Bump was conceived from the beginning as a competitor to three apps previously identified as market leaders. With a goal of competing in this established space, Bump needed to be ‘as good as’ and ideally ‘better than’ the 3 category-leading apps.
I reviewed and deconstructed the 3 top apps for features, copy, presentation, motivation, psychology, triggers, upsells, advertising, gamification, habituation and overall experience.
After assembling and absorbing each of the three apps I researched other apps in the music space as well as potential social capabilities as a differentiator.
Given the known financial performance for apps in our competitive cohort and a proven revenue capability, we felt a sufficient level of confidence to proceed with our product design efforts.
I arranged and printed the complete onboarding flows and subsequent beatmaking functionality for each of the competitive apps. All three apps were almost complete clones with minor thematic and copy differences and a few functional deltas.
As these were mature, successful apps, I felt it was a reasonable assumption that current flows and functionality were sufficiently tested and optimized to onboard and upsell their (and our) target audience, especially for an MVP release. We would do our own measurement and optimization later.
I started with these high level guiding tenets we’d agreed on as a team:
I’ve experimented with apps like Procreate on the iPad but I always come back to the whiteboard as my preferred ideation medium. There’s something about drawing with your hands that just ‘does it’ for me.
Having cohort app screen prints available for reference was extremely helpful as design references.
I believe this was version 3 or 4 of sketching flows and functionality. A review the following day ended in maybe one or two minor tweaks.
Sometimes I’ll move to Sketch from a whiteboard session but with this project I decided to spend some time sketching flows and screens in my notebook.
Sketching on paper in pen is a quite different experience than the whiteboard. Strokes are permanent and not easily changed and while there’s no commitment to it, it often solidifies and generates ideas for me.
Post a Product and Engineering design approach meeting, I created a rapidfire set of design mockups in Sketch.
Not overly worried about colours, branding, detailed functionality, screen states and the like these rough designs brought the app to life for the next round of discussions with a broader audience.
The rough designs worked really well as visual cues to engage the wider engineering team as well as the head of marketing in a positive dialog. A very healthy discussion with great questions as well as ideas and suggestions.
A selection of the MVP release designs:
From the initial ideation through to the final MVP designs, I iterated through three separate designs for the drum pad interface.
Addressing the Fun, Enjoyable, and Game aspirations. I elected to use bright engaging colours. Initially I coloured the rows to help the user find pads with higher accuracy than possible with a uniformly coloured pad set.
The gradients worked well and the drop shadow made them pop from the background as a real button would.
This version included the [A] and [B] pad selection feature before we decided to remove it due to the increased challenge of making 24 sounds instead of 12 per sound pack.
I had some concern about the limited space for the sound pack name but figured we could truncate longer pack names if necessary.
Created banner ads for other products we’ve created that should appeal to the Bump audience.
After much discussion we made a series of decisions.
On reflection, 16 pads seemed far inferior to the 32 offered by our competitors (via A/B toggle). Maybe not enough variety to make great music or to engage our musicians over time. As a compromise between making an engaging app and the challenge of creating all the beats, we settled on a 24 pad layout.
This offered 50% more pads than V1 and removed any requirement to shift between [A] and [B] drum pad sets mid-composition, something we felt was awkward in practice.
I split the pad set into two groupings, the top row with sequences of beats and the lower row with individual beats. I added the icons to communicate functionality augmented by colour.
This format also allowed for much longer sound pack names removing the need to truncate shorter sound pack names.
While I was happier with V2, it was still a lesser offering than our peer apps. A common compromise for an MVP release of course but it bugged me that the MAIN feature of the app was inferior.
I spent time researching other music apps as well as VST videos on YouTube for inspiration. I sketched out a bunch of ideas over a couple of days (I forgot to take photos 🙃) and ended up with some interesting ideas to discuss with Engineering and Product folks.
I added a third type of pad effect, a Loop to the existing Sequences and Beats. Loops do a lot of the heavy-lifting for beat making and allow for even the most non-musical person to make cool sounding music. We want to give our new users the best ‘jolt’ of ‘hey I can make cool beats’ as we could and this was the way to help craft that experience.
For these to all work in tandem and sound good would, I suspected, require some engineering smarts to synchronize the sounds independently from the pad tap events.
Engineering confirmed this as true and would research additional effort required on both Loop production and the sync effort.
At this point we were arguably very similar in terms of features and functionality as our peers. Could we innovate and actually be better, more fun, more engaging?
From watching YouTube videos and looking at the large trackpad on my MacBook Pro I had the idea to incorporate a similar concept within our drum pads.
If it worked like a trackpad we could start by implementing a draggable effect to whatever was playing.
That would give our users a unique way to customize and enhance the pre-programmed drum pad buttons and effects. Instead of individual music being the sequence and timing of your pads, it could now be taken to another level.
Adding a three-way toggle (represented as A, B, C buttons) would allow the pad to interact differently depending on the selection, tripling the utility of what I labelled the “Bump Pad”.
This not only would make Bump unique but also create an extensible foundation for future capabilities. Adding tap, double-tap, pinch etc. to the Bump Pad for even more effects.
The second innovation over our cohort is the addition of a feed of user-created beats.
This provides not only a differentiator but is the foundational layer for future social/community interaction.
For the MVP release, a standard feed capability offering Latest beats as well as Top Rated beats. This provides inspiration to others for what can be achieved using Bump as well as recognition and feedback from the community.
I considered supporting upvotes and downvotes but given the likely age of the audience decided to solely support an upvote.
It’s also a valid reason to ask for notification permissions for upvote alerts.
We made a conscious decision to not implement search and filtering for the MVP.
This app is currently in development for both Android and iOS.