Alpine: Product Design & Ux

In Search Of An Idea

In February 2014, the Silicon Valley based R&D team of Alpine Electronics had nearly finished their first pair of headphones, and they sounded great. However, the CEO of Alpine wasn’t satisfied. His team had tried to come up with a companion iOS application but with no success. There was no concept. No direction. And not many models to work from. But the headphones had a unique feature they vibrate with the music, giving the wearer the feeling of large base speakers.

Feeling tentative about the new collaboration, Alpine put forth a challenge: bring three good ideas in one week. One week later, we presented eight ideas.

Concepts: No. 1

Working off the unique feature of the headphones, it’s kinetic base, we hypothesized that there might be a way to analyze songs for their kinetic energy, and with this information sort a person’s music in energetic categories.

Concepts: No. 2

Everyone’s ears are a little different, and people generally listen to selected genres of music. Given this, we stipulated that premium headphone wearers might be interested in pairing the headphones with a high quality audio profiling application. This profile would both tune the headphones to a particular users ear and to their musical preferences.

Concepts: No. 3

Looking through innumerable social media accounts and feeds, we found a trend. People like posting a single song of the moment; a song they feel perfectly represents their mood and situation. However, making a post like this takes many steps. We saw this as a great opportunity for Alpine to build a tool and get involved in these types of social conversations.

Selecting an idea & framing the problem

Impressed by all of the concepts, Alpine asked that we continue work, and develop out our ideas, starting with Idea 1. This concept would come to be known as LevelPlay a new music player that organizes the users music by base intensity.

With our initial concept as an outlined, we proceeded to expanding the concept around the needs of three hypothetical users.

Starting from the user perspective the concept comes out of a real human desire, a way to quickly choose the intensity of a listening experience, either to match a mood or change it. We called this assumption one. Assumption number two, people like all of the music they keep on their phones. Combining these two assumptions we re-arrive at an app that could analyze and sort that music by energetic level.

This process allowed us to see the potential application in greater detail. Some of the fundamental features and interactions grew naturally as sketches and diagrams. From the sketches two primary modes were discovered. These modes matched the two mindsets our users would fall into while using the application: one, selecting an energetic music level, and two, managing the results.

We suggested that in the selection mode the user should be able to easily adjust his or her selection with an intuitive interface that describes the results, rather than telling the results. As the heart of the application it should also be memorable and fun.

In management mode we imagined the user could control the resulting playlist in a similar way to email. Click a track to play it. Swipe a track to remove it. Drag a track to reorder it. Etc. This user pattern is both known, yet novel for the music category.

Feeling tentative about the new collaboration, Alpine put forth a challenge: bring three good ideas in one week. One week later, we presented eight ideas.

Core Interactions: Level Select

We recommended developing LevelSelect as a strong interactive experience, that shows users what they are selecting, rather than telling them.

Alpine Product UX Wireframe

Core Interactions: Level Play

We also developed a new concept for managing the resulting places that closely replicates email interactions, rather than the dead system in traditional players.

Core Interactions: Songview

By drilling down the song level, users would be able to access detail level tasks such as sharing.