Usability of Spotify

An investigation of behavioral insights of Spotify users and the usability of Spotify

Spotify is one of the largest audio streaming platforms with a sharing of 40% of the global music streaming market. As a researcher and a user, I was so fascinated by the ways users interact with music through this service and couldn't wait to investigate. This project explored two major questions associated with Spotify:

  • What's the relationship between user's traits, the scenario of using Spotify and the using behaviors?
  • What are the usability issues on Spotify's application?

Outcomes of the research are an analysis of Spotify users’ using behaviors, a selected number of usability problems and suggested solutions.

Exploratory Interview

Talking to real Spotify users enabled us to know better about different using behaviors, types of users and varies using scenarios. These insights were used in further passes of heuristic evaluation, where evaluators were tasked to play the role as different types of users in order to discover more usability issues. We had conversation with 6 participants including both freemium and premium users and didn’t limit the types of device they use because many using behaviors are shared by all types of users. Before conducting interviews, researcher further analyzed music-related behaviors on Spotify and categorized them into 3 types: music searching, music management and music listening. Interview questions were designed around these 3 large categories.


The "Specific-Random" Tension

From the 6 explorative interviews, we learned that users have very distinguished using behaviors and preferences in music searching, managing and listening. All 3 types of behaviors can be very specific, focused and organized or random and non-planned. The diagram below shows the behaviors identified in the interviews and how they are located on the “specific-random” spectrum.


Behavior Matrix

All using behaviors can also be categorized based on the original or trigger. Context and user trait are two major triggers that cause most of the behaviors. According to how much these two parameters play the role of triggering using behaviors, 4 types of behaviors are identified. They are:

Context-oriented behaviors (top left): all types of users might have these behaviors in certain contexts.
E.g. all users want to listen to energetic music when they are running.

User-trait-oriented behaviors (bottom right): only certain types of user have these behaviors.
E.g. users who like organize music create playlists to categorize their music in the library.

Behaviors triggered by both context and user traits (top right): both user traits and context make these behaviors to happen.
E.g. users who like to listen to specific music use Shazam to recognize music when they encounter it in their life.

Behaviors involved low context and user traits(bottom left): behaviors forced by the program.

Listening behaviors are more context-triggered and music managing behaviors are the opposite, more like a personal style. The answers to “how do you manage the music in your library” have a high variation than the other two, which shows the strong relation between the answer and the responder. Searching behaviors are in between.

Usability Testing

Testing Design

A Journey of Potential Usability Problems

During 2 passes of heuristic evaluation, we identified a list of usability issues. Among these issues, part of them are obvious or non-serious usability issues that don’t require verification from further testing; the rest issues needed to be further examined for the researcher to determine the severity level and influence in users’ real experience.
To verify these issues based on reactions from real users, we designed a journey along which participants in the usability test will encounter selected issues. After a brief introduction on the objectives of the usability test and a few questions about the past experience of using Spotify and other music-related programs, participants will be asked to complete a series of tasks on Spotify (premium). During the test, participants are encouraged to think out loud so testers are able to understand the thinking process underlying the actions and decisions. Testers also observe participants’ facial expressions and other reactions during the test and ask follow-up or clarifying questions in order to fully understand participants’ experience.

Major concern:

Queue is a confusing function and metaphor: the rules of how it works is unclear.Users might not use this function at all.Users might not understand the titles on the page.

Minor concern:

  • Artist’ name on the song’s page doesn’t look clickable and the distance between it the the song’s name is too closed. Users might click the other one by mistake.
  • On an artist page, there are only 5 songs in the section “popular songs” and users can’t check more. This number might be too small.
  • On an artist page, after a user click an item under “offers”, there is no confirmation before the page goes to another website.
TESTING result

Usability Problems Diagnosis

According to participants' reaction to this potential usability issues, we confirmed that the major concern, Queue function, minor concern No.1 and No.3 are usability problems. The details of the problem and suggested solutions are listed below:


Queue is a confusing function and metaphor.

Aside from the confusing titles and terms on the interface, the underlying issue is that the way Spotify arrange the order of songs might, sometimes, doesn’t align with user’s logic.
During the heuristic evaluation, evaluator tried different ways to understand how Spotify arrange the order of songs in different using scenarios and found that in some scenarios, the way songs were ordered is counter-logic. For example, evaluator played a song from a playlist while another playlist is playing. After the song ended, the next song was from the new playlist but not the old one. Evaluator had to go to the home page to resume the former playlist.




  • Remove “Next in Queue” section.
  • Change the option “ADD TO QUEUE” to “MOVE TO THE TOP”.
  • Change the title “Next From:” to “Next:”.


No notification before jump to another website

On an artist page, after a user click an item under “offers”, there is no confirmation before the page goes to another website.

Add a confirmation step that informs users they are going to be guided to another website.

Some text links don’t look clickable

The picture on the left is the song’s page. The artist’ name is in gray and very closed to the song’s name so many users don’t consider it is a link.The link in the picture on the right has the same issue.

Change the font size, color or add other elements (arrow or underline, for example) to make them look more clickable.

To see more usability problems identified in this research, please access the entire report.


Usability Testing
Qualitative Research
Heuristic Evaluation

My Responsibilities

Research Planning and Design
Research Conducting