Engaging the users more deeply with podcast producers.
Read on to unveil some of the thinking behind this concept!
Over 51% of the US population has listened to a podcast, with about 80% of those users listening to an average of 7 shows per week. Needless to say, they are loyal and dedicated to their favorite podcasts. But what happens when they finish a podcast? What do producers do when a majority of their user base hop to another series? What can they do to keep their fanbase?
Design a mobile feature for Google Podcasts that allows users to more deeply engage with podcast producers.
Product Designer | Concept
Story Mapping, User Flows, Personas, Product Thinking, Wireframing, Sketching, Ideation, Visual Design, Interaction Design
Podcast listeners have a habit of switching over to other podcast series because of waning interest. A single episode that doesn't satisfy their interests is enough for a Listener to adopt a different podcast, with the possibility of completely dropping the original. Furthermore, the podcast experience in current trends is hugely one-sided. Producers contribute everything, while listeners contribute nothing in return. Producers also are only shown data points about the audience currently (downloads, play time, views, etc.), with no information about audience demographics or interests. How can producers continue creating amazing content without input from their audience?
Reframing the challenge statement can also provide some additional clarity for a better-informed approach - forming a How Might We statement: Design a mobile app feature for Google Podcasts that allows users to more deeply engage with podcast producers.
How might we...
engage: enable users to interact with the producer
To more deeply understand the issue and gather opinions, I took on this challenge with a full design process to present a possible solution to this issue with research-backed information.
Framing the Problem
Conducting user research via surveys and user interviews to find out more about how podcast app users' interactions, motivations, and frustrations shape their app interactions. Researching competitor apps to gain more context about app features and limitations. Synthesizing key findings to craft problem statement.
Exploring the Solution Space
Brainstorming unique & useful features and ideating through sketching various user journey maps. Weeding out excessive features that don't add value for the user.
Finding a Good Solution
Creating various user scenarios and storyboards and personas to scope the problem in the eyes of my target user segments.
Refining the Solution
Wireframing the app as closely as possible to the original Google Podcasts app to allow for modifications and enable user testing. Visual designs (high-fidelity mockups) to present final solution.
First and foremost, I had to setup the framework for research questions that will guide my research survey.
Design a mobile app feature for Google Podcasts that allows users to more deeply engage with podcast producers.
mobile app - mobility, ease of use, anytime access
podcast app - emphasizes listening, interests, browsing, passive-use
users - target audiences, various behaviors, motivations, empathy
engage - communication, rich media, live, chat
producers - speaking, control, planning, casting
What can we learn from other podcast apps in the market?
It has become pretty clear that Podcast apps don’t offer or encourage user engagement with Producers. There seems to be an underlying problem beneath this, and can provide a lot of opportunity for us to open that door.
There are strong implications that users (81%) cannot use the phone to actively engage with the podcast app because they are on the road driving. This puts on a heavy constraint for a solution to encourage user engagement with the app.
Listen to a podcast while they are driving.
Listen to podcasts at least once a week.
Listen to podcasts online (not downloaded).
Do not research up on their favorite podcast producers, BUT...
Would be open to interacting with producers.
Would either DM, comment, or not care to interact with producers.
With these results, I came down to these conclusions.
Users have a hard time in...
1) finding a reason to interact with a producer (75% don't care)
2) finding a direct communication pathway to the producer (no podcast app offers one).
3) finding a way to safely interact with the podcast app while they are listening (81% of them are driving).
Opportunity areas in the podcast app market are…
1) providing easy communication methods to producers.
2) providing incentives or encouragement to interact with producers.
3) making communication more than convenient for the user.
4) adding touchpoints in the user journey for producers to interact with their listeners.
The problem statement helps to focus the design process down in one direction. It helps prevent the design process from diverging off into different directions and grounds all of the decisions to solve this one "problem statement." While thinking about this particular solution further, it was clear that:
The problem is NOT that “people don’t care about the producers.”
The problem is also NOT that users can’t find a way to interact with them.
From our research, we learned that:
Listeners move on fast.
Once users listen and finish a podcast, they move on and find another podcast, related or not.
Producers can’t form a connection with their listeners.
This may be because producers don’t have their own profiles oftentimes, or also because they don’t try to interact with the audience much.
Audience = data (views, duration, downloads, etc.)
The audience is only shown as data points to the producer. Thus, producers can’t really understand how their audience feels about their podcast before, during, or after an episode.
Listeners can’t show their sentiment.
Mainstream apps don’t provide a way for users to engage with producers. Thus podcasts are heavily one-sided, with producers being the only side to send messages.
I came up with 2 unique problem statements for both sides of the app.
Rapid brainstorming with structure is an integral activity to come up with creative features and solutions to my product design problems. I completed ideation through sketches. I like to engage in crazy eight sketches to push my creativity to the next level while still being efficient with my time.
