As the semester winds down, I’d like to take the opportunity to talk about future of Trailmix. 

Most importantly I WILL CONTINUE WITH THIS PROJECT. I love it. I live and breathe it. I have gotten such positive feedback both from the people closest to me and complete strangers. I pretty much have to do it, right?

So, next steps:

  • Find someone to work on this with me. I can prototype the heck out of things, but bulletproof code is not a skill of mine. Or, even bb gun proof code. Know of anyone?
  • Build it! Ok, so the first run through will be pretty bare bones, but I’m so excited to get something out so all of you can start sharing and streaming mixes.
  • Iterate upon and keep pushing forward the user experience. 

In the mean time, be sure to sign up at to stay up-to-date on information.

Sorry so late everyone! 

Interactive pdf (best viewed in adobe or chrome)

Original keynote (for viewing on iPhone/iPad with keynote app)

And you can play around with making/finding a mix in a web browser at, but you’ll need the iPhone app to listen to the mix. Note: the visual stylings are optimized for the iPhone.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a product deep dive at Union Square Ventures. I had 45 minutes one-on-one with three product design specialists to work through specific user experience goals of Trailmix.

Throughout the sessions, several important considerations arose: that of the identity of the user within the application, the role of privacy, and the experience of a user who prefers using Trailmix only for its public mixes.

The identity of the user ties in closely with the privacy design, and it begs the question, what makes someone wish to keep the mix private? Is the sensitive content the mix itself, or is it the context of the mix? Because all of the songs within the mix are publicly available, it is the surrounding content - primarily the creator and the note. Therefore, every mix should be public, with options for the mix to remain anonymous and without a note for the public. This protects the sanctity of a privately shared mix while opening up Trailmix’s content to a larger user group.

Since the music mix is the primary function of the application, the user’s identity should be defined by mixes that they’ve created. Therefore, in place of a profile with arbitrary tags, the user has the option to create a mix that most closely resembles themselves. If the user does not wish to do this, the mix with the most public likes will be used. Users also have an opportunity to select a username and avatar. This allows them to share as much or little of their identity as desired.

Finally, the experience of the single player, or someone who wishes to use this application without creating a social network, needs to be further iterated upon. There need to be incentives for this user to open Trailmix when they reach a place. To show the magnitude of the application, instead of showing locations
of venues on the find map FIGURE X, it should show locations of mixes. That way, a user can visit a venue and know that a mix is there instead of stumbling across it.

From there, the list of mixes within the location must be further developed and the content curated. The home screen for the venue should show featured mixes (those that have been liked/unlocked) the most, with a link to view all.

The mixes themselves must feature a feedback loop which would allow public users to comment on the individual mix. This will allow for better community development.

I’m excited to incorporate these into the next design iteration and the product itself.

The process thus far has been much more about idea development, user research, and prototyping. However, moving forward, I will need to focus more efforts on marketing and gaining traction. Here are some thoughts for gaining traction.

  • Build more sharing mechanisms into the app. Allow people to post their mixes to facebook, twitter, the usual candidates.
  • Create a marketplace of mixes. Artists get money for each song’s play, but there could be in-app purchases of mixes. This would create a market of promotion and such.
  • Event based mixes. Team up with music festivals to create mixes for each of the festival locations. At a particular venue? Unlock the next night’s mix to see what’s in store for you in the future.
  • Artist promoted mixes. An artist at a concert could create a special mix, releasing a song early, or using it to promote not only herself, but music artists that she enjoys and supports.
  • Venue-promoted mixes. Release the songs from the pre-show onto a mix for pickup.
  • Exclusive releases. Team up between artists and businesses to release music early via the app and bring people to stores.
  • Charity mixes. Natural disaster? Artists can donate their song to a mix.

The main point of discussion between the panelists after my pitch revolved around the importance of location to the application.

I’ve thought long and hard about this very issue. First and foremost, I include location as a required component to the system because it adds value to the content. There’s this economic principle called the labor theory of value which says that the more effort (or labor) one puts into something, the greater the perceived value. This principle can be extended into emotional value, as well. Think of it like those handmade crafts your niece gives you - they’re worth more than something she casually hands over. Trailmix incorporates this concept by requiring effort from both the creator of the mix, through finding/adding songs and packaging the mix, and from the recipient by requiring a physical journey to pick up the mix. This journey has a valuable reward - the mix. The mix’s content is elevated from mere songs to gifts.

Location also gives an environmental context for creating memories. I can receive songs all day from people while I sit at my computer, but I can’t remember each one because I was in the same place. This environmental context helps to create a memory, which makes the content of the mix more meaningful.

Finally, incorporating location differentiates this mixtape idea from other services like and Spotify. It requires a mobile platform, and reframes the service from simply sharing music to sharing a real-world experience.

My first hypothesis was that people have a strong emotional connection to the concept of the mixtape. To test this, I sent out a request to 20 people to respond to the question, “Do you still remember a particular mixtape (or cd) that you were given? If no, please respond no. If yes, please respond yes, and include its story.”

I received overwhelming support, with 18 yes’s and over 10 detailed stories. Most stories included that, for sentimental reasons, the people involved still own the mixtapes. 

Other hypotheses I tested were related to the system’s design, in which I user-tested with over 15 user experience and/or musical professionals.

I asked the following questions with each test:

  • Where did you get stuck or confused?
  • Was there any point that you felt could be simplified?
  • Would you use something like this? And how?
  • What features were extraneous?
  • What features would you like to be added?
  • Why would you not use this application?

Their answers informed the next stage of my design.

Finally, I have done significant market research on the trends of nostalgia, location, and closed sharing. I have done anthropological research on both gifting and the correlation between effort and value, as well as audience definition.

I recognize that I fall short in testing the actual use of the system with my target audience, which I will address with a technical prototype within the next month. This will test my theory that a little bit of effort increases the value of the digital artifact, as well as that location provides a more meaningful association to the digital artifact by creating environmental context. goes live!

I created a quick webpage to collect a group of interested early-adopters and gauge interest beyond my immediate friends. It has a sign-up form, as well as a quick user scenario to explain trailmix. I’ll keep this site updated with stats and analytics as I move forward.

Oh, and sign up if you’re interested :)

This past week I worked on updating the business model a bit, specifically focusing on costs, revenue, and customer value. I seek to expand out user scenarios to test the revenue ideas.

Costs include:

  • developing, maintaining, and scaling the application
  • server and hosting costs
  • fees for music streaming once I surpass the number of queries I’m allowed on my API
Potential ideas for revenue include:
  • a freemium plan (a number of free mixes per month, pay for more) - might not be ideal for my model, but something to consider
  • business-sponsored mixes, especially mixes that they can sell
  • artist-sponsored exclusive mixes
  • venue-sponsored mixes for advertising future shows

Value to the consumer:

  • re-introduces gifting music to the current gift card culture
  • low-cost, experiential, hand-made gifts
  • geolocative and musical exploration

This past week or so, I created version 2.0 of my interactive prototype. It incorporated much of the feedback I received during user testing into a more complete view of the application, both in look and feel and in experience.

I feel close to resolving the user experience problem of adding songs to a mix. By dynamically adding a new slot to fill after the user completes the first slot allows the user to feel flexible in the number of songs he/she decides to include on the mix.

I also expanded the privacy options of the user for public sharing. Users can choose to share a mix publicly without sharing potentially private album covers and notes.

Check out the prototype here >

More user testing of this version to commence this week!