Problem: Lack of Inclusive Design Leads to Disrupted Listening Experiences.


Our team was joined by a common interest and passion of music. We were inspired to pursue this idea after our own experiences of seeing the Deaf and HoH community portrayed in movies and TV shows, on Youtube, etc. Seeing their struggles motivated us to delve deep into this question of accessibility on music streaming platforms, especially through a platform with a highly personalized community and global reach such as Spotify.

What it does

SoundFULL Streams leverages community reporting and existing design to optimize data: we recommend flagging (I) songs that have lyrics for easy filtering and (II) songs that have parts that aren't audible to the reporting user (much like flagging songs with explicit content).

Sample user story: "As a Hard of Hearing User, I want more inclusive in-app customization so that I can enjoy the music curated just for me with little disruption."

Core Principle: Leveraging Community and Existing Design to Optimize Data and Increase Accessibility

How we built it

We're working off of Spotify's pre-existing search/filtering algorithm infrastructure- just adding a few more queries to enhance the Hard of Hearing user experience while gathering even more useful, personalized data for Spotify machine learning processes.

Challenges we ran into

Research - Because this was a new world of users and experiences, we got a little lost trying to figure out where to start. Do we go with fully Deaf users? Partially Deaf? Which threshold should we assume for our persona?

Breaking Barriers in a Marginalized Community - When we were first conducting customer research, we were wandering into unknown territory (the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities). People from the Deaf/HoH communities are understandably frustrated: they’ve been treated repeatedly like animals in a zoo by hearing people who would only reach out to propose a brand new "quick fix" tool to problems they've spent their whole lives trying to work around. We wanted to be as respectful as possible as hearing team members to make sure we were proposing a new feature for a product that's ACTUALLY been used by them to capture THEIR needs.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We're proud that we could engage with Hard of Hearing users to get pain points from their own words. Also, we found more alignment between stakeholders (e.g. the Spotify sound engineer mentioned in the demo) and loyal users who are Hard of Hearing to determine a logical, viable solution.

What we learned

  1. LEARN from your customer (especially those who come from a marginalized community - listen more so that they can feel understood as well as heard when they walk through the use case and bring up pain points)

  2. EMPATHIZE with your customer

  3. ALIGN your user's needs with the company's mission and business goals to target the problem (Hard of Hearing users wouldn't have fallen under some of the stakeholder's radar, but it's actually going to be a growing problem with the world aging and losing its hearing (especially the 54.4% of majority Spotify users, who are aged 18-35 years old. (Assistive tech has been more pressing on the company's mind, especially with the hunt for a senior Accessibility PM for Spotify's NYC office over the past two months.)

4, SIMPLIFY the steps a user needs to take to give you the data you need.

What's next for SoundFULL Streams

a. Medium case study article

b. Scrollable prototype for user interviews and feedback

c. More iteration

d. Final verdict from users whether or not this is a go

e. Focus on the feature most prioritized by target users

f. Develop the PRD and develop epics

g. Re-prioritize around a roadmap

h. Continuously check target KPI goal (user churn) for the target segment once sufficient data is added

Thank you very much for your consideration!

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