Over the course of a few months, I have been playing around with this new app, Simply Piano by JoyTunes. My interest for this app was a desire to learn the piano! During this app experimentation, I was also wrapping up grad school and didn’t have the time to focus on taking lessons. I decided to look into top apps to learn from, and Simply Piano was rated the “best iPhone apps for 2016” only a year old. Also, shout out to my Coworker that lent me his keyboard, since stores don’t seem to keep them in stock anymore.
View App Demo Here
After learning a few notes and songs, I wanted to analyze this new app based on my personal interaction and apply some emerging media applications. Below I have developed six criteria for assessing a new app and using Simply Piano as the example app. Notice that each one is a question that the user or developer should ask themselves while evaluating this type of technology. Each criteria also effects one another, you will learn.
The 6 Criteria for Assessing a New App
What is the message of the app?
Does the app have early adapters or creditable sources?
How accessible is the app?
Is the app useful to everyone?
How well does the app preform?
Competition of the App, what else is out there?
1. The Message:
What is the message and theme of the Simply Piano app and why does the message of Simply Piano make people want to engage with it, and is the app sticky? These are the questions to ask when analyzing any app. When relating these questions to the Simply Piano app we can conclude that:
The message of the app is piano is easy to learn while using Simply Piano for all ages 4 and up.
Because of the apps, usefulness, accessibility, and performance which are explained below, makes the message sticky.
The stickiness of an app is the message of the technology. The message needs to be sticky enough for users to want to engage with the app in the first place. In other words, what makes this app interesting and why is more interesting than is competition which is explained later as well.
Simply Piano's Offerings
(image from app's info site)
2. Early Adapters:
Currently, there is not any research available on this app so I cannot find specific early adapters that would have helped the success of Simply Piano. Early adapters are key to any launch of an apps success, so that the general public will catch on to the importance of the new technology that’s arriving. This concept is one expressed by Journalist, Malcom Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point . These early adapters are known as “connectors or mavens” of this particular app. Assuming the process of making this app however needed to be tested and used before it was released to the public... so there is a possibility of early adapters here! Within the site they do have testimonials and reviews. On social media there are people posting about the app too. These "natural" people are be the early adapters of the app.
But, what needs to happen in order for early adapters to take on a new technology?
The app itself needs to go through what is known as the Hype Cycle. Simply Piano success proves that it went through the Hype Cycle successfully because of it's year long success after launch in 2015; meeting certain criteria to become acceptable to its early adapters to become a well-known app to use overall.
The Hype Cycle
(The Innovator’s dilemma by Clayton Christensen an explanation of adaption rate.)
What I like about this app over other products that are much larger, like the apple watch, there isn’t any famous/celebrity promotion. Almost all of the reviews on the app download and within the site are the “average joe” trying to learn a new skill. For example, I don’t think having a well-known musician would make sense as an early adapter because they are talented in this are, so it might come off as an endorsement to other audiences that notice the early adapters messages about the app.
However, the power of these early adapters and connectors of this app in particular not only leave reviews on Google Play and iTunes, but use social media to enhance the reach by spreading the message of the app. The power of users social network help to promote the app naturally rather than sounding like a sales pitch.
Scroll to See Network Reach By App's Connectors
The “persona” (user’s characteristics) of Simply Piano’s early adapters and future users could be; self-motivated people who are interested in learning new things. They enjoy listening to music and finding out facts and news about what they are hearing. These early adapters are of any age over 15 and are used to using technology like smart phones. They are young enough to learn and explore the app but not too old to have difficulties using the app along with the devise it’s functional on. These early adapters share with others around them the simplicity, fun and accessibility of the Simply Piano app, which they are the connectors of the product to help the app reach its tipping point.
Today, most people have access to a smart devise for downloads of any apps they want. As of 2015, 65% of adults in the US have a smart phone and 86% of those adults are between the ages of 18 and 29 (Pew Research). Simply Piano has a free version and other options with levels to pay for, if the user desired. They also have two other piano apps as well. The three versions all together could have been designed by learning from failure experience of other apps or to avoid failure of these piano apps altogether.
The JoyTunes' Variety
Anyways, with the Simply Piano app in particular, I was able to learn, in a few months, how to play notes ABCDEF on my right hand without having to upgrade to any tool. Due to my busy schedule and other interruptions I was unable to progress. I plan to continue practicing now that school is finished!
This ability to be able to learn a musical instrument with no cost is amazing! Music lessons can be pricey and schedule with someone else usually involving travel. With this app, users can practice on their own time vs. sticking to a strict schedule. For example I would plan to dedicate 30 minutes of app use three-four times a week. Sometimes, I would even practice on my phone during commercial breaks while watching TV.
