Collab is a new standalone app from Facebook that allows users to create music with anyone, anywhere. This project was born from the team’s frustration with the dissonance between the experience of jamming with musicians in real life and creating music using Digital Audio Workstations. Collab hopes to do, for music, what Instagram did for photography and Tiktok did for video: make it radically simple for an amateur to make something great. As much as I try to explain it here, nothing will compare to giving it a try.
Creating a Collab
1. MAKE A LOOP
To create a Collab from scratch you record yourself playing indefinitely and then trim your clip down to a <25s ‘base clip.’
2. RECORD ALONG
Once a base clip exists, you simply record as many ‘takes’ as you’d like along with it. Each time the base clip ends, it loops back to the beginning so you don't have to constantly start and stop recording.
No timelines, just swipe to remix
We realized early on that clips recorded together sound great together. From this insight, I designed a lightweight “remixing” experience based on mixing and matching clips by swiping. The result is a delightfully simple experience—as you swipe the music transforms, all without any fiddling with playheads, timelines, or waveforms.
Hear it in action
This screen recording of the actual app demonstrates the magic of remixing a song in Collab. One can swipe through all of the clips users have recorded to this song, mixing and matching to reimagine the piece using different voices and instruments.
1. KEEPING THINGS SIMPLE
Designers talk endlessly about the value of simplicity and, here, I am no different. Collab’s success thus far is the result of our team’s ability to keep each feature we added as simple as possible. I have countless designs and prototypes for features we considered building but decided were inessential. These are the decisions I’m proudest of as a member of this team.
2. BEING THE USER
When building a product, the user’s voice is paramount. As a bedroom musician myself, I had an opportunity to immerse myself in Collab as a user. I work in two shifts: from 9 to 5 I am the lead designer on Collab, from 5 to midnight I am one of its most active users. This has helped me discover pain-points, solve problems, and explore opportunities that I would never otherwise be able to.
3. ALL HANDS ON DECK
At a company of Facebook’s size designers can often rely on data scientists, product marketing managers, content strategists, and myriad other specialized teammates to help bring projects across the finish line. On Collab we had no such luxury—the team was 1 PM, 5 engineers, and myself. That means if we need a deck to share with leadership, I design it. If we need marketing emails for user acquisition, I make them in mailchimp. If we need someone to manually curate our feed because we haven’t had the bandwidth to build an alogorithm, then I’m manually picking every post in the feed. This is all to say that, when building something new, “that’s not my job” simply cannot be a part of your vocabulary. Being up for anything and on top of everything is the name of the game.