See Around Me

Screens following the redesign

Can this nascent app identify and address pain points to increase retention?

Context and Background began as a side project. I wanted to learn some new skills, improve others and, more than anything, test an idea that I cared a lot about. When it turned out that people were increasingly interested in and using the app, I made a concerted effort to improve and grow it.

Here’s a quick summary:

The beta before a major redesign… and before I knew much about product design

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

Getting there was a huge milestone (and a story on its own), but while the number of downloads was growing, retention was lagging.

User Research: Goals and Team

At this point, I focused on research to understand users, their needs, and their frustrations.

Together with some product designers from Tradecraft, 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

For usability testing, respondents were provided with scenarios and asked to accomplish several different tasks and voice out loud what they were thinking along the way.

Usability testing video recordings

We did usability testing for the app—but never all at once; we broke it into sections.

To the right was feedback we got specific to onboarding, for example.

Users gave feedback on anything that felt relevant, including UX, UI, and content.

Pattern-matching and bucketing

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

Breaking down and bucketing user priorities.

Feedback had certain patterns, which we were able to sort into various buckets. Those buckets offered natural areas to focus our efforts on. For example, certain filters were commonly sought but either didn’t exist or were hard to find.

Younger persona, which is tech savvy and more interested in new experiences.


One finding from the research was that two primary user personas began to emerge.

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 and family-related events, restaurant openings/closings, and construction developments.

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

Outcomes: Analysis & Applications

We used the research and personas to develop “jobs to be done” in the form of USMO: users, situations, motivations, and outcomes. In short, what did people want to use the app for, and under which conditions?

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

Task Flows

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

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

Applying Research to Design

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 core element of the app didn’t change dramatically (e.g., Onboarding, Map, Newsfeed, Post Details, Create New Post, and Profile/Account Management). There were many UX and UI updates, however.

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. (To be fair to myself, I knew little about product design when I started, and it made me care much more deeply about the topic).

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.

Validation Testing

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!