In The Loop is the only collaborative service for musicians and music producers that stores and manages audio recordings and enables effective feedback and collaboration through a web and mobile application ecosystem. Unlike existing music collaboration services such as Kompoz or FindMySong, In The Loop is targeted at amateur and professional musicians whose goal is not only to meet musicians online but to enable them to share files and feedback within their existing network. Unlike existing file sharing applications such as Dropbox and Google Drive, In The Loop incorporates communication features that streamline the feedback system for musicians.
Research and Development Context
Initial research looked broadly at the influence that technology has had on the music industry. A further state of the art analysis focused on music collaboration, home recording studios, music information retrieval and social psychology in the context of the behaviours and motivations of users in online communities.
An analysis of existing and future design solutions and technologies looked at the gamut of established professional Digital Audio Workstation developers such as AVID through to new, small tech start-ups such as Trackd and Kompoz.
With a greater understanding of music recording and collaboration services available on the internet user research was conducted. The aim was to better understand the behaviours and motivations of musicians in relation to how they share and communicate on the internet and to discover why these existing applications were successful or not. Research methods included one on one video interviews with seven musicians including beginner (2.3%), hobby-ist (18.6%) amateur (41.9%) and professional musicians (37.2%), a music producer and a music teacher. In addition a survey with forty three participants from seven countries including Australia, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, USA and United Kingdom.
Musician Levels defined as:
Beginner Musicians - I’m just learning my instrument
Hobbyist Musicians - I play at home
Amateur - I perform publicly
Professional Musician - I make my living from music
User survey and interviews identified that amongst amateur and professional musicians there is a common user need. That need is for a service that enables users to more efficiently share and communicate throughout the collaboration process. At present musicians utilise multiple file sharing and communication tools such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Email and Skype in order to collaborate over the internet. Due to the fractured nature of this collaborative process there are many frustration areas for users. For example, file storage limits, file compatibility and lost communication and feedback.
The In The Loop collaborative service provides a solution to these problems by enabling users to share files, create songs, share feedback and connect with musicians within their own network and the community through a digital service ecosystem.
The most effective way to communicate the user experience of the In The Loop collaborative service is through a User Scenario. For example, we can look at Nick. A 23 year old student and aspiring musician. Nick collaborates regularly online using Dropbox, YouTube, Email and Skype. He records music in his bedroom using free audio recording software.
Previously when Nick wanted to bring his friend Tim into the song writing process he would need to record his keyboard track and then email it, or upload it to dropbox. He would then use Email or Skype Chat to brief Tim on the song and what he wants Tim to contribute. This can be frustrating for both parties because often Dropbox accounts become full or there are multiple email threads and long off-topic Skype Chats which make finding the relevant feedback for the song difficult. With the In The Loop collaborative service this workflow becomes unified and streamlined. Nick would simply register an account with In The Loop, Create a Song and attach the audio files. The song can have a description and be tagged for inspiration or for better classification. Nick can then invite Tim to collaborate which will give him access to all the information and attached files. Both Nick and Tim can post comments and feedback on the Song or sync those comments and feedback to specific parts of a track. Giving them a greater ability to manage their feedback and keep it relevant.
Interface and Interaction Modality
The In The Loop ecosystem is available on multiple device types including Computers, Tablets and Mobiles devices. However due to the limitations and affordances of each technology not all features of the service are available on each device. As a result services may either be unavailable or emphasised as a direct result of these limitations and affordances.
The web app available on a laptop or desktop computers includes all features of the collaborate service with the exception of recording media. Although it is likely that laptop and desktop computers include native hardware that supports audio recording it is cannot be guaranteed and therefore this is a potential limitation of the device.
Tablet / Mobile
Tablet and mobile devices make are the most limited but also has affordances that laptop and desktop computers do not. Tablet and Mobile devices are unable to download or upload audio as they have no access to external libraries or storage. However, they do have native audio inputs that can be used to record directly into the application and then upload to the service.
Due to the behavioural nature of mobile devices emphasis is placed on the communication features of the device rather than the file sharing features. For example, the ability to share, message and comment will be the core features on the mobile device.
The In The Loop prototype was created using Adobe Illustrator, Sketch, InVision and the Multiscroll JS library.
Wireframe Interactive Prototype
The wireframe designed were created using Adobe Illustrator. The completed wireframes were exported as PNG files and uploaded to InVision, a web prototyping tool for designers. InVision was used to structure the flow of the wireframes as well as enable clickable elements through out the prototype.
Final Interactive Prototype
The final interactive prototype was created using Sketch. Using the InVision Sync application these static design screens were uploaded to InVision. InVision was used to structure the flow of the screens and enable clickable elements through the prototype.
The Multiscroll Homepage was created using Sketch. The outputted JPG files were then sliced into sections and with the aid of Alvaro Trigo’s Multiscroll.js library a single interactive multiscroll homepage was created. The completed page is then linked to the InVision Interactive Prototype.