8tracks is one of the world’s most popular music streaming services, having been in operation for almost 10 years. I lead design for the company’s freelance team during its early days and later became one of the company’s first employees.
UX & UI Design
8tracks provides a platform for millions of unique mixes of songs, which provides a unique design challenge: how to best provide the right music at the right time? Much of my work consisted of exploring strategies to continually provide better answers to this question.
The complementary problem to discovery is creation and publication. If creative people don’t enjoy using your platform, then there won’t be anything of quality to attract a larger audience.
Beginning with a simple but clear audio upload tool, we developed a playlist creation interface that would eventually include integration with Soundcloud and YouTube, and a unique library of tracks through direct deals with record labels.
8tracks was one of the first music streaming sites to adopt a prominent place for “cover art” mixtape, and from the beginning we were astonished by the creativity demonstrated by the users of the platform.
The application retains this prominent display of cover art to this day.
Long before Instagram, we implemented the image grid as the standard view for a user. Pictured here is early 8tracks user tylr, who created the first mix on the platform to go viral: “Songs That Make You Feel Better.”
Users can additionally collect mixes into “mix sets,” which will then automatically play in sequence, creating a what we called a station.
This page demanded a combination of clear functionality, iconic personality, and an interface that embodied the unique restrictions of our streaming license.
We went with a somewhat minimalist design which emphasized the artwork and track listing, accompanied by a few more useful piece of social functionality.
8tracks offered one of the first music streaming applications available on iOS and Android, as shown in these now vintage mockups.
8tracks would later go on to raise money with a Series A and grow to serve millions of listeners each month. Remarkably, for a streaming music service, at several points the company has even achieved a profitable state of operation.
The site has undergone several overhauls in recent years, but by and large retains its original design principles and aesthetics.