This was a class project at General Assembly.
Our challenge: Entice new Generation Z users to a legacy music streamer.
My roles collaborating with my team include: Research, Strategy, Ideation and Sketching, Wireframes, Copy and Presentation.

A Pandora's Box

With a Plague for Monthly Active Users

Pandora’s active monthly users stood at 81.5 million in 2014. This was their peak. From here it has been a steady trek downhill. When they were purchased by Sirius XM in 2018, their users had declined to 63.5 million users. As of Q1 2020, their users stand at 60.9 million. One could easily assume more declines are on the way. And one must wonder what does Sirius XM think? Pandora has experienced a five percent decline in users within the two years of their acquisition.  

True, Sirius XM purchased a great user predictive algorithm, but is this all they bought for their $3.5 Billion?

Forcing an Abdication
to the Streaming Throne

When it comes to Generation Z and music streaming, Spotify is the king. Apple Music would love to be the favored child-- the heir apparent, but that has yet to be determined. In fact, there are new challengers for the throne every day. Unfortunately, Pandora is not considered a serious contender. They are toward the bottom of the list of brand awareness and market share. In Generation Z’s eyes, they are the forgotten Duke, the antiquated provider of digital radio stations.  

The biggest threat to this streaming monarchy is YouTube and its sister, YouTube Music. At over One Billion ad-supported users and 20 Million subscribers, YouTube is the potential usurper Pandora should emulate.

And No Easy Cure

Marketers would have you believe that the secret to connecting with Gen Z is video. And it may be true for apps that are based on gaming, social or creativity. But when it comes to music, our research indicates that Gen Z is a bit puritanical. They like their music uncut by shiny objects, flashy cuts and storyline. To them, music videos are nothing more than garnish. As this became apparent in our research, we jettisoned the suggestion of providing on-demand video in our design.  

This created a design conundrum. Pandora needs to attract Millennium eyeballs, but Gen Z Is Meh on Music Videos. Our solution is for Pandora to emphasize Live Concerts. This brings us to our next hurdle: Getting Gen Z to “want to go to there."

Pandora's Broken Promise

Our Persona, Gil

Our design team used the Agile Double Diamond Process. Think of it as a well-stocked toolbox. We created Gil as our persona based upon research interviews from Gen Z users (3 Male and 1 female) who used streaming music apps, video apps and attended concerts. Their responses were synthesized down to our Persona’s needs and perspective.

Gil’s professional life is just beginning. To him, friends are family. He’s thoroughly wired as Instagram is his go-to for social media. And YouTube is his go-to for watching videos. For balance, Gil pays a premium for tactile experiences in the physical world. He wants to enjoy experiences with his friends—even if they are separated physically. He loves music. Loves concerts. But he hates crowds.

Currently Pandora offers Live presentations of concerts, streamed to a browser page that anyone can sign up for and watch for free. One live event was the perfect Heuristic Evaluation for our Persona, allowing us visibility into an offering we could potentially redesign for the mobile market. So, we sent Gil (and his friends) to this Pandora Live presentation of a Kane Brown concert.

Gil's Super Lame Online Concert Adventure

It's Not So Together

It was online and free, and Gil couldn’t wait to see one of his favorite performers. All he had to do was sign up and provide a valid email address. In fact, he signed in early to experience the pre-show offering of a trivia game. Despite a large chat environment built into the browser, it was a lonely experience for Gil. The speed of the chat roll made it impossible to read individual posts much less any made by any of his friends. The panel was tough to close. And though it was initially exciting, suggesting bigger things to come—almost like a special effect from The Matrix, it became monotonous and eventually annoying. To have any interaction with his friends socially, he has to rely upon his phone and access to Instagram, Snap or Twitter.

It's Not So Mobile

Though he was watching it on his laptop initially, there were limited opportunities to make it mobile. There was no dedicated mobile app. And using the mobile browser was not successful, because it was not built for this experience. As a result, if Gil did want to be mobile, to let’s say make some dinner in his kitchen, he still has to drag along his laptop to see the show.

It's Not So Live

Perhaps most damaging to the Pandora brand was the fact that this “Live” event, was not in fact, live. Gil feels as if he is the victim of a bait and switch. The logo on the browser page is branded Live. The pre-roll video packages are branded Live. But it wasn’t. It was slick, pre-packaged video that lasted only thirty minutes. It showcased only five songs. Was interrupted by a weird cartoon. And provided an uncomfortable interview peppered throughout. The feeling was more press junket than insight. It was a good thing this “Live” event was free, thinks Gil. Because he never would have paid for that experience.

