BeFriend allows users to find events online that they can attend in person. I redesigned the app to increase event participation.
Let go of Bad Ideas
Test with User Group
Users of Befriend are able to find live events through an app. The company aims to help users make new friends for those who have recently moved or have fear and social anxiety. The company has recognized that the number of attendees at an event and the number of people who say they are going to the event. The company shows an average of an 80% gap between the number of responses and the number of attendees for an event.
Possible reasons for the discrepancy of event attendees and those interested my be due to a lack of communication. A cost-effective incentive may also help users to attend more events that they show interest in.
To begin, I reviewed Meetup, Eventbrite, and Facebook Events to get a sense of industry leaders. I noted that events in each platform were categorized by type. Both Facebook and Meetup clearly communicated the network of people attending. This, I believe, will be important in encouraging those with social anxiety to feel comfortable reaching out and/or attending an event.
Each platform allowed users to indicate if they planned on attending an event. Once noted, users would then be able to change the status of their participation. Changing status participation on an event was difficult on Eventbrite and Meetup. Although this status change was fairly simple on Facebook, there wasn’t sufficient feedback to confirm the status change. Being able to easily change this status may be important in creating a more accurate depiction of who may attend an event. It may also help those with social anxiety feel comfortable showing interest in events if they know they’ll be able to easily make necessary changes later.
Other common features in the industry include event details, adding an event to calendars, liking an event, and event notifications. These notifications, however, could come through email, push notifications, or texts.
Because of time and resource constraints, I chose desk research and surveys to gain foundational knowledge about the project space. As I conducted my research I discovered a lot about making new friends and the purposes, benefits, and mentality regarding online scheduling services for events.
The desk research I conducted fell into two categories: online forums, and online articles. As I evaluated online articles, I considered the source and the resources used to support the findings. I found articles that shared personal experiences as well as those that referenced research articles that were reputable and pertinent to my research. Although online forums and personal experiences are not always beneficial or reliable resources for data, they served as additional points of data from experienced users for the purpose of my research.
After completing my desk research I created an affinity map with five categories:
- Reasons it’s challenging to make friends
- Making friends requires action
- Reasons people don’t attend events
- Partial participation
- Requirements for high participation
Both secondary research and surveys reveal data about these categories that will benefit the development of this app.
Reasons It’s Difficult to Make Friends
Regarding the difficulties of making friends, I focused on an article from the NY Times entitled “Why it’s hard to make friends over 30.” The article claims the difficulty lies in the inherent differences between life before 30 and life after 30. These differences include:
- Change in priorities
- Commitment and focus on family
- Desire to find family friends rather than just personal friends
- Commitment of time
- Increased qualifications for friendship
- Change in needs
- Desire to use the time to develop current relationships rather than find new ones
Other articles suggested the struggle is because people
- Have anxiety
- Don’t want to be with new people
- Focus on their family
When considering the difficulties of making friends at Meetup events, individuals on the forums expressed that
- Different people go to each meetup event
- People don’t get together outside of the event
These are the difficulties that users of the Meetup app face when making new friends and attending events. Although there are many obstacles to overcome, knowing the challenges will enable us to address them as we strive to increase event participation.
In one survey I asked participants why making friends is difficult. I included Covid since it has had dramatic social implications. I also included several other options related to scheduling and social anxiety. I did not specifically list “social anxiety” as an option. However, I did establish whether participants had social anxiety in a previous question. In addition to the multiple-choice options, I included an “other” option where participants were able to type in a response.
The biggest challenge when making new friends, even greater than Covid, is initial contact.
Of the respondents, 78.9 either do or may suffer from social anxiety.
In this same survey, I also asked, “What would make finding new friends easier?” Of the participants, 60% indicated the best way for them to get to know others is through a third-party introduction. The next leading responses were knowing what to talk about and getting to know one person at a time.
The findings indicate that we need to find a way to introduce users to each other. If we can enable users to get to know one person at a time and provide suggestions about what to talk about, the app would be even more beneficial.
