Preview of my side project designing privacy features for Spotify's user profiles
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Spotify: Privacy and abuse-prevention tools

Designing user profile features to create a safe experience while still engaging users to use Spotify, socially.

*This is an unsolicited design project that considers specific edge cases related to user safety.

Being inspired by Kat Fukui's slides, 'Designing strategies for building safer platforms', I wanted to learn more about designing for data and privacy. I found an opportunity to design solutions to direct focus on data transparency and privacy in Spotify.

Business considerations and user research focused this project on building trust and gaining retention from its users through research-driven design. How might we design for privacy while still increasing engagement and business metrics for both the app and its artists?

July - August 2020 (2 weeks)
My Roles
Product Designer
UX Researcher
Problem space

Music can tell really personal stories. Songs, albums, or artists can often be linked to personal memories, periods of a lifetime, or even be linked to friends/family who have similar interests.

Users on Spotify Community and Spotify's Reddit have constantly been pushing for a more meaningful music listening experience through transparency and privacy with their profile features and listening data.


In addition to secondary research above, I conducted some user interviews on followers, playlists, and music sharing/discovery from active users and users who use it less. My main goals were to understand how they value followers, playlists, and music sharing/discovery. My main insights were:

Business considerations and design rationale

Spotify clearly sees value in their social aspect of the product. Third-party partnerships like Instagram/FB stories and has already teased new ways for influencers to share playlists as a means of music discovery on Instagram stories.

Because of how Spotify generates revenue through user retention, I wanted to explore the UX of how Spotify is used socially in these third-party platforms.

Apple Music, a competitor in music streaming, has also stepped in to also partner with third-party platforms to extend reach of their music subscription service, and it seems that they are also seeing the value of the storytelling aspect that music can give to Instagram stories. 

Challenge and scope

Being mindful of the ways people connect music to personal memories, how might we protect users while maintaining safe social interactions involving music sharing/discovery?

Considerations: Design System

One of the main challenges was understanding consistencies in components. Not having access to a design system made it challenging to understand what components should and should not be used, and when (between web player, desktop, tablet, and mobile). I made my own set of guidelines based on my understanding of the current desktop app and designed around that system.

🔐 Privacy and transparency: Selective privacy tools as an integral part of the playlist experience.

With the vulnerability of any public profile online, it’s important to protect any potentially sensitive data and give users agency in controlling what can be seen by certain people.

View user profiles and block them to prevent unwanted interactions

📈 Boost social engagement of app: Onboarding that helps you find friends, personalize your profile, and discover music through friends.

Building off of the success of the ‘Friend Activity’ feature, creating alternative ways for people to find friends and discover music through friends can increase revenue and retention rates while increasing engagement.

Adding verification via mobile phone can also double as two-factor authentication and better security to accounts and playlists.

Viewing your playlist followers and remove unwanted followers
Final iterations

Being mindful of the ways people connect music to personal memories, how might we protect users while maintaining safe social interactions involving music sharing/discovery?

Onboarding for new users: connecting your mobile phone to double as 2-factor authentication and a way to find friends on Spotify
Sync your contacts and find friends outside of Facebook who have also synced their contacts
Next Steps

I'd like to further test the UX writing to see if it fits their brand voice. I'd also like to create success measures that would validate any differences in the social experience. Specifically if this made people feel more safe.

To further expand on the experience of a more social experience, adding personalization to profiles has great potential to connect with a direct messages feature as a means of having one place to share music on Spotify.

Lessons Learned

1. Importance of data and privacy advocacy when designing to protect user profiles and support online communities
Having previously worked on projects for vulnerable communities, I gained better perspective on bringing safety to online communities. This project taught me about data and privacy concerns that can be unaccounted for when preventing abuse. This project revealed to me the importance of advocacy in data privacy and autonomy of our data when designing to protect and support online communities.

2. Design systems: how do design systems navigate design ethics like safety?
Not having access to their design system made it challenging to figure out when certain visual layouts were to be used for specific use cases. I found features specific to each experience (mobile, tablet, desktop, and web player) and it brought up new challenges to design around. This realization helped me look holistically into how these new features can align with the mobile, tablet, desktop, and web player experience as well.