Transforming a music tool into a connected platform
With over 2.6 million monthly active subscription-paying users, MelOn is the #1 music streaming service in South Korea that has been in service for over a decade. It's owned and operated by Loen Entertainment —a vertically integrated music label and service provider. While they have a steady business from their paid subscribers, their vision was to go beyond just a music streaming tool—and expand their business to become a holistic music and lifestyle experience.
We partnered with Loen to help get to this vision through a series of strategic user research and design projects spanning over a year and half. The result is a complete redesign of the MelOn brand identity, as well as a ground-up, user-centered redesign of their mobile experience and interface.
Loen has taken ownership of the results of our engagements and has successfully launched the newly designed brand and the mobile and brand experiences in September of 2016.
User centered design strategy: Music and artists first
Based on the insights from a series of user interviews and internal workshops with executives at Loen, we developed a strategic road map and short and long term goals for the brand and UX renewal, described by the diagram below: Putting ‘Listen & Watch’ at the center, with ‘Find’, ‘Manage’ as the first priority with a simplified user experience in the short term, and providing context-appropriate detours to ‘discover’ and ‘connect’ with new original content, musicians and fans over the long term.
One of the biggest insights (and tensions) that we helped address and design for was that people wanted their music service to better help them on the ‘tool’ part of the app and service. This was about helping them listen and watch music content, with related experiences around managing and finding their favorite content. However, Loen’s strategic vision of Music Life Connected Platform (MLCP) was to go beyond that and serve people a broader set of content centered around artists such as— artist related news, concert tickets and artist fan communities. Everyone that we talked to from idol fans, artist managers, competitor music service users to playlist fanatics—all pointed out that this basic experience needs to be improved first before considering even any other content, features and services.
As a result, one of our key design principles became ‘music and artist first’—among 6 other design principles that guided our design decisions.
Iterative UX and Product Improvements
Starting from the first few weeks of the mobile redesign project all the way up to the private beta launch, the product was evolved and refined through a many iterations of prototyping and testing. In each iteration, we recruited target users, identified key assumptions and questions and received feedback on our designs. In later testings with users, we brought fully interactive prototypes and gained learnings on detailed usability issues especially around playing, finding and managing music.
As a result of these iterations we were able to improve the overall product in 5 different ways:
-Simplified IA and feature organization
-Improved music playback and management usability
-Increased flow and connections to artist related content
-Modular and consistent system of UI components
-Balanced content personalization and curation
An ambitious new brand rooted in music
With over 12 years in leading the Korean music streaming market, the MelOn brand had higher recall and recognition in Korea than Coke or Kleenex. However, the graphically complex symbol and cartoon-style logotype designed in the age of PC music player was in much need of a big refresh, to be consistent with the new design principles that drove new mobile-centric UX and shift to become a larger platform.
Through a series of design iterations, we converged on a mark that conveyed this sense of musical tone and playfulness—coupled with an extensible visual system that form a strong foundation for Loen’s future vision and ambitions to become a truly connected music lifestyle platform.
We approached the brand renewal to focus on the musical and melodic nature of the service and the old mark (MelOn stands for ‘Melody online’). The new bright, fresh MelOn green and primary and secondary brand color palette pays homage to the previous MelOn identity, while establishing a refreshing, calm atmosphere. A simplified modern iconography and font used throughout the app and website sets the tone for an easy, memorable and clean user interface design. The circle-dot icon has references to a musical whole note as well as signifying a point from which the many possibilities around the ‘Music Life Connected Platform’ vision can take shape.
For example, sub-brands/apps and businesses, including MelOn Tickets(concert ticket commerce), MelOn Showwing(user created karaoke video service), MelOn AZtalk(fan community network app) replace the dot with an icon representing its service.
Daylight also provided a robust Brand identity guidelines that define possible future graphic extensions and applications on various media, from motion graphics for music video cues, MelOn Music Award event posters and banners to employee ID badges, business stationery and signage.
Seamlessly connected music platform
As a result of our long collaboration, Loen has successfully launched the new MelOn brand and mobile experience to millions of its users in the Korean market. So far, more than 85% of users from the beta service have rated the new mobile app ‘Excellent’ or ‘good’. Some of the highlights of the new designs that people have responded most favorably include—a much easier experience in managing their music, trustful ways of getting personalized recommendations, and more intuitive ways to browse for new content. The early usage data also shows the new mobile UX achieves Loen’s longer term MLCP vision through a more natural way to discover and connect with artist related content and other fans.
After our engagement, Loen entertainment has since been acquired by Kakao—one of the leading tech platforms in Korea. MelOn continues to bring significant revenue and profit after the acquisition; and are optimistic about growing its business with a new brand and mobile ux platform.