Together! is a social networking app that facilitates people to organize and join small group meetings with close friends.
The original reason for designing Together! is to solve my own problem:
I don't want to be forgotten by my friends.
I'm not a very social person, but I'm still willing to spend time hanging out with friends when I'm free. However, it's difficult for me to organize a meetup, because I'm busy or shy, or just don't know where to go. If I've not met friends for a while, my face is fading out in their memories, and it's less natural to hang out again. So my social circle is shrinking. That's upset.
I conducted five in-depth interviews with my family, friends and classmates to collect qualitative data. The reason to chose them is that we know each other for a long time, so they are likely to tell me more and deeper about how they thought. When to analyze, I can also take my observation on their social behaviors into account.
The conversations were mainly about how they nurtured their friendship, and how they behaved and felt when they organized or attended an intimate meetup with friends. Based on the conversation, I came up with two personas who represent two types of core users:
Based on these two personas, I studied the process how they behave and think when to organize or attend small group meetups.
There are two kinds of meetups. The first one is Event-Driven, which means we initially want to go to an event, then gather people who can company with. The second is People-Driven, which means we already have a group ready to meet, and then we think about an event to go together.
Since my aim is to nourish old friendships, for here I only discuss the People-Driven meetup.
The pain points are the parts they feel most nervous or anxious, and are also the problems I need to solve through the product.
I studied several social media products which have the similar features. For here I would compare to the two most popular products, Facebook and Meetup.com, to explain why we need a new product.
Facebook has a feature allowing users to create events and invite friends. This feature is convenient to organize big events, and I did see some people use it to host parties.
However, Facebook doesn't make me feel closer to my friends. When you invite acquaintances to a party via Facebook, sometimes it's because you are not comfortable to text them personally. And if I receive an invitation there, I would think I'm just one of your hundreds of acquaintances.
In one word, the Facebook event doesn't work well for intimate groups.
Facebook App Event screens
Meetup.com is very popular in the major cities, like New York or San Francisco. It helps people to explore new friends with the same interests. I attended several events on the website before, and I did make some friends.
But Meetup.com doesn't create lasting friendships. Every time I went to the same event, the people there were always different. It's hard to build your social circle with friends you just met once.
A study from the University of Oxford and Aalto University School of Science suggests that humans have on average four layers in their social circle, which cumulatively contain 5, 15, 50 and 150 people respectively. It means people are only capable of having five people in their closest circle. So an intimate meetup shouldn't include too many participants.
I also found an interesting phenomenon during my research. I let my interviewers rank the intimacy and social pressure level on different ways how they invite friends. The result is, the more intimate, the higher social pressure. So it's better to think of a solution, which has relatively lower social pressure and feels more personal to users.
According to the research results, I clarified my design goal as:
Create a messaging app to encourage people to meet up intimate friends, by reducing social pressure and the difficulty of organizing meetups, to enhance users' social connections.
Thinking of a place to meet?
Not a problem!
- Browse events on the Explore page
- Tap “GO” and choose a group to go with
- Send this event to friends and plan for it!
Not sure who’s coming? Forget the place?
- Tap the group member icon to see meetup invitation
- Choose come or not
- If come, set your arrival and leaving time
- You can always find meetup information and friends’ RSVP here
Waiting too long?
Track your friends!
- On the meetup day, the tracking button is active
- Tap it to change your status, you can also see others’ status
- Share your location to let friends know where you are, and also track where they are
Long time no see?
Here's a chance!
After about one month from your group's last meeting, Together! will send you event news similar to the places your ever went, to encourage you go out with your friends.
Test the prototype made by InVision.
I produced a prototype for Together! and had four users to test it. Users are assigned several tasks to explore the app function. When they were fumbling the app, I observed how they tapped buttons. After they had completed all the tasks, I asked them the reason for their behavior based on my observation. I got the following feedbacks:
Confusion about "GO" and "Share" button
If users tap "GO", the event information will be sent to the group, which user chose to go with. But this function sounds like "Share" to users. So they tap "Share" instead of "Go" when they want to send an event to a group.
Uncertainty between the Group Member and Meetup History buttons
The ongoing meetup information is on the Group Member screen. But users usually tap the Meetup History button to find the current meetup information. Because the Group Member icon looks like a people profile, users probably think it only has member list.
Showing notifications inside group chatting
If a user is invited to a group meetup, the Group Member icon will display a highlight dot to notify the user. But the feedback reported it would be more obvious if a notification sent on chatting screen.
Walkthrough for how to use status tracking
Users think the status tracking function is convenient and transparent. But this feature is still new to some people, and only appears on meetup day. It will be helpful to incorporate a walkthrough animation to teach them how to use it.
What I learned
Process > Result
If time allows, I still have space to improve Together!. The design could be endlessly going on. From this project, I learned that a good design solution is just temporary because it doesn't guarantee the following improvements. However, a right process can lead us infinitely to better results. So, the process is greater than the result.
Test > Opinion
I received valuable feedbacks from user tests, without which I couldn't notice these experience gaps. It's not only me; most of the designers think based on their own point of views. Therefore the user test is critical. We need to let users make "decisions" from talking with them and observing how they use the product. User testing is the most powerful way to demonstrate a design approach.