When discussing the modern-day jukebox, what comes to mind are things like rich sound, pulsating lights, a large touchscreen, and access to every song imaginable via the cloud. But below the surface, is a complex system of controls and management features that most consumers will never get to see.
Since the dawn of the digital jukebox era, these staples of the American bar scene have been powered by custom software written to deliver both the end user experience as well as an administrative one for jukebox operators. These operators, who purchase everything from jukeboxes to pool tables to ATMs, provide these devices to bars and restaurants under contract. Profits are then shared between the two parties, with the operator handling all required setup and maintenance.
Jukeboxes today are highly customizable, and these administrative controls provide access to everything from music setup and pricing adjustments, to hundreds of other features that can be enabled or disabled. Once connected online, even more capabilities are unlocked, the most powerful of which being the ability to manage many settings remotely.
Basic controls are also provided to bar and restaurant staff via a supplied remote control similar to a stereo remote.
The job of an operator has always been inherently mobile, on the road, maintaining devices, making collections, and traveling from venue to venue. Likewise, when on the clock, bar and restaurant staff are continuously on the go.
Despite this, the tools supplied by their jukebox providers were not mobile. Most actions required a PC connected online, or to be standing at the jukebox, or nearby it with a remote.
With that in mind, the Co-Pilot app was born from a desire to gather onto a mobile platform the control and management features most commonly used by operators and their venues. It sounded simple. But in actuality, it would be a complex task because these features had never shared the same home. Many lived on the web, others on the jukebox itself, and several had never been anything more than a physical push button on a remote control.
UX RESEARCH & GOALS
Research began by click-tracking the movement of operators after signing into their online administrator account. Data showed a clear pattern. Operators would jump online, view all devices, and then re-sort them by:
Last connection time
Revenue today and yesterday
To gain more insight on this, phone interviews were conducted with top operators. These calls confirmed that most operators used the website to ensure all devices were powered on and properly connecting to the internet throughout the day. Checking a device’s last connection time and revenue provided valuable insight into its current state. Likewise, cash collected often dictated their schedules, determining what venues to visit that day.
When asked how a mobile app might be able to assist them, nearly all responded by saying the ability to view, power on, power off, or restart devices from their phone would be high on their wish lists. Ideas were also collected from AMI’s product management, sales, and technical support teams.
Extensive research was also done on popular home automation and financial apps, since Co-Pilot would feature similar components and controls.
Onto my whiteboard went several must-haves for Co-Pilot 1.0:
The app would need to be organized to support two different user experiences: an all-access operator experience and a limited-access bar/restaurant employee experience.
Because viewing and sorting a database-like table of information on mobile was less ideal than doing so on a large computer monitor, the app would focus on displaying the data that click-tracking and phone interviews suggested was most important.
Similar to financial apps, I wanted to incorporate infographics and charts to make data more digestible and entertaining.
While power and music controls were must-haves, I still felt the app might need a little more wow-factor to influence downloads.
Expandability was key. In all likelihood, this app would explode in features over time.
Wow-factor is a tricky thing. My aim wasn’t to jam in some type of novelty feature. I wanted something impactful that would be a signature component of the app. Looking across the company’s portfolio of software, one item that stood out was a web-based digital signage tool currently used by operators and venues to publish ads to their jukeboxes. But similar to other features targeted for Co-Pilot, the tool was not mobile-friendly.
Intrigued, I began searching through the iOS and Google Play stores for companies that might have already solved a similar UIUX challenge. Surprisingly enough, custom greeting card makers showed me a pathway. I packaged my research, created a few wireframe mockups, presented to product management, and got the green-light. With Co-Pilot, operators and venue staff would now be able to build and schedule digital signage, right from their phone, and see it appear on the jukebox within minutes.
Knowing I needed a dividing line between the all-access and a limited-access experience, I started the design process by creating two labels: Operator Insights and Control System. All features that would be accessible to operators-only would be housed under Operator Insights. Remaining features, specifically controls that would be accessible to all users, would be housed under Control System.
Initial work began in PhotoShop and Illustrator, and later moved to Sketch.
OPERATOR INSIGHTS MENU
Based on our research, the first thing I decided to show post-login was a connections infographic. At a quick glance, this would provide operators with a 10,000 ft view of their landscape. From there, they could decide to either view all locations or a smaller subset we would allow them to organize into a “watchlist.”
When viewing locations on mobile, data would be limited to what operators told us was most relevant during our phone interviews. Key sorting options were also supported.
Touching a location name allowed for a deeper dive into details and controls. Again, items presented there would be for operators only.
CONTROL SYSTEM MENU
While also accessible from Operator Insights, the app’s Control System would be the default menu presented to bar and restaurant staff post-login.
For expandability purposes, items in the Control System were organized into 3 segments.
"Jukebox Controls" would house items such as the ability to view the song currently playing, as well as to pause or skip it. Access to volume and power controls would also be supplied.
"Location" would allow location-specific details to be accessed and managed, including the management of Co-Pilot users.
"Ad Mgr" would allow users to create, schedule, and publish digital signage to one or multiple devices.
Released in 2018, AMI Co-Pilot became the first-ever app made for jukebox operators and venue owners – helping to drive new customer acquisitions. Its signature Ad Mgr feature led to the creation of over 5,000 digital ads within one year. Today, over 25,000 jukeboxes in North America are Co-Pilot enabled with operators logging into the app over 15,000 times per year.