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NOW Music+: Designing Effortless Access to Music

Posted 4 years ago by Naomi Francis

It would be an understatement to say that the internet turned the music industry on its head. However, out of the ashes rose streaming services which have revolutionised the way that we consume music. There are the major players we’re fairly familiar with but Sony and Universal’s joint venture, NOW Music+, is one that has got us talking.

Everyone knows NOW Music. It’s been around since 1983, bringing the nation the best compilations of popular music year on year. Now, a specific, lean and ambitious team have been brought in to build a streaming service for the brand. NOW Music+ is the app they launched earlier this year which targets a different market to other services .

With user testing, research and design at the centre of their mission, we decided to go visit the minds behind NOW Music Plus. Their Product Manager and Ex-Spotify, Louis Napoletani, spent some time with us to run through the thought process behind the app and how he and Alex McCloy (Director of Digital), got to launch.

"People assume that everyone knows about and is using a streaming service but this is still a growing market."

Why launch a NOW Music streaming service?

A lot of people assume that everyone knows about and is using a streaming service, but this is still a growing market. Building a service like this is about reaching a demographic who enjoy music in a more laid back approach whilst educating them on the benefits of streaming.

With around 97% brand name recognition in the UK and 100m+ album sales , this felt like the natural next step and was an excellent opportunity to engage with a new audience.

“That’s what pulled me into this position, the desire to build something. We’re a very small, agile team that works as fluidly as a start up,” Louis tells us.

How does NOW Music+ differ from other streaming services?

The other streaming services are what you’d call, all-you-can-eat, with millions of song and lots of different features. So far the streaming market has been widely adopted by early adopters who want exactly this. However mainstream pop consumers don’t want all music, or a complex UI, just a well curated selection of the biggest chart hits around, and well designed easy-to-use features, this is who NOW+ has been designed for.

"It’s all about designing for effortless access to music."

Break down the core features of the app for us.

There are four main features within the app. ‘NOW Chart’ - which is exactly what it says on the tin! It’s a weekly chart curated in house. It weighs up with some of the big charts but follows the expertise and formula NOW has used for a very long time.

‘NOW Playlist’ - which houses all of the latest NOW Albums including Special Edition NOW’s, dating back to 1983. It’s a great feature because everyone loves to reminisce to pop classics from the past. We also, curate exclusive NOW playlists on this service, that you won’t see anywhere else.

‘My NOW’ is a Create Your Own NOW mechanic. Users can create a 40 track playlist really easily, selecting from 10 NOW themes from the thousands of songs in the NOW catalogue. If they don’t like a track they can remove it and a new suggestion added automatically.

Lastly, ‘Saved Songs’ is last on the nav menu - that’s where you can save tracks to listen to offline. Songs can be saved as easily as clicking on the star to the right of the track to add it to your offline playlist.

What was your approach to design?

We aimed for a very simple app with the goal to make it as intuitive as possible for a casual music consumer. For me, language is everything and is more than just words. Visually and tonally. You have to write things in a way which makes the reader feel like they’re the only person the speaker is talking to. That’s what we need to do when we design as well. We need to design like we’re talking to that user.

“Every step of the way has to be essential for the user.”

We’re an established brand and users have a lot of trust in us, we want to make sure we retain that trust. At the same time, as a business - we need to be able to convert those into subscribers. It’s about reaching an equilibrium. If you want their business you need to be giving pop fans something of value every step of the way, whilst being as transparent as you possibly can.

What processes are key to your approach?

We’re very lean as a core team and are all responsible for concepts, ideas through to design. If we need to move quickly and adapt, we need to be able to prototype quickly. Fluidly prototyping a vision with ease plays an essential role in the development of our app’s design.

The user journey needs to be a great experience, and to accurately achieve this you need visual exploration. That involves, testing multiple user journeys, in order to find the right path.

"The user journey needs to be a great experience - to accurately achieve this you need visual exploration."

With NOW being such an established brand, did you find that restrictive creatively on this project?

The NOW brand is very colourful and bold, it’s designed to really stand out. As a digital product is continual, this app needed to have longevity to it whilst maintaining NOW’s identity. We worked our way around this and also avoided making the app look like a tech company product.

We took elements of NOW’s established identity and saw what worked together. We decided on block, bold colours and placed focus on app icon design and branding on store as well. It’s widely known that you can lose a lot of users , if the icon doesn’t stand out people will forget about it on their device. Our logo is very established so that’s what we stuck to. Keeping the design around it very simple but bold when sitting next to other icons.

“It’s been a fantastic journey, working with smart and passionate people to bring something intuitive and well loved to the masses. We’re moving very quickly and constantly learning, and building on the research we’ve already done. I still believe if you speak to a user in their tone of voice you have a much more reciprocal relationship.”

Apps Streaming Music Prototyping

NOW Music+ is available on the App Store and Play Store now. For more info see http://nowmusic.plus

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