and can save you time they spent previously looking for music.
  • - People are not always available and can have different tastes than you.
  • - Not social persons with not a lot of friends can find a limitation and feel frustration.

Because of the intuitive approach and simplicity of the solution, also because of a better perception of the quick feedback received, I chose Idea 1: Advance Search bar.


This is a more consistent and short user journey with the implementation, of course, is a supposition that needs to be verified with the MVP.


The solution:

A simple button next to the search bar, this solution seems to make things simpler for the average user in Spotify not only the Alex persona (student with a specific need), it gives the power to the user over the search. Nevertheless, it requires a good indexation and categorization of Spotify. From the business side, this feature can be a very good source of information about what users prefer, with this the algorithm of recommendations can be improved because the persons that use the feature constantly give very good information.

The impact on the UI is small, it is very important to avoid confusion and a quick adoption on a lot of users, of course, this phase of the research is very premature but seems to be a good and practical solution for Alex’s needs.

Solution — Advance Search button
Options selection but not mandatory to give more control over results
  • Next to the search bar simple button.
  • Filter options can be a few or a lot of options, depending on the specificity the user wants.
  • Intuitive common UI of checkboxes to select.

Outcome and Results:

After the design research process, we have 3 interesting ideas to improve the UX of the Spotify Desktop Application. It was done for a specific persona, but the feature can be useful for more people in the platform that wants to make better findings with more control.

The overall process took different steps to find the best solution, it has different real persons' feedback, it would be useful to have in the future a wider set of real information a deeper tests, with a real MVP it can be done. This designer research exercise served its rightful purpose which was to teach a developer to get a better understanding of the UI/UX experience.

It is a huge world and I hope to keep understanding it better.