#28 Rochelle King – Data and User Experience Design
June 4, 2021
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Rochelle King is an “experience architect” who works on user experience design for giants like Spotify and Netflix. King talks about best practices for coordinating relationships between designers around the mission of serving users based on data. In her 12 minute Ted Talk, King discusses how data can inform digital design to improve user interfaces and user experience. 


When you consider the difference between presenting music in a physical live venue versus on a digital platform like Spotify, you can see the digital platform allows the designer a lot more flexibility to change and a lot more opportunities to collect data. King notes that data can tell us how people use our product, but it is important not to get lost in abstraction.


We must always remember underneath the data are actual individuals. To serve them well, we must ask two basic questions. What do they want to accomplish? How well are we doing at delivering that experience? In the case of Spotify, designers collected data to show how long it took people from the time they began to look for something to listen to until the time they began to hear music, and data to show how often they returned to the site.


Like many websites, Spotify evolved over time and gradually became a mis-matched aesthetic jumble. In particular, light and dark interfaces were mixed. The design team came up with a hypothesis that the darker interface showcased the music better by making the album art images stand out more. 


Using a standard best practice of user research, Spotify did an A/B test, trying a new interface with a limited subset of their subscribers. They found that using the darker interface, users listened to as much or more music. In qualitative surveys, they found the users felt the design did indeed showcase the music better. And, surprisingly, even though the music offered was exactly the same, users experiencing the darker interface felt that they were being offered a broader range of music, despite nothing changing except the look and feel. That really shows how much impact design can have. 


The next question that the designers answered with data illuminated user reactions to play buttons. Some members of the design team felt they were important to cue users to take action and click on a music tile to play. Others felt they were redundant and caused a cluttered feel to the interface, discouraging action by making users uncomfortable. Testing revealed that the former group was right. Users who experienced the interface without play buttons played more music than those who saw play buttons. This may sound like a small detail, but when your core service is playing music for people, this small detail of having a button or not sits at the core of the delivery and is essential to the product and the outcome for users. 


These two examples show data informed designers. First, they came up with a hypothesis about user behavior and user experience variations based on design, and then they implemented those designs and used data to analyze their effectiveness. 


User experience data gives designers the opportunity to test and measure what works best for their users. With the flexibility of digital delivery and the power of data, designers can work to deliver user experiences that are increasingly customized to deliver personal experiences that work for individual users.

With this perspective in mind, it is time to ask yourself: How can you use the power of data to improve user experience for your customers?