iOS and Android
How might we increase the product’s trustworthiness, and appeal to a more diverse audience of users?
Party With a Local (PartyWith) 2.0 was accepted into the Startup Lisboa Incubator in Portugal and Techstars Connection NYC in partnership with AB InBev. The app was also featured in Inc Magazine, The New York Times and Mashable.
- Grew userbase from under 100,000 downloads to over 150,000 across 150+ countries
- Increased the percentage of female users from 14% to 31%
The fully redesigned and rebranded application conveyed a much friendlier, reliable product. Adding onboarding, and changing the home view experience made the purpose of the application clear. The app was organically able to attract a broader audience as women no longer viewed the tool as a hookup app.
PartyWith is a social travel application for people to meet locals, and other travelers for a night out, or get recommendations based on their location. The application had been live for just over a year when I joined the team and was active in 10 cities worldwide.
As the first design hire to the team of four I acted as the team’s Product Designer and conducted user research, completed the UI/UX redesign for iOS and Android and worked with the remote development team through the build cycle.
With a quick three-month timeline for design and development, we put methods from Ideo’s Design Kit to work, starting with user interviews. We also collected and shared inspiring stories we’d heard from users, and other feedback Dan the founder had received over the last year and used this to find key themes that emerged. This is how we identified that the app’s purpose felt ambiguous and it was often perceived as a dating application. Additionally, after only one year on the market, the app didn’t appear to have enough user traction for people to easily find others to interact with even in popular cities. From speaking to new users we heard consistently that trust was a problem. Summed up nicely by Tyler, a Designer at Airbnb, during the 1.0 launch on Product Hunt captured below: “Sketchiest looking product page and design ever. Would not trust.” Thanks Tyler! :)
Increasing App Credibility and Trustworthiness
Strong brands and consistent visual identities are important to create trust in a product. In order to give users the feeling of a friendly social application, we would need a brand and visual identity that communicated this explicitly. In addition, for the app to succeed in helping people make in-person connections, we would also need to build trust between users.
Branding & Colour Scheme
Experimenting with colour palettes we decided to stay away from warm colours, as reds and pinks have strong associations to dating applications when combined with images of people. Looking at a collection of apps popular in the dating category we could see this trend clearly. The inspiration for the UI was friendly or all-purpose social apps like Messenger and Twitter. In addition, opting for a White UI, with light blue as the accent colour instantly gave the app a cleaner, brighter feel.
Add a Photo to your Profile & Edit your Details and Bio
To help create trust between users we added more detail fields to the user profile so that people could get a sense of each other’s interests quickly. Profile fields could be updated with one tap to make filling out a profile low-friction.
We also redesigned user reviews to allow users to label reviews as positive or negative. The goal of which was to allow people to quickly scan whether anyone had any bad experiences with someone before agreeing to meet them in person. We also created a prominent report user feature to deal with harassment or inappropriate use of the application.
A note from 2018 Julia
I’m going to break the fourth wall here for a moment.
I think it’s important to mention that a ‘review a person’ feature is one of the important moments when design decisions can have strong social implications. Although the intent is to create trust, reviewing a person is fundamentally not the same as reviewing an apartment on Airbnb based on a rubric of measures like cleanliness or location. This feature did not receive the thought and care it deserved and should I have revisited the design this week in the days of Black Mirror, #MeToo and Sesame Credit I would be much more hesitant. Particularly, by prominently having an option to label a review as negative, I think you could be priming the users to leave negative reviews. With no instructions, this could be based on anything, and could be retaliation for someone not answering a message, or spurning a romantic advance. When there is no way of corroborating a review, and users can review anyone I think an app could slide quickly into the realm of slander or harassment. Luckily, with a niche audience, this feature was never a known issue and the application later pivoted towards events rather than people as its focus.
Features to Create Trust Between Users
1. Flagging users we had interacted with and screened on other social platforms allowed us to create a cohort of trusted users ‘Super Locals’ that were active and likely to have positive interactions with other users, similar to an Airbnb Superhost.
2. User Reviews allow people to get a quick sense of whether a user is active on the platform and what kind of experience others have had with this person.
