After 16 Years, Spotify Is Finally Adding the Feature Everyone Actually Wants. There’s Just 1 Catch

Making your customers happy is generally a good idea. The good news is that, often, it’s as simple as giving them what they want. Sure, there are exceptions, but when your customers tell you there’s a problem that you can solve, you should see it as an opportunity to provide them with a better experience.

At first glance, that’s what it seems Spotify is doing with its latest update. On Monday, the streaming music service said it was rolling out what has to be one of its most commonly-requested features:

Music – and how you listen to it – should be yours to control … So to make that choice even clearer and simpler, we’re improving the listener experience and separating the Shuffle and Play Buttons for Spotify Premium users.

The key there is that Spotify is making a change with the goal of “improving the listener experience.” How? By “separating the Shuffle and Play buttons.”

That seems pretty simple, right? If not, perhaps a little context might be helpful.

One of the best features of Spotify’s paid plans is the ability to create playlists of your favorite music. You can add artists and songs to make it easy to find and listen to the music you like the best. You can create multiple playlists depending on your mood, or what you’re doing. Spotify even has curated playlists of its own that you can subscribe to.

At the top of the playlist screen is a giant green button that looks a lot like a “play” button, except it’s not. Until this recent change, the button at the top of a playlist was a combined play / shuffle button. If you tapped it, your playlist would just start playing in whatever order Spotify decided. If you wanted to listen to your playlist in the order you curated, you had to tap on the first song in the list.

As a general rule, it’s not a great experience to have a giant green play button at the top of the playlist, but not have it start playing songs in the order you put them. It’s a list, after all. Lists usually move from top to bottom. It seems Spotify has gotten the message – 16 years after the music streaming service launched – that some people take the time to put songs in a specific order in a playlist because they actually want to listen to them in that order.

Of course, some people do like to shuffle their music. If you’re going for a run, you might not want to hear all of your songs in the same order. Wouldn’t it be great to have a button just for that? Confusion is never a good design trait.

There is, of course, a catch. It’s only for people who pay for a Premium subscription. Apparently, what Spotify really means is that music should be yours to control – as long as you pay extra.

To be fair, that’s always been Spotify’s position. The free version has always come with limitations. You can’t even select any song you want to listen to, and you’re limited to what Spotify calls “personalized playlists.” Still, if you’re going to go through the trouble of giving me a playlist, let me just press play.

Adding premium features to paid subscriptions isn’t new. It’s pretty standard by now. It’s also a pretty good way to get people to upgrade from your free version to a paid version of your service.

If your app has a design flaw, you should just fix it – for everyone. When your users tell you “hey, every time I tap this button it does the opposite of what I want,” your first thought should be to just find a way to fix that. It should not be to ask yourself “how do I use this to make more money from my angry users?”

Even if you argue this change is in line with the way Spotify has always separated the free from paid plans, it’s hard not to see why this makes people frustrated. It feels like Spotify is trying to make the experience of using a free product as frustrating as possible so people will pay money. Instead, it should be focused on providing a great product, and adding premium features for its premium subscribers. I’m just not sure it’s fair to call separate buttons a premium feature.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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