Boiler Room is an online music platform broadcasting live music sessions from around the world. This project is my attempt to rethink how the Boiler Room iOS app approaches search, discovery, and content organisation.
Producing an average of 30+ shows per month in 100 cities worldwide, Boiler Room has a significant catalogue of audio and video content available to its users. Despite being an avid follower of Boiler Room’s YouTube channel, I felt the experience within the app (particularly content organisation, search, and music discovery) could be improved in order to help Boiler Room “connect millions of music heads with the music they love”.
Music TV for the internet age. Boiler Room televises underground music as it happens from around the world to a massive online community.
Content on Boiler Room is broadcast via four channels, with each focusing on different genres of music:
Channel 1: Grime, UK garage & Worldly Club Sounds
Channel 2: House & Techno
Channel 3: Rap, Trap and Soulful Rhythms
Channel 4: Live bands
These channels are used across Boiler Room’s app, website, and Youtube page as a way of organising and categorising broadcasted shows. Currently these channels are differentiated visually by a logo/icon for each channel. Although this approach works well for the website and YouTube page, I found that the lack of clear ‘channel identities’ was making it difficult to navigate through the app.
The current visual design of the BR app is primarily black and white. Although visually impactful, this limited colour scheme does mean that different sections within the app at times blend together, creating uncertainty in the page structure.
Taking influence from Boiler Room’s event posters, which often feature bold colour schemes and graphics, I wanted to introduce colour into the app as a way of creating a clearer page structure, and as a means of organising content through ‘channel identities’. By giving each channel a signifying colour that’s used across the app, users can more easily differentiate between genres when browsing and will begin to create a mental model that associates certain channel colours with music they tend to enjoy. This would (hopefully) make them more likely to check out new artists and videos based on the fact this content is linked, via colour, to something they’d previously enjoyed.
Some Boiler Room event posters:
By taking influence from Boiler Room’s offline graphics, the app’s visual design can be used to create and enforce a cohesive brand identity across the company’s multiple platforms, as well as providing clearer content organisation and structure for its users:
Currently the app presents content in a chronological feed, with the latest videos being shown at the top. Although this is good for established users who regularly follow Boiler Room, it creates barriers for new users getting started with the app.
The lack of ‘popularity signifiers’ and music recommendations (such as trending or featured content) means that a new user’s first experience can end up being a trial-and-error process whilst they search for an artist or video they like.
By re-thinking the information hierarchy and splitting the channel feed into ‘featured’ and ‘latest’ content we can reduce the mental load for new users, and create a smoother entry to streaming content. Videos from sponsored events and brand collaborations could also be spotlighted here for additional exposure.
Boiler Room’s search screen also seems to be aimed at more established users. The lack of suggested search categories means that a user needs to have an existing knowledge of the Boiler Room archive in order to avoid empty search results.
By guiding users with categories such as ‘popular genres’ and by offering pre-made curated playlists, Boiler Room can help users navigate their extensive library in a more manageable way.
This tweak in how content is presented to users (supported by the proven quality of Boiler Room’s curators) will help to subtly reposition Boiler Room as a more streaming-oriented app, and a viable ‘underground’ alternative to platforms such as Spotify.
After talking to friends who use the Boiler Room app (and based on my own experience as a user) there were a few usability issues that were raised:
1) People tend to use the app on-the-go, and therefore place less importance on streaming video (vs. audio) when compared to their Boiler Room experience on desktop
2) Using video previews in the app’s channel feeds creates friction due to things like lagging video loads (particularly when using mobile data)
3) For finding new music things like descriptions and suggested content was very important
4) Navigating around the app was at times felt to be confusing and slightly cumbersome
1) Use a slideout menu to make it easier for users to navigate between channels. Offer the ability to enable/disable autoplay of content (so if a user is on 3G they can turn off autoplay to conserve data and speed up movement within the app.
2) Turn off autoplay by default and replace video previews with audio previews, thereby reducing load time and creating a smoother experience within the channel feeds.
3) Rework the audio/video player to create a clearer structure and place more emphasis on descriptions and recommended content
This case study is purely conceptual and is not affiliated with the company presented. If you’re into underground music make sure to check out Boiler Room.