Uptune – an app for emerging stage bands

I joined Upscale Technology startup in September 2019, as an apprentice during my design master’s degree in Montreal, Canada. I worked there for 8 months every one in two weeks.

Together, we built a desktop version of the already existing app and rebuilt a second version of the mobile/tablet app. We added new features along the way

Upscale’s team

Upscale was a small but passionate team of just 4 people.

Francis Masse
CEO & CTO
Sami Cheref
CMO
Michael McDonald
F-E dev
And me, [Sio]
Product designer

Upscale’s mission

Upscale’s mission is to help amateur and emerging music groups to achieve a professional sound during live shows.

3 soundcheck tools were originally available on the app to allow bands to be able to achieve a great sound.

Volume balance
Feedback identification
Room calibration
  • The volume balance tool allowed bands to set their instruments’ volume relatively to a stable reference (usually the drums).
  • The feedback identification tool detected feedback and their frequency that needed to be ducked on the mixing desk to stop it.
  • The room calibration tool unfortunately never came to the app but provided the EQ curve needed to compensate frequencies that would sound too loud or quiet on certain P.A. and stages.

A shift in vision

During my apprenticeship, Uptune’s vision shifted from a sound focused tool to a managerial entity to fulfill extra live bands needs. This shift happened because of what we felt the musicians needed during our tests. Two new tools came to the app

Setlist management tool
Gigs management tool
  • The setlist tool simply allowed bands to create songs, add links to useful resources per song, and organize them into playlists of different lengths.
  • The gig tool allowed bands to share their setlist and band settings with a sound-engineer, and to create shared calendar events.

My role at Upscale

During my 6 month apprenticeship, I worked hand in hand with the development team (Francis Masse and Michael McDonald) to provide useful features that also stayed relatively simple to build on the technical side, and to make sure that mockup screens were integrated as they should on the app.


UX

My job as a UX designer was to make sure that the user would simply find what he was looking for in the app. Since the app became quite complex and versatile, user flows were a great way to map and measure how information and tools were accessible. Since we worked feature by feature, we had to make sure that bridges were available at all times between parts of the app and that new features didn’t break the flow of others.

→ Adding features

When working on new features, I would always make a list of all the tasks (and sub-tasks) the user needed to fulfill. Then, I would create flows that determined the screens needed to achieve the tasks. I’d then list the pieces of information needed per screen and would finally draw wireframes iteratively. I’d usually check with the dev team if everything seemed correct before creating the screen mockups and work on the UI.

I spent a lot of time on wording for every feature, providing coherence and continuity through the app.

→ User testing

In order to check if the screens were understandable by our users, we conducted many user tests with musicians in a rehearsing studio. We filmed the users while they were trying to achieve tasks. It helped us correct some screens and to grasp what features were truly needed by the users.


UI

When I joined the team, the graphical charter was quite simple, it was a dark mode with some light cyan accents. I liked it a lot but I felt it needed more pop to fit with the night/stage context. I added a simple orange tint I could use to indicate primary actions or items in illustrations. I also added some gradients to make the UI more joyful.

→ Illustrations

Indeed, I made illustrations – explicative and decorative – to create a lighter experience. I used the metaphor of the bubbles to depict sound across all screens. Icons were also declined in illustrated versions for flexibility of use.

→ New logo

During my apprenticeship, Uptune’s vision shifted from a sound focused tool to a global entity to fulfill all live bands needs. We wanted to make that shift apparent through a new logo. The new logo needed to be identifiable to be competitive in the app stores, and abstract with a strong message. After some experimentation, we settled on crown-shaped converging spotlights, thus showing the live environment context and our targeted demographic/persona: emerging groups that wanted to improve their live performances.

→ Animations

To bring even more life to the screens, we decided to add smalls animations. In particular an animated version of the logo for the splash screen and really small loading icons.


Marketing material

→ Social media posts

Sami Cheref – CMO – would occasionally reach to me for social media illustrations. As things progress, we scheduled recurrent posts to foster interactions with our followers.

→ App stores pictures

At some point, we needed new images to explain the purpose of the app to new users in stores. It was a great challenge to explain everything in such a small format, especially because very few users scroll through stores pictures.

→ Prints

I also had the opportunity to work on posters and flyers for marketing purposes in music rehearsal studios.

To conclude

First I’d like to thank the team at Upscale Technology for the trust they’ve put in my work. It was really empowering to be able to suggest ideas from big new features to small color changes. Thank you also for understanding so early the value of a great user experience.

This rather short experience taught me lots of things, from the importance of a narrative and illustrations, to feature prioritizing and marketing rules.

I hope I’ll have opportunities to work with people so passionate about their users and their product again.