Greg Morris

Designer, Pretend Photographer, Dad

Making The Right Compromises

Whenever the internet loses its mind on something, I find it fascinating. Not to join in with the hot takes, but to see and digest what makes a large proportion of people emotional and try to understand the world a bit better. In these instances, a large proportion of people become experts in the respective field being discussed. The most notable of which was everyone who turned into immunologists during the pandemic, but it constantly happens.

Recently, I read numerous opinions on the way Spotify is redesigning its app and everyone gives their feedback. Much of it being open criticism of the direction the company is leaning and the complete redesign of its mobile apps. This continually happens with services like Spotify because their users become invested in the service and are right to express their concern.

However, I think it’s important to remember that no-one outside of Spotify really knows how and why decisions are made. For the risk of becoming an internet expert, I feel like I have enough knowledge of the moving parts behind running a business. More so with the choices and compromises that have to be made when owning a product or launching a new one.

But it comes with a challenge. If you’re going to build this thing into the same application, you’re going to make it back to trade-offs. The trade-off is that you can’t just make the application more complicated. There are benefits to that, but there are also drawbacks - Gustav Söderström

The reality is, you seldom get the product you want to launch. There are a huge number of issues that crop up when designing and making such a complex thing that it can be amazingly frustrating. For fear of never launching anything, you quickly have to come to terms with the fact that perfection is the enemy. If you are expecting to get everything the way you want it, then you will be waiting a long time.

I listened with interest when Gustav Söderström talked to Alex Heath about the new redesign and also some of the compromises that had to be made when he launched the original Spotify mobile app back in 2010. He discussed how they know that the implementation of Podcasts into the new App is not perfect, but it’s the best compromise they can make. In a world where Apple Podcasts is used by 98.5 of users, there is just no point making another app.

Is it perfect, no, but it’s the best decision they can make for their users. There will always be people who don’t like the changes companies make and no longer use the product, that’s unavoidable. There is also be a vocal bunch that shut up and use the new update anyway – remember the fuss on Facebook newsfeeds back in the day?

Making a product is just one long stream of compromises and decisions based on the information you have. No-one has the same information as the people inside the company making decisions. I realise there is a whole industry built around criticising the designs that tech companies make, I used to be one of them, but there’s a level of understanding needed. I have not been a Spotify user for years now, but I understand exactly where Gustav Söderström is coming from.

Unfortunately, the market usually dictates when you have to move to survive, and it’s not always where you want to go. Thankfully, it sounds to me like he genuinely agonises over these things and wants the best for their users, and every so often you have to admit that user is not you any more.

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