User Research

Product Research at Strings: Feedback→Insights→Product

This is certainly not a case study, but I wanted to quickly jot down what drove our research at Strings and how we approached it.

When I joined Strings, there was no target market.

And, while it had a nice UI, the app had a number of clear UX issues.

I focused my early efforts on user and usability research. In fact, I set up user interviews shortly after starting in my new role.

Initial user interviews lead to quick insights… but also more questions

Identifying a target market isn’t a unique challenge in the consumer world. Take Pinterest, a novel solution for organizing… stuff. Who was it for? It wasn’t until the handicraft/knitting community picked it up that the audience started growing.

We needed to define and validate our differentiators beyond the initial assumptions if we wanted to think about who the app was for. So, I emailed beta users and set up interviews to understand:

  • Why do you use Strings? (motivation, goals)
  • When do you use the app (what makes you decide to open it)? (goals, use cases)
  • What else did/would you use if not strings? (competitors)

It turned out that 1. the ability to share ongoing “stories,” as opposed to sharing moments, and 2. the ability to share and collaborate in groups (often private) resonated most. For example, some of our top content creators had private strings for various small groups, for which they shared very distinct content.

I shared my findings internally and advocated for expanded research.

2. Expanded research study: competitive landscape, usability, Jobs to be Done

To conduct more extensive research, I led a group of Tradecraft product designers and user experience researchers (UXRs). We conducted:

1. Competitive landscape research to understand differentiators, use cases, and audiences.

2. A usability study to identify common/top UX issues.

Research findings: what insights came of this?

Among the competitive findings, this identified clear CTAs, several “stickiness” factors, and immediate access to content as issues for Strings to work on. It also found degrees of customer dissatisfaction related to privacy, content controls, and an emphasis on people over content.

It led us to questions about who our closest competitors are: Are we competing with chat apps? Facebook/FB Groups? Content-publishing platforms like Medium?

The usability study identified many confusing UX issues relating to iconography, navigation, decision fatigue, unclear visual cues (too different from common design patterns).

Where did this lead us? Product and positioning changes

For one, we addressed numerous UX issues, which led us to some quick wins (increased retention, time-spent, new users and invitations).

We used the findings to focus on content creators—but no longer on “influencers” from other networks—which had been a goal prior. We also began to focus on users who commonly or exclusively needed to share with groups.

Among the user-types this led me to, was photography teachers/groups. These teachers could take advantage of the visually appealing UI as well as the collaborative nature of Strings. Teachers could invite their class into a string (making it private if desired), so the whole group could share photos in a supportive environment and where everyone could learn.

Unfortunately, that’s when COVID-19 arrived and ended some early collaborations with photography teachers and groups. The funding round we were about to close also never happened. But it was a great feeling to see expanded use as a result of product and positioning changes that came as a direct result of our research efforts!