This project showcases how I started from a high-level open-ended question to finding winning design solutions through research and iterations.
Background & Goal
Song-access-driven VIP subscriptions have been the main source of revenue for Smule.
The company's monetization initiative in 2017 was to explore a new VIP+ package that provides higher-end features for users and new level of subscription income.
We set off to explore this grand open-ended challenge, gathered valuable insights from in-depth research, iterated through ideas broadly and deeply, and eventually delivered designs with positive results.
Roles & Process
I was the lead designer working with one PM and a few engineers across platforms end-to-end.
After we finalized the design direction, a visual designer joined me for color study, as shown later on this page.
Research - Survey
Before seeking ideas for VIP+, we first need to deeply empathize with our existing engaged customers.
We started a survey for engaged customers to validate our high level hypotheses:
They value the quality of their recordings, and are willing to put effort into it.
They are motivated by the social connections built based on their recordings.
Research - VIP Interviews
Survey helped us see a high level picture of general trends, next step was to dive deep into customers’ daily experiences.
To do that, I reached out to a list of VIPs in the bay area, visited 6 of them in their homes, their neighborhood parks, or places that they are most natural about using and chatting about the app.
We brought gifts and swags from Smule, made friends with them, heard them tell me about their life stories, watched them use the app in their own ways.
We learned a lot about how each of them met Smule, why they became VIPs and stayed for years.
Research - Insights
After a week’s visits, we collected 10 hours of interview footages, which I later cut into 70+ clips, each representing an authentic insight from the customers, and categorized them into 5 themes.
Core Values is a special theme about how Smule community can be deeply meaning a lot to people, it was very powerful to hear it from themselves.
Among all the themes, Advanced Editing and Profile Customization are the two with the most potential to find promising features for VIP+ package.
I explored under the two themes with low-fi mocks and screen flows with their pros and cons so the team can analyze and decide together.
Based on engineer team’s estimate, the technical challenges around video/audio processing made ideas under Advanced Editing less practical. The company decided to continue to only explore further under profile customization direction, and planned to brand ‘Custom Profile’ as a new VIP feature instead of launching a VIP+.
I iterated more hi-fi design with flows and prototypes for ideas under Custom Profile, from screen layouts, interaction patterns to specific ideas like Audio Blurb and Top Friends.
A Principle prototype for Audio Blurb:
To better help people personalize their profile pages, we set off to find a series of pleasing and diverse color combinations that can look good in most cases. This effort was led by visual designer Oscar Corrol.
Final Design & Deliverables
Eventually, we designed a new custom profile page with following features:
The decision-maker didn’t brand this an a VIP+, due to lack of other creation tools we imagined, we launched this as new VIP features.
We delivered the design and worked with engineers on from iOS/Android/server to implement this feature.
Custom Profile was a win both qualitatively and quantitatively and became the No.2 source of VIP subscription.
End-to-end Product Design Process
Product Instinct vs Data-Driven
We Are ALL Designers