Although this solution doesn’t negate the challenges of time and different priorities, it does ensure that those who desire to give some effort to make new friends will be supported in their efforts.
Making Friends Requires Action
According to the NY Times, “Sociologists since the 1950s have considered [three things] crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.” Comments in this section of my empathy map relate to one of these three elements of making friends.
Even if we create the perfect environment for users to develop new friendships, their ability to do so will still depend on their own actions and on their actual attendance at events. However, I believe we can aim for repeated interactions, planned or otherwise. This suggests that we need to encourage members to participate in events with the same group several times. Including an aspect in the app that enables users to find those that live closest to them will fulfill the need for proximity. In addition, we need to do all we can to provide moments for sincere openness. This may mean being selective in the types of events provided or guiding those hosting events.
Reasons People Don’t Attend Events
This is a question I asked in my surveys as a multiple-choice question. I included my own assumptions as possible answers and an option for survey participants to write in their own reasons. Answers reflecting my own assumptions included:
- The event didn’t seem interesting
- I didn’t want to
- Scheduling conflict
- I was too tired/lost motivation
- I didn’t know anyone who’d be there
- The people I planned on going with no longer could go with me
According to my survey, over 66% of respondents either had a scheduling conflict or lost motivation for attending.
According to the online forums with experiences from others, my assumptions were correct.
Another consideration is that when a person RSVPs online there isn’t a formal commitment and there is a level of anonymity that makes it easy to ignore or not attend the event. Others simply forgot about the event and thus didn’t attend.
They also need to be able to change their RSVP when they know their schedule won’t allow them to attend.
At a glance, this may seem the same as the previous point. However, according to a particular forum focused on Meetup groups, there will often be members of a group that do not RSVP to events, interact on the online chats, or participate in any other way. According to this forum, the reasons for this can be categorized into three groups.
- The platform encourages members to join many groups
- Moments of strong social desire (i.e. New Year’s Resolutions)
- There’s no consequence for not participating
Based on this forum, we need to focus on encouraging genuine, sincere participation in a few things that are of most interest rather than half-hearted participation in a splattering of minutely interesting things.
The forum also suggests that there should be some consequence or drive for genuine participation. Consequences could include being removed from the group or, possibly, some monetary consequence. Requiring a monetary penalty may dissuade people who want to participate but are on a tight budget.
Requirements for High Participation
In one Meetup forum, organizers offered advice on how to increase participation:
- Communicate early and clearly
- Reach out to new members
- Have others reach out
- Text event reminders
As to the problem of increasing event attendance, organizers suggested that an email reminder may be beneficial. For this reason, in my survey about Meetup, Eventbrite, and Facebook Events, I asked participants “What motivates you to attend events from services like this?”
Attending with a friend or even an acquaintance was also better than receiving an email reminder.
These findings suggest that, although receiving reminders of an event is important, email may not be the best method. Being able to add an event to a preferred calendar would be the most beneficial way to help users remember the event.
Key Findings for Implementation
Based on the insights from each category in the initial research there are eight things that need to be considered throughout the design:
- Help attendees connect before attending the event
- Provide initial contact between members
- Offer motivation between the RSVP and event attendance
- Allow members to add events to their calendar
- Encourage participation in genuine interests only
- Provide consequence or motivation for genuine participation
- Encourage participation with the same groups
- Allow members to change their mind even after they say they’re going to an event
Low Fidelity Design
In order to map out the red-routes of a user’s journey, I began sketching the interface of common screens such as the event details page. I focused on conceptualizing the red-routes and on creating a clear way for users to indicate a change in mind about attending an event. Since building relationships is the aim of the product and an important aspect to making genuine connection I included a concept of what messaging may look like in the app.
I revisited the company motive of encouraging those who have recently moved or those with social anxiety to attend events. I also reviewed the findings from my research and recognized the need to provide a consequence or motivation to attending events. I considered the company’s perspective of offering a cost-effective incentive to motivate users to attend events.
Users would be able to earn points by going to events and they would lose points by not attending an event. I considered requiring points to simply join an event. This, I hypothesized, would encourage users to consider whether joining an event was worth the point value. I believed it would dissuade users from joining events that seemed only moderately interesting but encourage them to join events they truly were interested in.