Crazy 8 Sketches: Possible Solutions for Design Problem
Profile pages can allow users to read more about Producers and find other podcasts that they have been involved in. The bigger the picture, the better.
Having listeners write reviews about Episodes can help the community learn more about a Podcast before diving in and committing hours to listening and trying, just to find out they’re not a fan.
Inspired by Facebook, Reactions introduce an easy method for users to show emotions during an episode. Now Producers can really see how their users feel throughout an episode. User engagement can also be tracked for greater progress in ramping up the podcast.
Similar to Soundcloud, users could write comments at specific times of the episode to literally say how they feel about a certain part. However, to keep the app simple in its direction, I decided to take out this idea to avoid toxicity and crowd behaviors.
Voice / Video Chats
Research indicated that (100% of) users did NOT want to voice or video chat with producers. For most, commenting or messaging would suffice.
Though this was a close option, I decided that this would potentially introduce toxicity to the public in a space where thoughtful insights and positivity were triumphant.
This idea involved clipping a portion of the podcast and providing commentary. In short, this would be difficult to implement with audio and constantly maintain.
Again due to user research, majority of our users will be on their phones while listening to podcasts. Live chats would distract our users from driving and would be dangerous to uphold.
I quickly interviewed 2 people, (1) listened to podcasts, and (2) has experience in producing podcasts. I then synthesized personas based off their behaviors, motivations, frustrations and personalities.
Mapping the user journey allows us to identify pain points along the way according to our user persona(s). Not only that, but it allows us to come up with actionable insights to possibly address those pain points.
Quickly drawing out the story map on paper first.
Used Miro to make the story map in a presentable format. One of my favorite tools!
Due to time constraints, I kept this user flow simple and streamlined. Since podcast apps are relatively simple, the user journey is very straightforward. The user opens the (Google Podcasts) app, browses podcasts, selects a podcast series, then plays an episode.
To solve this problem, I created 2 small-step, but effective solutions that will handle pain points from both the Listener and Producer sides simulatenously.
Reactions from the User give emotional feedback to the Producer about the episode / podcast.
The buttons are easy to spot, identify, and quickly press at any point in time.
These Reactions are meant to support the Producer’s message and provide immediate feedback at the time of the Reaction.
Reactions are public, so both Producer and Listener can see how the general public felt at this time of the episode.
Sentiment Reviews are the solution to Producers not understanding how the users feel about the episode as a whole.
Inspired by Uber’s Trip ratings, these Sentiment Reviews are templated, specific, and complimentary to color & sweeten a Producer’s profile.
These also show up at the end of an Episode, so that the Listener can leave a ‘nice’ review before it wraps up. This leaves the Producer feeling accomplished about the content.
Before, Producer 'Profiles' were just a shortcut to the search results for the producer's name. Producers deserve their own pages that can showcase their biography, productions as well as guest appearances on other productions. This would be the first step for listeners to connect better with their producers. Additionally, a Subscribe button should be in tune with richer engagement with them.
Aggregate Sentiments will show up on the Producer Profile now, showing just how popular a Producer is with the audience.
Episodes will also show the 3 most popular Reactions from the crowd, eliciting a sympathetic response from the user.
With just a few days for this project, I would have done many things differently along the way. This includes being able to do more user research (being able to find a podcast producer would have been essential), do more rounds of ideation sketching, and of course integrating usability testing rounds with the low-fidelity prototypes as well as the refined UI prototypes.
Testing for success in completing the main tasks (leaving Sentiments and Reviews) would be the primary factors for usability testing. I would test for what % of users would leave them and how often they would do so - would they provide feedback for every episode? Is every episode too frequent? Also, how would Reviews affect a Podcast’s success in being shared? Reputation is all they have, after all.
Since I know Youtube handles a wide range of comments (not in a good way), I’d be curious to see how the Podcast ‘crowd’ handles comments. Would they be as toxic as Youtube videos? How would that affect certain podcasts?
Since Google employs illustrations for many of their apps, I would have liked to use a different design for leaving Reviews and bring it closer to how Uber handles their Trip Ratings experience.
I was surprised that the users I interviewed don’t look up the podcast producers that they listen to every week! Listening to podcasts in the car is a passive activity - you connect your phone via Bluetooth, turn it on, and just listen. Podcasts, for the most part, are simply a voice you turn on when you are preoccupied with another activity. Users don’t normally ‘only’ listen to podcasts as part of their daily routine. Thus, it makes sense why users don’t actively think about their podcast producers.
Would podcast app design change the way users care about their producers? That is the question! I’d like to think that design can definitely unlock the emotional pathway between producers and their audience. I learned that current podcast app design can make way for it, but gradually. Research still says users aren’t there yet. I’m excited to see how our needs as listeners may change as we develop new behaviors around listening.
Thank you for reading!