Spotify Goes Over To The Dark Side With A New Makeover

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Spotify has just released a serious redesign for its web, desktop, and iPhone apps that will come to other mobile platforms soon. It brings a simple, darker, dramatic look to the streaming music service. Spotify also added contextual playlists and began shifting users from starring songs to saving a library of any and everything they like to hear.

The new look is based around a dark background, with a new typography as well. Media is front-and-center in the new layout, with big cover art across Discovery pages, as well as rounded out icons for artist pages.

The redesign will reach Android and other operating systems soon, and is meant to highlight content above all else. The team first looked at the redesign with major over-arching principles, namely that content be highlighted, and that the Spotify brand stand out as authentic and simple.

“We want your friend, peeking over your shoulder, to recognize Spotify open on your computer,” said director of product development Michelle Kadir. “And that means making sure the brand has a clear identity in the world, and looks and feels the same across any platform.”

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After building out prototypes with this vision in mind, the team went through numerous phases of research including in-person interviews with users, large-scale surveys, and even pushing a beta version of the redesign to a small group of users. All signs pointed to a darker background, “where the content can come forward and everything else can slip away,” said Kadir.

“We like to use the metaphor of a movie theater, but it’s true with any type of art,” she said. “The best way to make the art pop is to put it against a dark background.”

The team also introduced a couple new features alongside the redesign, including new tools for Your Music, as well as Browsing options. Now, when browsing, you will be able to click “save” next to any album, artist, or song and have that content saved under your account. This way you can go back and add it to a playlist later, rather than building something on the spot.

Your Music could help Spotify solve one of its biggest problems: not knowing what to play. Until now, Spotify was focused around a search experience. Each time you opened it you had to think of a specific song, album, artist, or playlist to listen to, or  fire up its radio. This decision making was exhausting, and there was no easy way to browse all the music you liked. For those with less music knowledge it was potentially a big hurdle to frequent use.

Now Spotify functions more like the familiar iTunes interface, where you have a home base of all your favorite jams. Except instead of keeping a copy of the actual sound files, it’s a cloud-based collection. This is a big step up from the Starred playlist, which was just a rearrangable list of songs that couldn’t be sorted. You can dump whole artist catalogs, albums, or friends’ playlists into Your Music, and then sort it all any way you want.

Spotify has also added new browsing functionality, with featured playlists. These are served up to the user based on the time of day and your location, not unlike what Songza does with Concierge, to deliver something that will fit your mood or activity.

Overall,  the redesign and Your Music feature make Spotify feel simultaneously more stylishly modern while more familiar and functional.

Spotify has been making big moves this year. It raised a $250 million round in November, and is rumored to be mulling an IPO for later this year. To lure in more users, the company launched a freemium product for tablets, a free internet radio service on mobile, and has even knocked 50 percent off of the price for college students.

Most recently, Spotify acquired music intelligence backend The Echo Nest, which was powering recommendations and personalization for many of Spotify’s competitors. The purchase could accelerate Spotify’s platform plans, including SDKs that let users auth into third-party apps so they can bring their legal music licenses with them.

Now equipped with a fresh look, improved functionality, growth mechanics, and a budding app ecosystem, Spotify may have what it takes to take on the independents like Pandora, and platform-owning music juggernauts like Apple’s iTunes and Google Play Music.

The new Spotify is available here.