Roon Remote: Using UX Research to redesign Volume and Zone features.
Myself while working on the low-fi prototypes
Myself while working on the low-fi prototypes

About the project

Launched in 2015, Roon is a powerful music library management software & mobile app.

The purpose of this project was to discover and analyze different issues using different User-Experience research methodologies, and develop design solutions for Roon mobile app.

This project was a self-motivated project; I approached it as a real-case situation.

I want to thank the Roon team and its community of users with whom I was in contact during this project.

What is Roon? A music library software with which it's possible to listen any loseless format, on any connected speaker
Understanding the product, the most important step to any Design project — excerpt from my presentation

UX Challenges

As Designer - and Roon user - I've always found this software editor's philosophy interesting: their cross-platform products are based on Emotional Design.

One of the many challenges of this project was running the usability tests without hearing music. A whole dimension was missing, making the usability tests challenging to evaluate!

Roon wants to recreate the feeling of excitement felt by music fan when they used to purchase a vinyl or a CD
Roon was designed to recreate the feeling of excitement felt by music fans when they used to purchase a vinyl or a CD (aka Emotional Design) — excerpt from my presentation

Audit the market

I ran first a competitive analysis of Roon's market and the surrounding industry to explore its different products, partnerships, and frenemies.

During the business analysis phase, the last Music Consumer Insight Report* published by International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) had been essential to understand the music industry trends and some strategic choices Roon LLC made.

*Music Consumer Insight Report, published by IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), in September 2017

Did you know that 44% of people listen purchased music and 87% listen musinc on the radio?
One interesting fact: in 2017, 44% of people listen purchased music — excerpt from my presentation
A competitive analysis of the music library market
A competitive analysis of the music library market — excerpt from my presentation
Market positionning map
Roon positioning, showing how its segments and markets differentiate it in this highly-competitive industry — excerpt from my presentation

Zooming in: identify the product strategy

The first step was zooming in low level: how the app works, for whom and what are its benefits.

The end-users profiles I identified were:

  • an audiophile who has a vast music collection, which is a Tech Savvy, who already owns high-end audio equipment;

  • a music industry professional: she or he has a real interest in using Roon every day in a professional environment.

From the market analysis, I created two personas: Anthony the Nerdiophile and Lisa the Professional.

A competitive analysis of the music library market
I often referred to the personas later while working on the redesign of some features - — excerpt from my presentation

Heuristic Evaluation

To evaluate and identify problems, I ran:

  • A teardown to explore the product and
  • and I documented the flows of the experience I was working on.

I have appreciated these two methods: being a long-time Roon user myself, these helped to take a step back and put on the UX Researcher cap. The problems I identified as user are not necessarily the ones I focused on the project!

I identified four major problems in the following functions:

  • Adjust the volume
  • Transfer an audio zone to another (example: a song is played on the living-room speakers and the user prefers to listen to on another room)
  • Synchronize the music library
  • Search
Teardowns are great to explore a product and identify issues
The teardown was the opportunity to identify issues — excerpt from my presentation
User flow - how to listen music on Roon app
Play music: actual Initial Set up case — excerpt from my presentation

Interviews & Usability tests

To rank these problems and define on which ones I should focus on, I conducted four in-person usability tests and interviews. One participant was a Roon user, the others were not, yet they were familiar with streaming applications such as Apple Music or Spotify.

“The minus and the plus buttons are too small, I can’t see what I’m doing!

It’s a bit dangerous, that’s why I added some [volume] limitations”

— Antoine [Roon user]

Participant (Roon User) explaining why he personalized the volume control panel - excerpt from my presentation

Findings

Participants encountered some difficulties during the usability tests. The most alarming paint points were that participants couldn't use easily essential functionalities, such as adjusting the volume or modifying the zoning. Very annoying issues for a remote control app!

Teardowns are great to explore a product and identify issues
Summarizing paint points and feedback from interviews — excerpt from my presentation

Design Solutions

During the redesign phase, I did my best to be respectful of Roon’s visual identity to ensure continuity between the existing app and my solutions.

I designed and tested some ideas/concepts by simply using a pen and paper to draw rapid ideations.

The wireframes & low-fidelity prototypes were designed with Sketch App. Using Craft, I synced the files into Invision to build an interactive prototype.

Feedback
Working on wireframes using Sketch App

Looking for a "wow effect"!

Keeping in mind Roon’s DNA and history, one of my goals was also creating a solution that was part of Roon’s emotional design philosophy.

On many audio equipments, the volume is adjusted with a potentiometer: designing a skeuomorphic element* for Roon and observe how participants would react to this new element had been a particularly exciting part of this project!

*Skeuomorphic Design: Don't Apply It Blindly by Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini, Nielsen Norman Group

Actual screens from Roon App
Actual screens from Roon App: Homepage, Control panel, Transfer and, Switch zones
Iteration of middle-fi prototypes, adding some tabs for a better readability
Prototypes designed with Sketch app. I upload them on Invision to make them interactive for user testing — excerpt from my presentation
First verison of the interactive prototypes created with Invision

TESTING DESIGN SOLUTIONS

Using Invision to create interactivity prototypes, I organized a new round of usability tests with 6 participants, recruited among friends and acquittances. Most participants tried to turn up the volume buttons; some were enthusiastic about it!

Testing a music app without having the possibility to play music was the biggest challenge of this project!

One solution was to explain to participants that their favorite song was playing and, I asked them to imagine the different scenarios while testing the prototypes. I also used a plan of a house to explain the concept of zones (even if some popular music apps such as Spotify offers such feature.)

Photos of user testings
Participants testing the design solution. All try to play with the volume button!
  • 85% of the participants said that they would prefer to adjust the volume with the wheel (than using the slider)

  • 100% of the participants could reach the Switch and the Transfer functions directly from their first attempt

  • ...but half of them notified they would prefer to Switch somewhere else (for a faster path)

  • Ethnography: all types of fingers have enough space to operate the different tasks

Iterations and final design solutions

Analyzing the different feedback and observations, some iterations were made, such as adding a Switch Zone button to the bottom. Note that Roon desktop has an identical path; this modification offers more consistency between the two platforms.

Feedback
New iterations
Second version of the prototypes (animated with Invision)

Conclusion

This project was the opportunity to work on an existing app and design some solutions to improve it through Research and User Tests.

Conduct a market audit and identify Roon LLC product strategy were key-factors to understand this highly-competitive industry and Roon LLC positioning.

If I had to work on this project again, I would include in my Researches 50% of Roon users (both early adopters and new users) and 50% of non-users.

I would go further while testing the prototypes by organizing an evaluative research: how users modify the volume when they use Roon at home? What is the position of the phone: on a table, in their hands? Do they use the big volume button? Who's using it, who's not?...

Another possible lead: After conducting a Survey about implementing a Vocal Assistant to Roon, and depending the results, designing a VUI (Voice User Interface) would be a exciting possible future project (the current version of Roon app doesn't support VAs)

New iterations always bring powerful results!