FutureFeatures: YouTube Music Custom Play Queue Behaviour

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

by  Etin Obaseki  Etin Obaseki

#FutureFeatures is a new series on my blog where I talk about products (primarily digital) I use and what features I wish I had on them as well as a basic description of how I’d go about getting them to work.

Hello and welcome!

This feature, its issues and the expansion to it are admittedly not unique to YouTube Music, I’ve encountered it on almost every other music playing app I’ve used. However I’ll be using YouTube Music as my case study since it is my current music streaming app.

The Current State of Things

The play queue holds songs that are up next as well as the previously played in a sequence.

A sketch of the YouTube Music Play Queue

One user was confused about the need for a play queue in his Google Play Music app and asked about it on the Android StackExchange. Even though it’s from long ago, I thought it was an interesting read.

For YouTube Music, and most other apps, when you select a song to play, it automatically adds related songs/recommendations to the play queue.

If the song you picked was part of a collection, say an album or a saved playlist, then those get added to your play queue as well.

You can also manually add songs to play next.

However, clicking on a different song clears the play queue and repopulates it with songs related to the new one selected. This can be incredibly annoying when you’ve gone and picked such a good song queue and haven’t been able to save it yet.

My Ideal

Queues shouldn’t be cleared as soon as you click on a new song. You can’t lose all the vibes you had up next to a single mis-tap.

How We Get There

My preferred path for achieving this is to straddle the present and the future.

First, we’ll add a segment to user preferences labelled “Play Queue Behaviour”. This setting will have four possible states:

  1. Confirm before clearing play queue
  2. Add to bottom of queue
  3. Add as next in queue
  4. Clear play queue and replace

The default behaviour will remain #4 since this is what everyone still expects. However, we’ll add a notification to let users know they can change this. The notification could read:

Don’t clear your play queue by accident
Visit “Play Queue Behaviour” in Settings to stop songs from clearing your play queue when you tap them.

Play Queue Behaviour Notification
Notification for settings

Let’s get into what each of these options mean.

Confirm before clearing play queue would display a confirmation dialog to let you could that the song you clicked will start playing immediately and will clear the songs scheduled to play next.

Confirm Clear Play Queue Dialog

Add to bottom of queue would simply add the selected song to the bottom of the play queue to be heard after all the other songs had been played.

Add as next in queue would take the selected song and play it right after the current one is done.

Clear play queue and replace is the current behaviour and would clear the play queue and replace the songs there.

Let’s take a look into what the settings would be like with these in the picture.

YouTube Music’s settings can be accessed by tapping on the profile image top right to access Account and then tapping Settings.

The setting isn’t such a high priority to a user and so we’ll put it toward the bottom.

There are three forms setting items can take. The first involves them entering another page with other settings items, such as Library & downloads which has sub-settings grouped under it. The second is toggle items which simply switch a setting between true and false like the Stream via Wi-Fi only and finally the third form presents a pop up menu which allows selecting one of several options with an example being Double-tap to seek which has 5 seconds, 10 seconds etcetera as its options.

We’ll use the pop menu for our Play Queue Behaviour setting. When it’s clicked users will get the menu and select one of the four behaviours we outlined above.

Menu for selecting play queue behaviour

Next, we’ll also have to add these behaviours to a context menu so that the actions can be accessed regardless of what the default tap behaviour is set to. The context menu is accessed by long-pressing a song, album or playlist.

Play next and Add to queue are in the context menu for Youtube Music (and most other streaming apps) and already cover Add as next in queue and Add to bottom of queue respectively. We’ll need to add an option in the context for Clear play queue and replace.

The reason for adding the options is so that users can perform these other actions even after selecting one as their default. For example if a user chooses Add as next in queue as their default tap behaviour, how do they play a song immediately if they want to?

The option we’ll add to the context menu will be labelled “Play immediately” and will mimic the current tap functionality by clearing the queue and starting playback of the selected song.

Play queue options in song/album/playlist context menu

Wrapping up

That’s all for this feature. By allowing it to be a setting, it can remain unobtrusive for people who prefer their play queue experience the way it is.