The Secret of the iPod’s Success: A Fun Look at UX Research

Silas Silikhe
3 min readFeb 23, 2023


Cracking the Code of Unreliable Data: A UX Researcher’s Journey

Back in the early 2000s, everyone was downloading music illegally, which was a real bummer for the music industry. But then, Apple came in like a superhero with their iPod. And how did they make it happen? UX research, baby!

Now, there are two types of UX research: problem space research and solution space research. Problem space research is like trying to find your way in the dark, while solution space research is like trying to find the light switch once you’ve figured out where you’re going.

Apple used contextual inquiries to gain cognitive empathy for users, which is a fancy way of saying they were spyin’ on people to see how they listened to music. They even went undercover on Pirate Bay to see what was up with music piracy. Talk about going undercover like James Bond!

They used foundational research to craft problem statements and determine research objectives. And they communicated their research expectations using a one-page plan, because let’s be real, ain’t nobody got time for a long report!

Apple asked a bunch of questions about the problem space and answered them through user research. They did domain research to get the low-down on the market trends, and even made a list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) for the digital product within the marketplace. SWOT, get it? It’s like a cheer for UX researchers!

They also analyzed metrics to measure audience size, enthusiasm, and social sentiment. It’s like they were trying to figure out the popular kids in high school, but for the music industry.

Apple used a variety of qualitative research methods, like user interviews, which are basically like hanging out with celebrities to get all the juicy details about what they like and don’t like. They even sequenced their interview questions in a logical order, like a good story has a beginning, middle, and end.

Finally, they used quantitative research methods to validate assumptions and identify opportunities for improvement. They used statistical significance to make sure their data was meaningful, like checking to make sure you’re not imagining things after too many cups of coffee.

Apple identified research biases and avoided them like the plague. After all, research biases are like bad hair days — you want to avoid them at all costs!

So, through all of this fun and exciting UX research, Apple was able to create the iPod, a product that changed the game in the music industry. This story shows how UX research can be both fun and incredibly valuable in driving innovation and solving complex problems. So, the next time you’re conducting UX research, remember to have some fun and be a little adventurous! After all, UX research is like a treasure hunt — you never know what you might find!



Silas Silikhe

Step into my tech world, where I share insights on Product Design and Software Development for impactful empowerment.