Introduction to Spotify Connect
Spotify Connect is a feature that is described by Spotify that allows the user to “Play Spotify through your speakers, laptop or TV, using the Spotify app as a remote.” Specifically, I am examining the ability to use the Spotify Iphone app as a remote to control the Spotify application on a Macbook Air running OS X Yosemite. (https://www.spotify.com/us/connect/)
If a user is listening to Spotify on their Iphone and has Spotify open on their Macbook, there is alarming visual feedback on the Macbook Spotify interface that suggests the potentially embarrassing music that is playing privately through the Iphone headphones is blasting through the computer speakers.
The feedback provided through the laptop interface falsely suggests that the user has suffered a mode error and is operating the application through the wrong mode, in this case Spotify Connect. However, this feedback is not true and the music is still only playing through the Iphone headphones, which leads to confusion.
To be fair, Spotify Connect on the Iphone app does adhere pretty well to Norman’s principles of visibility, constraints, and feedback. There is a visible Spotify Connect button on the bottom of the interface that lets the user know they have to press there to specifically activate the function, in essence constraining the task of activating Spotify Connect to that one area of the screen. Pressing the button provides immediate feedback in the form of a Spotify Connect status screen, letting the user know where their Spotify music is currently playing.
The main design flaw can be attributed to poor mapping. The user’s mental model is simple: Spotify plays music on whatever device they are controlling. Confusion arises when your actions on an Iphone unexpectedly affects what happens on your Macbook. There is a gulf between the execution and evaluation, and the design has failed. A related design flaw is the choice to automate the Spotify Connect function which takes away control from the user, which contributes the gulf of the original goal of playing music on your Iphone, and the evaluation of seeing unexpected feedback on the Macbook interface.
Examining the visual feedback of the Macbook interface also elucidates a design flaw, and ultimately leads a user to think they have erred. This can again be attributed to poor mapping. The button that lights up to let a user know that music is playing on the Iphone is the same button as volume. Not only that, the volume bar which normally provides feedback on how loud your music is playing through your Macbook is maxed out. A user’s mental model would have them believe that music is blasting from their computer speakers. There are ultimately more functions than specific controls on the Macbook interface, which in this case leaves the user confused.
The easiest design recommendation is to give control back to the user. The Iphone app should ONLY connect to the MacBook app if the Spotify Connect function is activated by the user on their Iphone. The design recommendation for the Macbook visual feedback is to simply add another button next to volume on the interface that only provides feedback to the status of Spotify Connect. The bright green bar with text that originally pointed to the volume, would now point to the status of Spotify Connect, and let users know the source of the device that is playing through the interface.