Improving Your App Design with User Testing

Posted on Posted in Engineering, Insights and Research

Written By Reiner Wendland
Head of Design

Soundwave is a music discovery app with over 1.4 million users worldwide. The app allows users to track their favorite songs, share tunes with friends and discover great new music. Currently at Soundwave, we are working on some improvements for our existing Android app. As head of design, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on how user testing has helped to inform the design of the app.


Getting Started

When starting the project we established a clear set of objectives. We asked ourselves a few simple questions that would be mindful of both user and business expectations.

  • What is the goal of this project?

We want to create a compelling experience for Soundwave users that facilitates engagement and that delivers real value to them in terms of music discovery.

  • Why are we doing this?

Soundwave is already home to a strong community of Power Users, but it is our first time users and occasional users that are put off by the steep learning curve and level of understanding in the app. We want to solve this.

  • How will we achieve our goal?

User testing will be used throughout the process at all available stages so that we can eliminate any friction or obstacle to the understanding of the app and to support user action for both new and existing users of Soundwave.

Understanding Our Users

Having set out our objectives, we kicked off the project by initiating a series of usability tests. These tests looked at both our existing Soundwave app and other competitor apps to gain a better understanding of the needs of our users.

Firstly, our research team conducted a series of interviews in-house with new and returning users. This gave us a clear understanding of the needs and habits of the target market as well as the existing Soundwave community! Our takeaways from this research has been invaluable and you can read more here. We also spent some time developing our user personas and this helped us avoid self-referential design by keeping your users at the forefront of our minds. Check out our post on personas here.

Alongside this, we also made use of a brilliant online tool called This tool allows us access to new users in our target market. After sending them a link to the app or prototype, the tester will then video themselves as they complete a series of tasks all the while speaking out loud to evaluate the app. This is great because it gives us a visual on how users can complete key journeys and tasks and clearly highlights any stumbling blocks present.



As we chatted with our users and watched the user testing videos, clear patterns of behaviour began to emerge highlighting particular pain points and areas of friction in the app. Finally, we were able to identify a solid list of issues that we needed to tackle:

  1. People don’t read.
    Parachutes, coach marks and informative messages that explained features were skipped or misunderstood.
  2. Screen blindness.
    Users were bombarded with content and couldn’t find what was relevant to them.
  3. Not always intuitive.
    The information architecture and user experience were in places creating unnecessary obstacles for users to complete tasks.
  4. Privacy issues.
    Something that was being voiced again and again was that people wanted control over what information was shared or viewed to anyone other than themselves.
    Improvements and Validations

Equipped with the information from our research, we sketched and wire-framed design ideas for an improved app taking into consideration some of the above issues. We took our wireframes and mocked up some working web-based prototypes using Invision and Marvel and initiated our first round of user-tests.

This worked really well as we could validate our improvements really quickly using real people! Additionally it provided an awesome way of showing the rest of the team the creative direction the app was taking and getting feedback from them.

Refine and Retest

Having received invaluable feedback and answers to behavioural and UX questions, we started the process of refining and iterating the wireframes. Each iteration and integration to our prototype would bring more usability tests and feedback to incorporate.

On a side-note, we also found that when we wanted to test user flows that had some more complex interactions, for example sending a message in a group, that are currently not available in the some of the other software. We needed to look at other prototyping tools such as Pixate and These tools offered a quick way of being able to present these interactions and worked brilliantly with Marvel.

soundwave redesign

Soundwave 3.0 coming soon to an app store near you…

Feeling confident that our newly designed product solves the issues raised at the beginning of this post, we have improved the quality of our wireframes to something more high-fidelity. This gives testers a much more realistic experience and expectation to the final product.

Adding these final touches to the prototype has really brought our ideas to life. It has allowed us to test the product as a whole, making sure it is smooth and consistent thorughout. This has also led to to some interesting and unexpected discoveries and highlighted new areas to innovate past our original scope.

In conclusion, user testing is guaranteed to give you real insights into your product. By testing early and often, it will keep you on the right track to accomplish your objectives whether you’re a lone designer or a product design team.

We are very much looking forward to getting the new app out there and we hope you will enjoy using it as much as we are building it!

If you enjoyed this post, please recommend and share it! You can always keep up with what else I’m designing over on

Reiner Wendland

Head of Design @Soundwave

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User Testing


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