Apple Podcasts
Case study
Role
Product Designer
Skills
UX Research
Product Design
Duration
Six weeks -

Brief

I've been an avid podcast listener since sophomore year in college, and a few months ago, I started a podcast with my friend Ray called Culture Jelly. It was the time I started to notice that the rate of new podcasts being created continues to increase. During the past few years, there has been a steady growth in the number of podcast listeners as well as podcast shows.
Interestingly, in 2020, Spotify has overtaken Apple in key markets for podcast listeners. Apple Podcasts is no longer dominating the podcast world. As a loyal Apple Podcasts user and podcast lover, I was curious about how Apple Podcasts has lost its way. Thus, I decided to do a case study on its current application, in the hope of improving the existing streaming experience and exploring the possibility that podcast applications could expand in the future.

Design Process

This project was executed following a Double Diamond method proposed below:

Discover

I started off by researching the current podcast market and other social audio platforms, such as Clubhouse and Discord. Also, a competitor analysis was adapted to the study to generate insights into the potential solutions or features Apple Podcasts could incorporate and to create a stronger streaming experience for its users.

From the results of desktop research and competitor analysis, I formed three assumptions that could be implemented into this existing digital service and increase long term engagement with users.  These are

Live audio and record function that offers audiences a platform to engage with the host and enable podcasters to record down and upload the content;
Social interaction inside the podcast applications to makes it easier for listeners to find great content and to help podcasters find new listeners;
Personalised content that helps overcome the discovery problem or the huge amount of podcast content that often gets discovered only through word of mouth.

To validate assumptions and know more about podcast listeners' streaming experience and their thoughts on trends and the current market, I conducted an online survey and received responses from 72 podcast listeners. I then followed up with 5 current or previous Apple Podcasts users to conduct semi-structured interviews.

Define
Characteristics of podcast listeners

The main reason for people to listen to podcasts is that they like to receive information without actively searching for it and podcasts provide them with well-structured information. They are also relatively passive in terms of interacting with podcasters they like on social media. Therefore, some social podcast apps are still struggling to reach users or having them share and comment in the app.

Most listeners know what kind of information, themes or topics they want to listen to before opening their podcast streaming applications.

Podcasting is a time-efficient form of communication. It saves time and improves productivity. Therefore, Podcasts are listened to in a variety of circumstances, thus, user scenarios differ greatly from person to person and from place to place.

Define
Pain-points

According to survey, good navigation is still considered as the main factor for podcast listeners when choosing between different streaming applications. The current Apple Podcasts application is outdated.

Listeners are often overwhelmed by the huge amount of podcast content. Even when listeners are aware of the topic and category they want to listen to, they still find the categories too broad and time-consuming to find the right show.

⚠️ Users are switching over to other platforms such as Spotify because of Apple Podcasts' poor navigation and discovery problem.

After synthesising the research results, I decided to focus on optimising the navigation and developing the third assumption mentioned previously — Personalised Content. Therefore, a new question is:

How might we create a better navigation system and explore new ways of bringing listeners closer to their content?

I created 2 archetypes and associated personas that represent the users key characteristics and pain-points from the interview result and qualitative research.

I mapped a specific user journey for the Sherry Hedegaard persona. I focussed on demonstrating the discovery journey and highlighted one or more pain-points and plotted potential solutions.

Develop
Inspiration

Develop
Wireframing

I decided to keep the navigation bar the same, containing four tabs: Listen Now, Search, Browse and Library.

The Listen Now screen gives users the content they are familiar with and consume daily.

The Search screen empowers users to discover podcasts through an advanced search and filter function.

The Browse screen provides curated content based on the users' recent interests.

The Library screen stores the shows and episodes that users have subscribed to, played, and searched.

Develop
Prototyping

Reinforce the Search screen by adding Browse Categories that enables users to dive deep into any categories.

The Listen Now screen gives users the content they consume daily. This includes latest episodes from the subsribed shows, recently played and shows users might be interested in.

The Library screen stores the shows and episodes that users have subscribed to, played, and searched.

Advanced search and filter function
It helps generate the content based on the chosen category/topic, users’ mood, location and the episode length they wish to listen to.

Curate your content function
Users often get bored and annoyed by seeing the same content on the Browse screen every day, especially if it's not something they are interested in. Therefore, the Curate your content function gives listeners an opportunity to curate their Browse screen and enable users to re-customize the categories they are interested in.

Train your Apple Podcasts
By tapping on the cover art, users get to tell Apple Podcasts if they like the content or what kind of mood they need to be in to enjoy it.
It allows Apple Podcasts to create truly personalised content for every individual user rather than providing them with the content generated from other user’s behaviours and data.

Deliver
Usability Testing (Coming soon)