With this new concept, I added a few instructions to my sketches about when or where to include points. Then, I began wire-framing.
In order for points to motivate the users they would, I assumed, need to see the points regularly. I designed a home screen that indicated how many points they had earned as well as what activities they had already joined. I also included a link for users to discover how they could earn more points. For users to earn points I created tasks, based on my research, that would help users build genuine connections.
After viewing points and upcoming events, users would be able to scroll through a list of events. Once an event is selected, users would be able to see details, select how many people are going, and join an event. If users change their mind about going to an event, they would be able to leave the event from the event page or the home page through a simple click. I created several modals in order to confirm and give clear feedback to the user about their decision to leave an event.
Consistently, the research showed that having somebody to go with made a significant impact on one’s commitment to go to an event. Since this app is designed for people who don’t yet know many others around them, this is a particular challenge that users of this app face since they do not have friends in the area to go to events with them. Including a message board in order to encourage conversations before the meeting time was crucial. However, as the target audience is people who are either new to town or have social anxiety, reaching out to a stranger may be awkward. For this reason, I created a function within the chat that allowed users to select a chat template from a variety of topics in order to initiate a conversation. By using the chat template users wouldn’t have to worry about what to say, they would just have to do the work of reaching out.
Once the wireframe was complete I used Invision’s Craft within Sketch to make a prototype for guerrilla testing.
The main purpose of this user test was to evaluate users’ understanding of the app. I wanted to determine whether basic functions (joining and leaving an event) were intuitive. I was also interested in what may be confusing and/or what needed to be adjusted before advancing to further stages of design.
I spoke with six people: four males and two females. I didn’t ask about demographics such as their age, occupation, etc. However, based on our conversation and appearance, I estimate one was around 23 and the other four participants were between the ages of 30-50.
I conducted my guerrilla test in the local mall. I approached people that were sitting by themselves looking at their phone. Since they already had their phone out already I knew they were comfortable with a smartphone. And because As they were sitting alone, it seemed they were either waiting or at least not in a hurry to go or do something else. They also didn’t have others around them that they had to focus on or who were waiting for them. This allowed them to focus on and complete user testing so they could be more focused.
I texted users the link to the InVision Prototype. This way, users could explore the app on their own devices.
To determine whether users were able to use the app successfully, I asked each person to complete the following tasks:
- You’re on the home page. Take some time to look around the app, as you would the first time on any app, and express your thoughts and observations of the app.
- Find an event happening tomorrow that you will attend.
- Find a jazz concert to go to.
The next tasks ask about what you would do in certain situations. There are no right or wrong answers and your actions may or may not include this app.
- It’s the day of the concert you’re not sure you want to go, What would you do?
- You have an event that you’ve never gone to before. You’re a little nervous about going and not knowing anyone. What would you do?
- Three days before the event, your employer schedules a mandatory work meeting at the same time as your event. What would you do?
Based on the guerrilla test I found five areas to improve.
Points Need a Purpose
Users didn’t understand the purpose of the point system. This is not surprising: the points don’t have a purpose beyond being something to look at and collect. There isn’t a leader board and they don’t provide a discount in any way. The points need to have a purpose or they are simply confusing to the user.
Include the Name of the App
Nobody knew the name of the app. There was no header with the name, and users weren’t seeing the name when clicking the icon or loading the app since it was a prototype. It would be beneficial to include the app name so users are aware of what they are using.
Categories are Unclear
Users consistently disregarded the categories and opted to search for a type of event. When I asked them about or directed them to the category section, users were confused by the layout. They didn’t understand that these were categories or buttons to navigate the types of events. I need to reorganize the categories to clarify their purpose.
Leaving an Event
Several users struggled to find how to leave an event. This was something I wanted to be sure was clear so there would be a more accurate depiction of those attending. Since half the users struggled to find this button (though all eventually found it), I believe it needs to be larger or more visible to access.
Users mention concern about receiving refunds after purchasing tickets. They weren’t sure what that process would look like. At this time, this concern is beyond the scope of this project.
