How Spotify Made Finding New Music Easier

Search is less important

Key Takeaways

  • Spotify’s latest UI change made it slightly more challenging to search for your favorite tracks.
  • The move is intended to push the recommendations that Spotify is constantly improving.
  • Experts say the change could actually help you find more music than you would find by searching for it.
black iPhone showing Spotify on wooden table next to apple watch and AirPods
Cezar Sampaio / Unsplash

Spotify’s latest update has made it more difficult to search, but experts say the push for recommended playlists could help you find music more easily than before.

Spotify recently began pushing a new user interface out to its desktop and web players. While the company previously had introduced the interface on mobile, it added some changes that users had been requesting and made searching a bit more difficult, since you no longer can search from any page in the app.

Despite some backlash for the changes, putting more recommended content in front of users could broaden their listening habits more than just using a standard search feature.

"The focus has shifted more from search to recommendations. It is a natural transition," Dr. Chirag Shah, an associate professor at the University of Washington's Information School, told Lifewire on a phone call.

"This kind of change wouldn’t happen if they weren’t confident in their recommendation algorithms."

Diversifying Your Music

Shah, who has worked with multiple businesses, including Spotify, has focused heavily on research that will make recommendation systems smarter and more integrated. He says the move away from a more search-oriented user interface is one that many other popular media apps have undergone, including streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu.

One of the most significant ways that Spotify has changed is by making the search option harder to find. 

The new Spotify interface with filters displayed.

Before this update, you could easily access a search bar at the top of the application. Now, you must select the search tab from the left side menu, where your playlists are stored.

This then takes you to a new page, which allows you to search through it. The streaming company also has moved many of its previous browsing features into this tab.

While it might seem redundant to push search to a page of its own that requires multiple click-throughs, Shah says it is all part of how companies like Spotify increase user engagement. By pushing more users towards the recommended options, they hope to diversify how you use the app.

"What Spotify wants to do is diversify so that you’re not always listening to the most popular artist. It helps Spotify reduce their costs, it helps more artists to be exposed, and it helps the users to be more exposed to different things they might not normally ask for," Shah explained.

Frustrations and New Perspectives

This push for diversity is a big part of Spotify’s redesign. Daily Mixes, Discover Weekly, and other playlists made just for you by Spotify’s algorithm are front and center on the new home page. If you enjoy searching for and listening to specific music, then you might find Spotify’s changes a bit frustrating. 

Dr. Jason Buhle, a lecturer at the University of Southern California and the director of UX strategy at AnswerLab, says these emotional responses are one of the key risks that developers have to take into account.

"Even if users can easily find the new location of search, psychological research has shown that it takes substantial mental effort to override a well-learned action," Buhle explained in an email. 

"It doesn’t feel good to be forced to exert extra effort when all you want to do is find a song that’s stuck in your head."

Despite any frustrations you might have with the changes, though, they're actually a strong push in your favor. On top of changing the default search options, Spotify has added a search bar to playlist pages, making the way you add songs more straightforward.

This, along with the recommended options on your home page, should help keep new music front and center when you’re using the app.

"We’d all be miserable if our favorite apps like Gmail or Netflix hadn’t evolved since we first started using them—but the costs are real and must be weighed against the overall benefits to users that any update brings," Buhle said.

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