Google Play Music Gets a New Look

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Google Play Music’s user interface is far from perfect. One obvious criticism is that the look isn’t unified. Users still see many elements from the previous version. The Recent Activity screen doesn’t seem to have changed much. It’s almost as if they forgot about it. Ideally, it should follow the same design as the other screens, where the most recent album art is at the top. The screen’s background color should be inherited from the featured album art. It just looks strange compared to the other screens.

If you use Google Play Music on an iPad, you may see an obvious cosmetic flaw. Scroll to the bottom of the Home screen, and sometimes a tile is missing. This can be fixed by ensuring there is always an even number of tiles. While it doesn’t damage the usability of the app, its aesthetics are compromised. UPDATE: This defect was fixed.

The Home screen features a button to refresh itself, labelled “Show latest”. As with most mobile apps, users have become accustomed to using a “pull down” gesture to refresh. The Home screen doesn’t support this gesture. I found myself accidentally tapping on the main panel while trying to press the “Show latest” button. Indeed, I thought they made the mistake of offering three methods of launching Recent Activity on the same panel. The button is very small and there’s no extended margin for detecting a tap. It’s far too easy to inadvertently launch Recent Activity.

Another disappointment is the lack of a “hamburger” menu button on every screen. Once you get past the Home screen, the menu button is replaced with a back button. Given that users can move back by swiping on the screen, a back button is superfluous. It seems as though they don’t fully understand iOS user interface design. No iPhone is too big to swipe from the left side of the screen with one-handed use. I understand, with Android, there are many devices to support, so that assumption can’t be made. I don’t see a lot of back buttons on iOS apps. Even with the redesign, users have to keep going back in order to display the main menu button.

I’m not sure why they moved the “…” button to the top right corner of the cards. With certain album art, it’s impossible to see it. You can assume that touching the right corner of the card will launch it. They do make an attempt to change the look of the dots based on the album cover, but this display logic needs some tweaks.

Although the Google Play Music redesign leaves a few things to be desired, it’s a step in the right direction. The user interface is cleaner and easier to use. The best thing is that Google didn’t copy anyone here. It doesn’t look like Spotify or Apple Music. I still think Spotify’s app is slightly better than Google Play Music, but in the end, Google has me with their collection of 35 million songs. In addition to the bigger collection of music, I also get a YouTube Red subscription for free. I can also use the YouTube Music app. When it comes to music subscription services, Google has really found the sweet spot.

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