startups, User Research

Redesigning began as a side project. I wanted to learn some new skills, improve others and, more than anything, test an idea.

When I started, I worked nights and weekends and progress was relatively slow. But when it turned out that people were interested in the project, I made a concerted effort to improve and grow it.

This post is about the process behind the redesign, but if you’re interested in an overview, it’s here:

I hired a team to help with development and, later, with content curation. Along the way, I came to increasingly value product design—to the point that I attended Tradecraft, where I also got some incredible help from colleagues.

I learned a lot about lean methodology, prioritization, rapid iterations, and design thinking.

I’ve never learned more and remain very proud of what we accomplished. Here’s a short overview of what the redesign process looked like:

Understanding the User

The beta before a major redesign

I’d previously launched an app on both app stores.

Getting there was a huge milestone (and a story on its own), but I knew that design and build quality were both sub-par.

I’d also gotten feedback that the content was not frequent or recent enough to warrant return visits.

While the number of downloads was growing, retention was lagging.

At this point, I refocused on user research. Together with colleagues, we conducted usability testing, fielded several surveys, and conducted interviews to identify the biggest interests and pain points users were having.

In short, we spent nearly two months simply understanding who the users were and what they cared about most.

Usability testing video recordings

We did usability testing in sections. For example, to the left are some pieces of feedback we got related to onboarding.

Next, we bucketed what we heard in order to understand needs and prioritize interests and concerns.

Breaking down and bucketing user priorities
Younger persona, which is tech savvy and more interested in new experiences.

One of the interesting findings from the research was of two primary user personas:

One was younger, in their 20s and interested in staying ahead of the trend with regard to entertainment and experiences.

The other was in their 30s, with interests more related to community events, restaurants, and development.

These details were helpful in thinking through content categories (for filtering purposes), onboarding flows, and even for targeted ads.

Setting Priorities

We used the research and personas to develop “jobs to be done” in the form of USMO: users, situations, motivations, and outcomes.

What is the Job To Be Done? USMO: users, situations, motivations, outcomes

With these use cases and personas in mind, we created task flows to try to minimize friction and improve the overall user experience.

And then we took our task flows and fleshed out some corresponding screen content.

Focusing on User Experience

With all this in hand, we finally moved to Sketch. We went through several rounds of design iterations, lo-fi and then hi-fi, testing some of our assumptions and hypotheses by getting user feedback at each step.

The primary areas of the app didn’t change much: e.g., Onboarding, Map, Newsfeed, Post Details, Create New Post, and Profile/Account Management. There were, however, many updates to the UX and UI.

Here are some details for the map view:

We thought a lot about creating a great user experience. I knew from my own experience, as well as from talking to users, that the initial MVP was functional but not particularly enjoyable to use.

In creating the experience, we considered details like triggers and feedback loops, as well as gestures and interactions. Below is a video demonstrating a few of the interactions in the newsfeed, creating a new post, user profile, and bookmarking.

Finally, we created a clickable prototype for validation testing. Coming full circle, we conducted similar usability tests to that we had begun with.

For an overview of the business and not just the product, take a look at this short overview presentation.

Last but not least, a huge thanks and shout-out to friends who helped with this huge undertaking!