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UX Designer Ableton Test Challenge


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As part of my job hunt to enter the UX industry, I applied for a UX Designer job at Ableton, a music production software company based in Berlin, Germany. To assess my skills in practice, I was asked …

As part of my job hunt to enter the UX industry, I applied for a UX Designer job at Ableton, a music production software company based in Berlin, Germany. To assess my skills in practice, I was asked to complete a test challenge within exactly 1 week. While they found a better match in the end, it was a good learning experience and a great opportunity to showcase my work under a time constraint.

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  • 1. Ableton Test Challenge: Enabling a Better User Experience for Live 9's 30-day Free Trial Abdallah El Ali www.abdoelali.com19 Aug, 2013
  • 2. I. Challenge Overview II. Approach III. Analysis IV. User Research V. Design VI. Summary Outline 2
  • 3. Challenge Overview 3
  • 4. "We offer a free 30-day trial of our Live software. The trial allows users to use the full feature set of Ableton Live 9 Suite and should help them to decide if the software is useful to them. In order to get the full feature set a few additional steps after downloading the trial are necessary: 1. Create a user account to authorise the trial 2. Install Max for Live 3. Complete installation of Live’s library since not everything is included in the trial core installer" Current Situation 4
  • 5. 1) How might we enable a full installation of the Live Trial with Max for Live and the additional library content so that users can experience the full feature set? 2) How might we help users get an idea of what Live is about and how it might fit their needs? Tasks 5
  • 6. 1) How might we enable a full installation of the Live Trial with Max for Live and the additional library content so that users can experience the full feature set? ! A full-installation means file size may be too big ! Slow internet bandwidth may prevent users from downloading 'tarball' 2) How might we help users get an idea of what Live is about and how it might fit their needs? ! Full software features may not be useful for novice, intermediate and some advanced users Problems 6
  • 7. “One of the eternal conundrums of interaction and interface design is how to address the needs of both beginning users and expert users with a single, coherent interface.” (p. 41, Cooper et al., About Face 3) 7
  • 8. Approach 8
  • 9. “Common ways of helping first-time users are to choose simplifying options that limit the number of features, while making those features more comprehensible.” (Schneiderman, 2003) 9
  • 10. Solve Task 1 (full feature set installation), by solving Task 2 (getting different types of users on board) 10
  • 11. 1. Exploration & Analysis - Expert-driven cognitive walkthrough - Task flow diagram 2. User Research - Semi-structured user interviews - Personas - Scenarios 3. Design - Sketching - Wireframes - Annotation 4. Presentation Approach 11
  • 12. Analysis 12
  • 13. 1213
  • 14. Yes Click "Try Live for Free" Click "Free Download" Save Live 9 Trial .dmg to destination? Open .dmg and Install Drag Live 9 Trial App to Applications folder Open Live 9 Trial app No Ableton Live landing Page. Click to start "Free Trial" Opens Log In account webpage No Yes Yes Enter Username and Password, and submit Already have an Account? Enter User Information and submit Logged In to "Your Account" page. Live 9 trial activated for 30 days. Click "Download" button next to Max for Live on Your Account page Yes Start using Live 9 Trial Continue with next suggested installation? No Save Max for Live .dmg to destination? No Continue with next suggested installation? Start using Live 9 Trial + Max for Live No No Redirect to "Your Packs" site "Your Account" page Click "Your Packs" in "Your Account" page Preview pack, Filter Results, Download Pack, or Go Back/close Browser window Start using Live 9 Trial + Max for Live Download example Max for Live pack (e.g., Granulator II) Download Go back Start using Live 9 Trial + Max for Live + N pack(s) Save pack .alp to destination? Yes Open .alp (automatic install) No Install more packs? Yes Task Flow 14