Another great thing about this app, is that most ages are able to interact with it. The app’s description says for ages 4 and up. Today, almost every child has access to a tablet or their parent’s smart phone to watch cartoons or an educational game.
What is also nice is that the initial free download makes this app even more accessible having no charge. Finally, the upgrades are not necessary at all to learn to read and play piano on both hands. However, The user has the option to upgrade to any of the options that you see below:
This app has a particular market for people who are interested in learning the piano. However, this app isn't needed in everyday life. For example, I wouldn’t have time for a lesson every week, or wasn’t interested in dedicating time to it. Other than my personal dedication to the app, is the fact that users do not need a keyboard or a piano to lean from the app. The settings allow you to pick if you are playing with your own piano/keyboard or if you will be learning on the app’s keyboard to play right from your phone.
I would also like to note the “simple rules” that the app lays out for the users that makes this app so useful and accessible to its users. When assessing a new app, does the app give clear instructions or rules so users can understand to continue to use? Simple rules can be a set of short guidelines that are specific for Simple Piano users. I have made up three simple rules for this app based on the performance, suggestions by the connectors of the app and the app's description. These rules are simple, unique and defines an activity that users can apply while using them. Overall, conquering complexity with simple rules for users to understand. If something is too complicated, that could affect the success of app. These simple rules also play a big part in the messaging strategy for the app as well.
Simple Rules For Simply Piano
Make time for using the app in your weekly schedule for learning.
Repetition is key to remembering notes and reading music.
Adjust your user settings so you can successfully learn at your own pace with reminders to play.
Simply Piano preforms very well in my opinion. I was pleased with how well it could pick up on the noise from my (awful) piano playing. When the user is playing the music sheet moves on the phone screen as the user is playing. If the user messes up or hesitates, the app automatically makes the user start over, which is great for learning and repetition. Some of the reviews said the app would shut off on them randomly but I never experienced this issue. One improvement I would suggest is when you first open the app sometime it takes 30 seconds or a minute to load and you can now lose people in that amount of time. The lessons are also quick and fun which I completed four to six workouts in less than an hour. I wouldn’t be able to remember everything I learned from each day, so each time I would go back and review everything I learned before, then move on to the next level(s).
One thing that I found annoying, was that if I was to receive a text or call during my usage, the lesson would be interrupted. I wish there was an automatic setting reminder for "Do Not Disturb While Playing" when the app is opened. Instead, the user has to remember to set their own personal phone settings off. Sometimes I would get a text, and that would distract me from my whole lesson and I wouldn’t finish. I know that may seem like my own problem or personal preference of wanting the app to turn off my notifications, but in today’s digital world so many people are distracted by their phones because of how much we rely on it for information and connection.
I found a Forbes article talking about 8-year old boy learning to play from the iPad app, Piano Maestro, also made by JoyTunes. The writer was a father trying to get his child to interact with the app and learn piano. It seems to be that any age, young and old, that apps like this do not hold a lot of retention. Maybe when users are older, have more self-control and are determined to learn, they are motivated to use the app. For this case in this article, the father/writer had to sit with him so his child would play and it was never voluntary. In person lessons are probably needed for a younger age. The app can be integrated as the child grows interested or obedient in learning this kind of skill.
For my personal preference, I still crave that person to person interaction to learn the piano, but cannot afford weekly lessons. Which is one of the main reason why apps like this are so wonderful. I am lucky enough to work at a high school with music teachers who are willing to dedicate a few minutes of their time to teach me, in combination with my at home practice with the app.
Performance of any app is key. If there are too many glitches, the app will be bashed in most reviews making it impossible for the app to succeed. early adapters aren't going to promote a new app, and they aren't going to deem the app "useful".
Simply Piano has number of competitive apps. Assessing the competition first will allow for developers to design an app to stand out among the rest. When searching for “learn piano” in the iTunes App store, more than 50 free apps show to choose from. I also found several online versions and articles of app suggestions on this topic, see below:
I think the surrounding competition will affect how sticky the message of the app will be when users are searching for an app to learn from. All these apps have the same underlying message, so it’s up to the user to select one of their choice. Updates and marketing of Simply Piano can help keep this app alive, it all just depends how they go about upgrading the app in the future. Early adapters and social media reach are ways in which an app can stand out in the app's industry competition.
Today people demand to have access at their fingertips which is becoming a developed theme at an early age. After analyzing Simply Piano using the six criteria above, this app is a great learning tool for a beginner. I do however believe in order to play the piano well, it would take a combination of in person lessons and practicing with the app at home. Especially if users do not have home access to a piano or keyboard. This suggestion does not apply to all new apps, but to those that require learning an instrument. The six criteria I have outlined for assessing an app can be used for anyone interested in developing a new app in order to succeed in today's digital world. - Have fun!
The Social Media Diva