Microsoft Band Music Controls
Duration: 3 months
Role: Initial lead designer partnered
with PM and Engineering
Through our user feedback, we discovered our customers wanted the ability to control music while recording activities. At the time of launch for Microsoft Band 1, competitive devices were being launched with music capabilities.
I was tasked with identifying and designing a music experience on
the Microsoft Band that would fit into the established architecture
without disrupting it. I worked with limited time and resources.
Music was eventually shipped as part of Microsoft Band 2.
As part of my research I explore other wearable devices to establish what music content was provided in contrast to the screen size. I was aware that the Microsoft Band had various hardware constraints, such as a smaller display, that would prevent certain aspects of the design.
By establishing a baseline, I was able to properly articulate the controls established for the Band.
In addition to wearable devices, I explore the features that are provided by Spotify and Pandora across mobile and computer applications.
I quickly realized that music has a range of complexity. On a computer, users has access to more content and as screen size reduce controls are limited. When a user engages with music with out a screen ( headphones) they are limited to the three most important controls: Play/Pause, Skip forward, Volume.
Microsoft Band Architecture
The Microsoft Band had a complicated, established architecture. The core of the Band revolved around a Start Strip where users could access various activities and productive applications. Within each tile, a complicated flow was determined for the supporting features of that activity. Ultimately, the primary task of the band was to track data associated with the activity the user has initiated. With the introduction of music, I needed to find a way to insert music for when the user is on a bus, walking, or exercising. the experience must be implemented in all scenarios without disrupting that primary function of collecting data.
To conceptualize how music could fit in, I did a high level abstracted architecture study. Each abstraction explore where music could fit into the system without disrupting the existing architecture.
To be successful, I had to take into consideration various hardware limitation that the band had. The biggest limitation was that music could not be initiated through the band. This meant that music was
a temporary experience and the tile would only appear when music was initiated by the phone.
Because it was a temporal experience, it did not make sense to have music be a tile along side a run or sleep activity. In addition, music has
to be accessed when in a primary experience like run.
Therefore, music could not be a stand alone tile because it wouldn’t
be accessible when tracking a run.
My initial proposed solution was for music to live to the left of any experience. Currently, there is no items left of the start strip or of an activity. It was free space to place a temporary tile. When working out, users could swipe to the left access their music controls, and swipe back. On the screen there would be an indicator with a music icon to inform the user that music is playing and content is there.
The difficulty with this solution though, is it required users to swipe. After doing a lot of dog-fooding while exercising, we determine that swiping with a sweaty finger was near impossible. In other solutions, i proposed using the power button to quickly switch to music. This would give a physical button to trigger the temporary tile, and then the user could use the secondary button to engage with music similar to headphones (single press = play/pause, double press = skip)
My initial work was developed for Band V1. Due to engineering and time constraints this project was shelved and eventually resurfaced for Band V2.
The music experience on Band 2 was very similar to what i proposed.
Music is a temporary experience only initiated when music was playing on the users phones. Users would double press the power button to switch to the music tile, from here they could use the action button to control like headphones or they had on screen controls.