  • 15. 1. Copy on Your Account page misleading "There are just a few steps to follow to make sure you're ready to start using Free Live 9 Trial." User can stop and use Live 9 after basic installation ! Clearer copy 2. After installation Max for Live, not clear whether user should restart Live 9, or how to get started with it. In Live 9 side bar help, Max for Live tutorial missing. Only if Max for Live pack is downloaded, it says "Free Packs" tutorial ! Max for Live should come with basic pack (e.g., granulator to get started). ! Pop-up Max for Live landing page after Max for Live installation 3. Second time user opens Live 9, the Live 9 Demo (Standard) set is no longer loaded. Another Live 9 tutorial set is opened. To access the Live 9 Demo: Applications --> Show Package Contents --> Contents --> App-Resources-->Core Library-->Lessons-->Sets-->Live 9 Demo_[Standard/Suite].als ! Clear access to Live 9 Demo standard from sidebar Observations 15
  • 16. 4. Installing, learning, and using Max for Live and additionally inspecting soundpacks overwhelming and time-consuming ! Recommend Max for Live and/or sound packs based on user profiles (Musician, DJ, instrument choice, etc.) 5. Colors of Download, Add to Cart, and Authorize buttons the same in Your Account page. Sounds, Max for Live, and Software instruments spread all over. ! Differentiate afforded user actions by color ! Column layout for clear separation of Max for Live, Sounds, and Software Instruments Observations 16
  • 17. User Research 17
  • 18. ! Semi-structured interview ! 2 male users (novice, expert) ! ~50 min. sessions ! Interview content: - demographics - goals, attitudes, and process related to production software & process - Ableton website usage, learning about Live 9, Max for Live, sound packs Methods 18
  • 19. Quote: Egmond the Pro Music Composer / Producer Professional Demographics Overview: Egmond makes a living composing and producing music. He plays the piano and keyboard, and does mostly jazz, classical, R&B, and soundtracks. He has been using Logic Pro X for the last 10 years now, and has no intention of switching. Downloading trial versions worries him, as it can interfere with his existing software setup. Videos are his way of knowing quickly what a software can do for him. As a musician who composes, live software features don't benefit him. Neither do sound samples, he creates his own. Key Characteristics: • Tech-savvy • Composes music and produces for a living • Focuses on orchestral pieces, theatre • Creative • Values features over user interface ease of use • Values efficiency (compiling is boring) • Values video tutorials for learning, not reading • Samples not for him, he creates them "I rarely download a trial. These days I look at YouTube and see whether it is for me or not. Because downloading something may mess something up in your studio" "I wouldnʼt read, I want to see things in action. And I donʼt want to spend so much time on this" Gender: Male Age: 33 Education: Conservatory (Master's) Nationality: Dutch Occupation: Musician / Composer 19
  • 20. Quote: Daniel the Hobby Guitarist Systems Engineer Demographics Overview: Daniel is a hobby electric guitar player that works as a scientific systems engineer at the university. He used to play in a band with friends 2 years ago. He uses the basic functions that come with his guitar processor software, and uses mainly GarageBand to record his ideas. He experimented with Cubase some time back, but found it too advanced for him. He relies heavily on YouTube videos to get started, but also quite willing to read online guides and FAQs to get started. He is mainly interested in sound packs that relate to guitar sounds, but likes browsing other features just to know. Key Characteristics: • Tech-savvy • Hobby electric guitar player • Values interface simplicity over features • Watches videos, online help, and interface guides to get started • Music career not for him "When I bought my last guitar processor, it was bundled with Cubase. But that was pretty advanced for my needs" "I sometimes record things, but only so I can hear it later. Not really to produce" Gender: Male Age: 26 Education: Network Engineering (Bachelor's) Nationality: Portuguese Occupation: Scientific Systems Engineers 20
  • 21. "Egmond the Pro has been composing music and doing project-based productions for around 15 years. This is his job. He's quite committed to his software, especially since he's tied with the setup of his studio and the workflow of his collaborators. He's heard about Ableton Live from friends, and decides to log in to His first priority is to immediately know how Live and its features can help him better accomplish his goals; i.e., do the same work he does already, but better. He will not take a risk downloading software that may potentially interfere with his current studio setup. And he doesn't have much time to spare. On the website of Ableton, he expects to find one place where he can immediately know what Live can do for him as a professional musician and producer. He's also interested in knowing which features he can make use of to make his production process easier, faster, and of the high quality he expects of his project work. However, he's willing to spare 10-15 minutes to see whether Live is for him, as the idea of switching is not too appealing given his advanced career stage." Scenario 1: Expert User 21
