Better Social app case study

The number of social media users worldwide has been estimated to reach 2.5 billion by early 2018, meaning 1 in 3 people will be connected via one or more social media networks. Better Social is a personal project re-thinking the ways we socialise online.

User Research: Identifying Key Pain Points

Despite the widespread use of social media platforms, not everyone finds the experience entirely satisfying. The benefits of connectivity often outweigh the inconveniences, but the growing frustration with the online networking platforms goes beyond mere usability issues. Regular users are prone to an increased level of stress and social anxiety, yet they often struggle to control their consumption. Online networking platforms have become a digital equivalent of junk food, so how can users maintain a healthy social media diet?

To identify the key pain points of regular social media users, I conducted a series of interviews, asking participants to describe their social media habits, satisfaction and frustrations. The complaints can roughly be grouped into three categories:

Addiction:

Many people admitted struggling to limit their usage, describing the experience of craving to check the latest updates or being “pulled into” the feed and neglecting other obligations. These users reported an increased level of stress, attention deficit, poor quality of sleep and low sex drive.

DOMINANT FEELINGS: guilt

I go on Facebook to message a friend and before I know it, an hour has passed and I achieved absolutely nothing — Danny, 27

Anxiety:

A large number of users described experiencing some form of performance anxiety. Many admitted lowered self-esteem, self-loathing and envy after comparing themselves to others’ social media personas. Equally, many people said they felt anxious about how well their posts were received, seeking interaction and validation. Several users said the social interaction often feels one-sided and describe their engagement as a monologue. Even those with more active profiles said communication often feels forced and wish for a more meaningful engagement.

DOMINANT FEELINGS: loneliness and self-doubt

Some girls my age appear to have effortlessly perfect lives in perfect houses with perfect boyfriends and cute dogs, while I’m struggling to find a matching pair of socks in the morning. All my attempts to look glam fall flat, and I feel worse with every picture I post — Chloe, 23

Information overload:

Finally, most users agreed that their feed typically contains a lot of irrelevant information and adverts, and they have to put considerable effort into sifting through suggested posts to get to the information they are interested in.

DOMINANT FEELINGS: frustration and disappointment

It’s nice to see what old friends are up to every now and again, but I really don’t need Facebook trying to sell me a blender and an aftershave while I do it! — Michael, 31

Personas:

Based on the series of interviews conducted for the project, I created two user personas — Andy and Diana. I used real quotes from the interviews to explain their motivation and pain points:

Andy and Diana are two user personas I created based on the series of interviews conducted for this project

Storyboard:

Having identified the key pain points of the social media users, I created a series of storyboards that demonstrate how using Better Social app will lead from frustration to user satisfaction. The one below is based on Danny’s experience struggling to deal with social media addiction.

User journey I drew based on Danny’s story of dealing with social media addiction

Prototypes and Wireframes:

After weeks of research, I went back to the drawing board to address each problem with a series of prototype sketches exploring potential solutions.

Although the main aims of this project were research and ideation, I went one step further and illustrated some of the key features in a series of wireframes that offer a glimpse into what Better Social app might actually look and feel like if it was ever built.

Design

I chose a colour scheme that contrasts with the leading social media platforms, which are currently dominated by blue and bright red. I used terracotta and meadow green to inspire a sense of harmony, positive attitude and mindful consumption.

Minimalistic profile page with a profile image, short bio and links to external social media accounts

Many channels, one feed

The main feature of the app is the joined feed that allows users to see and engage with all social media channels in one place. Icons allow filtering of the content by the channel it was originally posted on, both on the user’s profile page and news feed.

Joined feed allows users to see and engage with all social media channels in one place

Meaningful interactions

Unlike most social media platforms, Better Social only shows users the updates from people they chose to stay in touch with, so the default news feed is empty until the user chooses the people and topics they want to follow.

The app encourages meaningful interactions by prompting users to comment or send a direct message after they “liked” a status update.

Liked an update? The app will encourage you to leave a comment or say hello in a private message

Instead of constantly bombarding users with updates, Better Social shows all new likes, comments and messages in one place, so you can tune out without the fear of missing out.

The app shows all new likes, comments and messages in one place

Set your own social media consumption goals, and Better Social will remind you when you spent too much time online, lock the feed and prompt you to go for a short walk or call an old friend instead.

Set your social media consumption goals and the app will nudge you to take a break and go for a walk

I completed this project as a part of a UX Design course back in 2016, before Apple, Google and many others launched major updates to help users “understand and take control of the time they spend interacting with their”. I can’t take any credit for this shift in approach, but it’s great to know that some of the issues discussed here might be long gone by the time you read this. Looks like the time for Better Social really has come :)