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Tuning-In to Apple Music

Jennifer DeRome  |  July 28, 2015
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First there was vinyl. And then the 8-track, followed by the cassette tape (remember mix tapes?) and not long after that the first digital music formats appeared. Walls of beloved vinyl or CDs were no longer needed—your entire library could be stored in your pocket. And while Apple wasn’t the first to recognize the lure of digital music, they played a major role in taking it mainstream, thanks to iTunes (and every i-device that followed). But things have changed since iTunes’ initial release back in 2001. Consumers’ preferences for music consumption are changing once again—from digital downloads to streaming—and music services like Spotify and Tidal are taking over. Naturally, Apple wanted to get in on the action and launched Apple Music at the end of June this year. This is new territory for Apple, and we wanted to find out how new users felt about the onboarding process and the overall usability of the app. Would it be the magical, intuitive experience Apple’s known for? We ran a study to find out.

The study

We ran a two-part, unmoderated, remote study with five first-time users to get their impressions of the Apple Music onboarding process, and then the overall usability of the app after one week of use. We asked users to share their impressions of customizing their favorite genres, artists, and getting started with Apple Music. We also wanted to know if there was anything about the process that stood out—good or bad—and what they’d like to see improved. Here’s what they had to say:


Users were first asked to sign up for Apple Music. A few noted that it wasn’t immediately clear where they were supposed to go to sign up, and had some difficulty figuring out where to sign up due to a lack of a clear call to action on the home screen, although they were all able to figure it out eventually.But once users figured out where to go, they all considered the sign-up process clean and straightforward. Users especially appreciated the minimal amount of steps required.


After signing up, it was time to start customizing their preferred music genres and artists. Users were presented with dozens of red circles containing different music genres. The app instructed users to single-tap the genres they liked and double-tap the genres they loved. Alternatively, they could hold down a circle to indicate their dislike for a particular genre.Most users appreciated this interactive process of customizing their music preferences, but one disliked the interactive process because it seemed inefficient. A few users also felt the bright red color of the dots made them more difficult to read. Although single-and double-tapping were considered intuitive gestures to express affinity for specific genres, users were not keen on having to hold down circles to remove them. Users also noted that it took too long to remove unwanted genres by holding them down, and as a result, the process became frustrating.Although the new interface took some getting used to, users enjoyed customizing their genres and artists, and some even referred to the process as fun and different.After identifying their preferences, users had no difficulty jumping right in to start listening to music. The clear play icons displayed on the list of album artworks made it very easy for users to immediately listen to the tracks they wanted to hear.After users completed the initial onboarding steps, we asked them to check back in with us after using the app for about a week. While users were generally able to navigate through the app with ease, there were a few features that users felt could use some attention.


Only one user encountered this issue, but it underscores how users have adapted to other services, like Spotify, and expect similar functionality from Apple Music. This user attempted to create a playlist by adding a song to his library, but wasn’t given the option. Instead, the user had to add the song to his library, navigate back to the library, create a new playlist and then add the song to the new playlist.

Removing songs

One user indicated that it was difficult to determine which song he has already downloaded and added to to library without looking in the menu and seeing the word “delete.”


The application displays the content in a way that led two users to swipe the images as if it were a carousel. One user notes that she continues to try swiping, even though she knows it’s not a carousel.

Adding music to listen to offline

The option “Make Available Offline” appears inconsistently throughout the application. Users were asked to download song to listen to offline, however, the option that occurred the most was the “Add to My Music” option. That option only adds the music to the user’s iCloud library and only allows the user to stream the song.


Just about every time Apple releases a new product, there’s high demand and high expectations from consumers. In Apple Music’s case, the company did not disappoint. Despite a slight learning curve with usability and features, the more users interacted with the app, the more they liked it. Most thought the app was sleek and modern, and stated they would be using it to stream music going forward. Many users also thought that Apple Music did an especially good job of discovering new music, based on their preferences.Users also appreciated the level of personalization, especially with the “For You” portion of the app.While Apple may be a bit late to the streaming party, it seems users really like the first iteration of the app. With a few small tweaks, Apple Music just might become a real competitor to streaming trailblazers like Spotify.

Special thanks to UserTesting researchers Justin Shaw and Anthony Raad for conducting this study!

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About the author:

Jennifer is a Senior Content Strategist for UserTesting. When she's not dreaming up new ways to connect with audiences, you can find her traveling around the world or enjoying a glass of wine with friends.