  • 22. "Daniel the Hobby Guitarist is a systems engineer who occasionally plays his electric guitar. He spends a few hours every 2 weeks playing songs, and is still learning how to become better. He is aspirations to compose original music, but for now he is content learning notes from songs of artists he likes. Aside from making some use of audio effects and basic sound filters, Daniel doesn't know much about the production world. He uses software mainly to record and playback his efforts. Daniel has a friend who listens to edits and remixes of popular songs, and is curious how to add beats and effects to the music he plays. He asks his friend about this, and he suggests to try Ableton Live. One day Daniel logs in to to see what the software can do for him. He watches the video on the Try Live for Free page, but not sure how he as an electric guitar player can get started. He's willing to download Ableton Live and fiddle around, as well as look at some packs with audio samples he can use for his music. He is willing to spend a few hours on grasping the basics of setting up his guitar, recording a tune, playing it back, and applying some effects and filters. If he finds this too complex, he will immediately revert to simpler software." Scenario 2: Novice User 22
  • 23. ! Not all users need all features immediately (especially complex add- ons like Max for Live) ! One place on the site so different users can relate to what Live 9 is and how it can help 'them' So what? ! Extensive availability of introductory videos and video tutorials ! Clear layout and easy access to additional packs
  • 24. Design 24
  • 25. See Resources slide to d/l sketches Sketching 25
  • 26. 26 Wireframes See Resources slide for annotated wireframes
  • 27. 27
  • 28. 28
  • 29. 29
  • 30. 30 [...]
  • 31. Summary 31
  • 32. ! should cater for different user needs (e.g., through a dedicated user types 'Live for You' page) ! Introductory videos and video tutorials seem to be a good user aid ! Sound & Instrument packs seem to be more valuable for the average user than Max for Live ! Clustering additional packs (e.g., through user-defined filter or automatic recommendations) based on user types could alleviate barrier of entry, long info seeking times, and disk storage issues for users User Research Findings 32
  • 33. We suggested the following: - a Live for You content page - filtering of additional packs by user type - another layout organization of Sounds, Max for Live, and Software Instruments - small design fixes (button color coding, audio clip timeline) Design Summary 33
  • 34. ! One week insufficient for recruiting large enough sample of target users and running in-depth user research (e.g., contextual inquiry) ! No behavioral (e.g., site usage analysis from log data) and demographic data from market research ! No stakeholder requirements ! No Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to consult ! Clickable prototype too basic for usability testing Limitations 34
  • 35. ! Functional prototype development ! Quick usability tests on prototype ! Design iteration ! A/B testing Potential Next Steps 35 [...]
  • 36. Analysis ! Cognitive walkthrough rough notes (.rtf): ableton_challenge_files/cog_walkthrough.rtf ! Task Flow diagram (.pdf): taskflow_diagram.pdf User Research ! Participant Information, Task Presentation, & Semi-structured interview questions form (.zip): https:// Design ! Sketches (.zip): ! Wireframes (browser) (.pdf): wireframes_browser.pdf ! Wireframes (browser) + Annotations (.pdf): ableton_challenge_files/wireframes_browser_annotations.pdf ! Clickable prototype (.pdf): wireframes_prototype.pdf Resources 36 (Omnigraffle files available upon request)
  • 37. Questions? @abdoelali www.abdoelali.com37
  • 38. Cooper, Alan (2007). About Face 3: The Essentials of User Interface Design. John Wiley & Sons. Shneiderman, Ben (2002). Promoting universal usability with multi-layer interface design. SIGCAPH Comput. Phys. Handicap. 73-74 (June 2002), 1-8. References 38