I established a Style Guide to provide consistency through the high fidelity design. Brand attributes include caring, familiarity, humor, and optimism. Due to time constraints, I chose a wordmark to represent the company. I titled the app BeFriend to signify the double meaning of being a friend and the idea of befriending others. I included a representation of the font I would use. To maintain familiarity, I chose SF Pro and SF Display because I was designing this for Apple users first. I chose rectangular buttons with rounded corners, no stroke, and light shading.
To represent the brand attributes in color, I chose yellow as a primary color and green as a secondary color. I wanted the bright, friendly optimism represented by yellow and the organic, familiarity represented by green. As I designed, I was using green more frequently since there was a wider variety of green shades than yellow shades.
High Fidelity Design
Give Points a Purpose
In addition to a change in color scheme, I also implemented changes based on the feedback from my guerrilla user test. It was clear that I needed to provide a purpose to the points. One user suggested that they points provided a discount to certain events. Based on this concept I arbitrarily assigned a monetary value to the points.
In order to keep this cost-effective, I let 100 points equal $1.00. This would make the math simple, keep costs down, and provide a purpose for the point system.
Display the Name
Users came to the app through the test link I sent them. They didn’t look for the app, find the app icon, or complete onboarding for the app. In addition, they didn’t look at a logo as the app loaded. All of these places are areas where users may be able to see the product name, but for the purposes of this design at this time, I included the product name in the header at the top of each screen. This helped to brand the product and indicate its purpose to users.
This was a clear oversight in my original design. I simplified this by creating a search bar at the top of the events screen. Below that, I included a scrolling header with various topics for users to explore.
Leave an Event
Since many users were struggling to know how to change their preferences for attending an event, I wanted to more clearly show how users would be able to “leave” an event that they had joined. I made a more defined button directly under the confirmation that they had joined an event. I made the text red to promote users to stay. I also increased the font size.
I tested three women and two men between the ages of 30-35. I recognize this is below or at the lowest age range of target users. Considering my time and budget constraints, however, these users still provided beneficial feedback. I recommend conducting another round of testing with a wider age range to ensure an accurate representation of users.
I asked users to complete several tasks and included specific open-ended questions to gauge perspectives and opinions about the app. The tasks I asked users to complete are as follows:
- What do you understand about the point system?
- Anything else you want to comment on about this home page?
- Can you find and RSVP to an outdoor event happening this weekend?
- Find a crafting event?
- You’re excited to go stargazing this weekend, but you’re not sure what clothing is appropriate. You don’t want to be overdressed if everyone will be in cars or something, and you don’t want to freeze and be underdressed. What would you do to find out the appropriate attire?
- Find an event you could attend while in quarantine.
The next tasks ask about what you would do in certain situations. There are no right or wrong answers and your actions may or may not include this app, but you have been using this app and you know about the events I’ll ask about.
- You notice that you’ve joined a Volleyball event. What would you do if you decide you don’t want to go to Volleyball anymore?
- Does the notification make a difference in your decision to go or not go?
- You’re nervous about not knowing anyone when you go Stargazing. What would you do?
- Any other comments?
- What do you think of the color scheme?
- What do you think of the point system?
Users were able to find and join events easily. They were also able to leave events easily.
The point system was more confusing than in the guerrilla testing. Even though points now had a purpose, users didn’t understand why the points really mattered. When they did the math they were even less impressed by the minimal savings. Further, the points did not serve the intended purpose of preventing or dissuading users from leaving events. One user indicated that nothing less than a $5.00 equivalent would dissuade her from leaving an event she no longer wanted to attend. While in the guerrilla testing four of six participants asked about the purpose of the points, in the hi-fi testing all users explained how limited the influence of the points was on their decision to attend an event.
Again, users were curious about refunds for purchased tickets. This was not covered in the company brief and is therefore beyond the scope of this project.
