The second I hop in my car, I get Spotify up and running with my it’s all good playlist. Once connected to Bluetooth, my Spotify automatically switches to Car Mode, a feature with a simpler interface and larger controls to use while driving. The other day, after some Maren Morris, Lake Street Dive, and acoustic versions of Justin Bieber hits, I wanted to change what I was listening to. I went to browse, I got frustrated, and instinctively turned off Car Mode.
Turning off Car Mode has become routine to me. Every time I get in my car, I decide to turn off a feature that’s supposed to keep me safe while driving. When I asked my friends if they too were frustrated with Car Mode, plenty of people said they usually turn it off.
This is alarming. With driving involved, bad design is a safety issue. Spotify Car Mode has the opportunity to keep its users safe while driving. The only way it can do this is if users are happy enough to keep it on.
My goal: redesign Spotify Car Mode so it consistently keeps users safe and happy.
The current design of Car Mode isn’t completely flawed, but it’s lacking some elements that would make it a LOT easier to navigate. Here’s what it currently looks like:
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So what is so frustrating about Car Mode? Here’s what my user group said:
Now I had to consider how much control I could give users here. Though they might want to be able to make changes to their queue while driving, that’s way too much for someone to do while operating a vehicle. I set out to improve upon the design of the minimal controls Spotify had set up.
I started playing around with different designs for the Music Player and Choose Music screens on Figma. Some of the ideas I had that didn’t make it into the final design are:
- A large circular progress bar around the song title and artist name — I ruled this out because I thought it would catch someone’s eye while driving. I wanted a design that wouldn’t make you look at your phone any more than you need to.
- The next in queue feature highlighted in green — This would make it look more like a button, and users would want to click on it to see their queue. My goal was to make people more aware of their queue without feeling like they could edit it.
- Stronger highlight or sound icon for currently playing music — I found that on the Choose Music page there is little confusion with what you’re listening to because it’s always in the center of the screen. The extra highlight or icon was unnecessary.
During this stage, I went back to my original user group for feedback multiple times; these discussions helped to inform my more difficult decisions.
The feedback I got said that users cared more about their queue than they did about the like and shuffle buttons. My users also told me that they don’t usually change whether they’re listening to songs in shuffle or repeat in the middle of a playlist, they make that decision when they initially choose their music. So I eliminated the like button, moved the shuffle button to Choose Music, and left the Next Up queue feature with lots of room on the screen.