3. Requiring users sign-up with Facebook meant dealing with less fake accounts and also allowed us to show users if they knew anyone in common. A couple of mutual friends were found to be a key metric that people reported making them much more comfortable to meet in person.
An Educational Onboarding Flow that Sets the Tone
Immediately upon launch we wanted to help the user understand the purpose of the app with a quick educational sign-in flow. The three preview screens showed the app UI and the value prop to encourage users to create an account to access the rest of the application. To set the tone of Not a Dating App, the following signup screen that appeared after the above screens featured a video reel that showed a group of people messaging and meeting up for a friendly drink and going dancing. The group of people and tone of their interactions was educational in a low effort way and unavoidable as the background of the login screen.
Educational Empty State Micro-copy
Designing empty state messages also allowed us to use these empty views as educational opportunities and prompt users to take the first key actions to become active users.
Displaying a Fun, Active Community while the App User base Builds
The production versions of profile picture-centric apps never end up as designers imagine them. More often than not users don’t have profile pictures or the images are low resolution. Particularly in cities with few users we needed a strategy to present people with filled out profiles. To help combat this and to create the sense of a fun, active community we re-designed the homepage layout to highlight ‘Super Locals’ - the very active users on the platform. This curating of users who showed up in the top of the feed and in the top section allowed for people to interact with those most involved and likely to respond. People with set statuses would also appear in this highlighted area. This was particularly useful in markets we had recently launched in, where the userbase was small and would take time to grow.
More notes from 2018 Julia
1. Why are all these placeholder profile images of only white people?! Not good enough.
2. Having a search by gender filter on an app that you want people to NOT use as a dating app is a little ridiculous. In addition, if you are requiring that people identify the two options is gender binary and exclusive. I think this functionality was tied in with data from Facebook accounts and the feature was originally inspired by Tinder. However, while doing the UI I should have addressed this more critically and had serious conversations about the implications of these product decisions. In 2016, even Tinder decided it needed to be more inclusive and introduced more gender options.
3. As an exercise I’ve created an updated Android design of the home view (below) that uses Material Design standard elements and incorporates a couple of my own critiques.
Displaying a Fun, Active Community while the App User base Builds
The production versions of profile picture-centric apps never end up as designers imagi
Designing a Revenue Model
As the company and application were in their infancy, the app was a free download, and there was not yet a revenue model in place. As a potential for future referral revenue, I designed a flow where while ‘setting a status’ users could pick a location. For example, a bar to meet up for a drink, or a club to attend a concert. This would allow PartyWith to feature venues as suggestions to travelers, allowing us to charge venues for referrals.
Designing the Party with a Local application was my first experience in designing digital interfaces and therefore a very steep learning curve! Overall the challenge of creating a user-centric product start to finish was exciting and really sparked my passion for product design. Particularly, being able to source feedback from our active community, using our app was exceptional for quick iteration. With the current build of the app I could find travelers in the area (Amsterdam gets a lot of tourists!) and invite them to come by the office to give us feedback on the prototype, or tell us about their experiences so far. This way of sourcing users and conducting usability testing on our design prototypes proved useful for small interaction inconsistencies. When people’s mental models differed from the prototype I could make changes to the InVision prototypes immediately and test it with the next person coming by.
Looking back, (hindsight is 20/20) I think I’ve learned a lot about UI design, product decisions and politics in the last four years. I’ve already addressed some of the issues I just couldn’t leave alone.
Furthermore, I would have liked to have had more time to do user discovery to really understand the pain points the app could address in order to inform more of the product decisions for the home view. I think the grid of people and particularly the photo-heavy nature still made people treat the app like a dating platform, judging people solely based on their appearance. I also think that the typography hierarchy could have been given more attention and improved.
With four more years of experience, I also see that I had a lot to learn still about designing clear affordances for buttons (states, shadows, etc.) and accessibility. Although I think the tone of the writing was correct, if I were to re-write the in-app messaging and empty states I would keep the micro-copy much shorter. As they (Blaise Pascal, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill?) said: “If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.”
Overall, I was very happy with the incredible amount I learned during this process and was proud of the improvements to the feeling of the application after a very fast, hectic three months! No word yet from Tyler on Product Hunt if he would consider using the app now after the redesign.