Pandora broke its promise.

Gil's Sweet Suite

Our job as designers was to figure out a solution for Pandora to win Gil back into the fold. We know Gil loves the concert experience. But he hates being with crowds of strangers. Our solution: Step away from general admission and step into a Virtual Suite.  

By utilizing a virtual suite, Gil can watch the concert live with friends. He can video chat, text, in real time no matter where his friends are located. It’s like they’re in the same room. Along with having all the comforts of home such as the kitchen, bathroom and a place to rest your feet, he can skip the crowds of strangers.

Puttin' the Pandora Pieces Together

Couldn't See the Suite
for All the Seats

We were excited once we stumbled upon this solution feature. We became entrepreneurs, thrilled with not just designing an app but creating a business as well. And like many entrepreneurs, we became distracted. Instead of focusing on the concert experience, we traveled down rabbit holes dealing with account creation and monetization tiers. It was only when we got our solution to the wireframe stage and began testing that we saw our misdirection. One hundred percent of our users were distracted by these rabbit holes as well. In fact, none of them could comprehend the benefits of a virtual suite in the first place.

All Aboard for Onboarding

While all the users were distracted, we could tell from their testing that we were close to a minimum viable product. Given our time constraints, we took our findings and implemented them into our high-fidelity design. Our focus was on creating a three-screen onboarding tour that explains what a virtual suite is as soon as the user launches the app. We also provided helpful micro text for the UI and features. Finally, we jettisoned the monetization piece, as asking users to pony up twenty bucks for features they didn’t understand circumvented their experience.

The Successful Pandora Solution...

...Is a Happy Path...

Finally, we sent Gil through a host of tasks in our high-fidelity prototype. In this version, Gil learned what the features of a virtual suite are through our onboarding screens. Not only was it now intuitive to Gil, but to our usability testers as well. One hundred percent were able to grasp the concept of the suite and easily relate those features to the proctor. We promoted these features as free, removing distractions and confusion surrounding monetization for Gil and our testers.

...To a Virtual Suite...

Once we labeled it Reserve a Suite, we were able to convey a successful user path. Once on this path, the user who books the suite is designated as Host. And the host is able to customize the suite’s name and invite up to seven other friends. The host can also see the status of those invited. One hundred percent of our testers were able to complete these host tasks without any problem.

...Complete with
Hosting Duties

Gil and our testers had no problems attending the concert as hosts and entering their virtual suites. Our design provides helpful reminders about the starting time of the event. It also provides helpful text cues to utilize the contextual toolbar. The host can easily see how many guests have arrived. All hosts and friends who join have access to video chat and text. Until the event begins, the countdown is easy to observe. And once the event begins, users can rotate their mobile device to enjoy a landscape view without any of the friends’ video chat obscuring the view. Users can even leave the suite and search the app for other events while enjoying a minimized concert window.

...And Thirty Minutes
to Hang After the Show

Post event, the host and friends can enjoy thirty minutes of socializing before the suite is closed. The inhabitants still have full access to the video chat and texting. All testers were able to complete these tasks on their own.

The Business Pitch to Pandora

Softer's Better

When presenting to our client (okay, our class), we suggested that Pandora soft launch the app in a smaller, contained market like Phoenix instead of a nationwide or global launch. Having a smaller market allows the team to focus on ensuring a user experience that’s intuitive. Video streams that are robust and secure. Audio mixing that is superior—providing rich, concert-like sound as well as preventing any technical glitches such as reverb. We would bring back monetization once we knew the product was viable and scalable.

Pandora, Pandora:
2 Screens for Dual Platforming

We proposed some serious next steps for our clients. Our team felt that the application would move to the next level once it began taking advantage of the Over the Top functionality allowed in Apple TV. By piggybacking off of both iOS for the phone and TVOS for the set top box, we believe the design can fully utilize a dual platform solution. For example, access to the set top box would allow access to home theaters, where the audio can become truly immersive. By utilizing the phone, there can be a separate, function rich remote control.

This next version is also the perfect time to reintroduce monetization tiers for users. This allows for multiple revenue streams from not only the purchase of a suite, but from ad-supported initiatives and potential third-party co-branding and merchandising opportunities.