Design Bureau Issue 29

Page 55

Sep/Oct 2014

Design Thinking

DESIGN BUREAU

In overseeing the user experience of Samsung’s Milk Music, designer Willy Lai sought to make the streaming-music application as accessible as possible, resulting in a mobile-friendly, clock-style interface that recalls an old radio receiver.

You Haven’t Heard It All Before Streaming music gets a reboot from UX guru Willy Lai and his team at Samsung

BY PATRICK SISSON

When Willy Lai sought to refine and rework streaming music for Samsung, you could say that the director of user-experience design started with talk radio and the classics. Yes, there are new groups, such as Pandora and Spotify, dominating the airwaves. But when Lai set out to develop the Milk Music app—a name that alludes to the fresh, soul-stirring powers of the right song—

an iterative, ethnographic approach, with constant user feedback and refinement, led to an interface breakthrough. The app’s mobile-friendly, clock-style control wheel harkens back to the big metal dials on an old receiver. “Technology is supposed to make things better and easier,” Lai says, “and for me, it’s about making technology accessible. Any

time you’re breaking the paradigm, there’s a risk that people won’t adapt. That’s when user-centered design is especially important. You want to mitigate that risk.” Lai’s team discovered that the standard paradigm of plus-minus controls and list-based menus can be a hassle, requiring fine motor skills when less-focused, gross motor skills are more

fitting for mobile. Milk’s clock-style interface, with dual wheels and gentle haptic feedback to guide selections, can be accessed as a background activity, a use case benefitting the on-the-go personas (such as a one-handed biker) that the team kept in mind while designing. Dialing through stations, which recalls rolling down FM frequencies in a car, also encourages CONTINUED g discovery.

Portrait courtesy of Willy Lai. Screen shot courtesy of Samsung.

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