Based on my findings, I have compiled a list of suggested improvements:
Eliminate the Point System
Although I really like the idea of gamification for events, I learned that it wasn’t the right approach: 4/5 users were indifferent to it. Only one user was interested in the idea because it was a unique concept. I also recognize that my users were all on the younger (and supposedly more tech-savvy) end of the user group.
Further, in order to make the gamification effective, it would need to be more encompassing and inclusive of all aspects of the app. Essentially, the app would need to act more like a game than a social media account. I believe Pokemon Go is an industry example of the level of gamification that would motivate social interaction.
Chat with Friends
As I spoke with users, I found that having someone to go with was the biggest factor in getting people to do things when their desire wanes. This was supported in the surveys and secondary research I initially conducted. I even designed a specific chat function to help promote this. Creating a greater community feel would help. I believe if people who were going to and/or interested in events were able to chat with others before the event, they’d feel more comfortable going to the event and be able to evaluate whether the event is even a good fit for their interests. Although I have a message center, it’s set up in a way that you have to already know the person with whom you’re talking. It can be challenging reaching out to a single individual, especially if you don’t know the person. A possible solution would be to create group chats like those in Slack (and other apps) that would be available for users who join or are interested in the event.
Two users suggested reorganizing the events page so events they have joined are at the top and events that might be interesting to them came next. This is something worth exploring so users can easily find details of events they are attending without getting distracted by the possible events they could attend.
Add Detail Icons
One user jokingly suggested adding a food icon to indicate whether the food would be provided since it’s a driving motivator for her. Another suggested color-coding the events to correspond with various categories. Both of these ideas would make the cognitive load easier, minimize the need to read text, and improve scannability. It may be beneficial to add icons representing various aspects of events (food, outdoor, family-friendly, etc). I wonder, however, if this concept would still apply and be as valuable for older users within the group.
Reconsider the Color Scheme
In early conception, a peer suggested changing the color scheme because of his personal bias against the chosen colors. I didn’t feel it would hurt anything to ask tack that question on at the end of user testing, but I was surprised by the results. Nobody liked yellow, and most users were indifferent to the green shades. Although the color scheme may not be the most critical thing, it may be worth considering the company’s values and what may captivate and engage users.
Based on my user testing results, I made some changes.
I eliminated the gamification and point system from my design. This allowed for messages to become a more prominent aspect of the app. This, in theory, would allow users to develop deeper relationships earlier and, in turn, increase activity and participation.
I changed the message system to include two groups: messages to individuals and messages on an event chat. The idea is that anyone who is interested in or has joined the event will be able to chat about the event and get to know each other before the event happens. Then, a week after the event has passed, the chat group will disappear. There would be an option in settings to choose whether to be added to chats for events you’re interested in, those you’ve joined, or none.
I changed the My Events page to have two tabs: one for joined events and one for events that users showed interest in. This would categorized events based on commitment level with the most immediate events at the top.
I change in color scheme to more closely represent the brand’s identity. Since users didn’t like the yellow shade I revisited the client brief, reminding myself of the brand attributes. I realized the frequent use of greens took me away from the brand and I needed to update the color pallet. I chose orange as a primary color to represent optimism and humor. It was easier to work with than yellow because it had a wider depth of shades. I chose blue as a secondary color to represent caring and familiarity.
The new color scheme more closely represented the company values than green and yellow did.
For this design study, I set out to find a way to encourage those who join an event in a social media app to actually attend the event. To that end, I conducted secondary research and surveys to determine why making new friends is difficult. I also researched motivations for using similar apps including Meetup, Eventbrite, and Facebook Events.
Based on research findings I included the option to add events to one’s calendar as well as receive other alerts through push notifications or text. I focused on motivating users to attend by providing consequences and encouragement through a point system. After guerrilla testing I became aware the points needed a more targeted purpose, such as discounted tickets to events.
Following user testing with a high-fidelity prototype, I determined that points were insufficient as a motivation or a consequence to encourage users to attend. A greater motivation, as supported through early research, was to develop early friendships to motivate attendance. With this in mind, I iterated on the design to provide a temporary chat group for each event. The event chat would allow users to communicate with each other before an event and, therefore, find new friends and motivation to attend the event.