Does Line app create a “choice overload”?

A usability testing on the Line app to validate if it suffers from choice overload.

Just the other day I was at the airport, bidding goodbye to a friend leaving for Japan. Just before he left, he asked me to install the Line app. Well, to be honest it was on my to-do list for a long time, but now I got an urgent reason to do so! I used the app and to be fair - I loved the features Line app provides. It has a huge list of features that Whatsapp misses on. I personally loved the app. Well, the stats below are a clear evidence of that! (When Japan uses an app so often, it ought to be something awesome :) )

But again, the best apps too have the scope of improving the experience for their users. I found few choices on the app that repeats itself on several tabs and scrolls. It kind off confused me. For eg — on a chat room, the plus button on the bottom, opens with an option “Choose Photo”. Yet again, the down arrow button on the top right, opens with an option — “Photos”. It confuses the user which one to use to send a photo to a friend.

Do users suffer from choice overload on Line app? It was quite an interesting usability test for me.

Introduction about Line app

LINE reshapes communication around the globe, bringing you closer to your family, friends, and loved ones — for free. With voice and video calls, messages, and a limitless variety of exciting stickers, you’ll be able to express yourself in ways that you’ve never thought possible. With over 600 million users worldwide, LINE’s constantly expanding platform will continue to provide exciting new experiences and convenience.

Objective of the Usability test

Identify the pain point in choosing options for a particular task from a variety of options on the Line app.

Does overwhelming of options kill the UX?

Yes, it does. Studies say so!

Back in 2000, researchers Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper published a paper on a social experiment which was known as the “Jam Study”.

One day, shoppers at a supermarket saw a display table with 24 varieties of gourmet jam. On another day, shoppers at the same supermarket saw an identical display table, but this time with just 6 varieties of jam to choose from.

On both days, shoppers who sampled the jam received a coupon for $1 off any variety from the table.

When the results of the study were tallied, a remarkable trend emerged.

The table with the larger display attracted more traffic. But when they went to checkout, shoppers who saw the large display were significantly less likely buy when compared to the group that saw the smaller display.

In fact, the “large display” group was one tenth as likely as the “small display” group to buy.

In other words, a huge list of features is great for use, but scattering it across sometimes only confuses users. Lesser options with sub-categories is probably a better option.

User research

  • User persona

Prior to conducting usability tests, I developed a user persona to better understand the target users of Line’s Android app. This process helped me get into the mindset of the users, thinking in terms of their contexts, needs, and goals

So meet Yuri!

  • Platform used for experiment

I have used the CanvasFlip online tool for creating the prototypes and for UX insights such as session replay (the user videos). conversion funnel and heat maps.

  • Number of users in the test

I tested the Line app with 10 users, matching the above mentioned user persona.

  • Task given to users

“Send a friend your photo while you are chatting with him”


Usability Analysis

Before we dig deeper into the usability analysis, I am sure you would love to try the prototype I tested on.

(Open Line prototype version in new tab)

(The prototype was created keeping the two tasks in mind. It does not include the on-boarding process and other similar process that do not link to the task.)

Insights on the LINE app design —

Users were expecting the option of “sending a photo” from two spots on the screen. Maybe clicking on the top right is a habit that comes from Whatsapp.

Having a look at this heat map from CanvasFlip, there are two possibilities—

1. Users have tried both the options

2. Almost 50% of users have tried either of the options.

Heat map of the chat room
Heat map on layers of Chat room

Both the layers have options — “Photos” and “Choose photos”. Similar text obviously confuses the user.

Conclusion — Considering the variety of features Line app provides, the copy writing should be clear to explain the use of each one of them. Simplicity wins over abundance of choice

Comparison of time taken

Comparison of time taken
UX insights show that too many choices on the app confuses users 
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Final Words

Line app provides an array of methods to interact with their offerings, but this in turn affects the decision-making of a user first time on the app. Having so many features in the kit, Line app HAS to deal with variety of choices, but it’s important that when we offer such variety, we ensure it is done tastefully without overloading or confusing the end user. It is not because users will not eventually figure out what to do and how to do it, but it is about the ease of doing it. Users constantly scan for options over the app, if they get similar options everywhere, it is difficult to distinguish which one suits his purpose.

Do let me know what you feel about the usability of the app. I might have overlooked an aspect you are looking at, my friend! Just drop a comment below.