Rethinking Beme’s UX

What’s wrong and how I would fix it.

by Gabe Roeloffs

Hold your phone to your chest. A video is posted. That’s how Beme works. You can’t see or edit the videos you post, it’s just the unedited footage of your life. In Beme, one can also check out their friend’s videos. This differentiates Beme from competitors like Instagram, which encourage you to only show the best, hand-picked, and filtered moments of your life.

Beme is cool. It’s a neat app with a ton of growth potential. Unfortunately, Beme is handicapped by an unsightly and impractical user experience.

Below I’ve outlined some problems with the UX, and have also given some suggestions on how to fix them.

1. Um, How Do I Make a Beme?

Here’s the screen you see when you open Beme.

Ummm, how do I take a video?

You can hold down a cell to see someone else’s Beme, but you’re left wondering how to create one yourself. No tutorial, no camera button, and no instructions. There comes a point where you even wonder if it’s possible to take a video.

So, how do you make a Beme? You have to make sure your proximity sensor is covered to record. Which is this little circle on the top of your iPhone.

The sensor measures the amount light around you. (For example, the phone screen turns off when your ear covers the proximity sensor during a call.) Beme doesn’t want you to see what you’re recording, so they make you cover the screen (with your chest), and thus the proximity sensor. The app knows that the phone is held to the chest since the sensor is covered, and it begins recording.

Now this is a weird action for a new user. If someone opens up the app, it’s almost impossible to figure out how to make a Beme. They either have to stumble upon by accident, or have someone tell them how to do it. These are not good ways to make users aware of the core feature of your app.

Speaking of accidents, If your hand accidentally covers the sensor, Beme automatically starts a video. This is super annoying.

Such a core feature should not be this difficult to find and use.

The Fix:

The app relies on users creating Bemes, so this is a super important fix. Here’s what I would do.

  1. Put a camera button in the navigation bar.
  2. When the user taps it, take them to a screen that says “Hold the phone up to your chest to make a Beme.”
  3. User takes a Beme from that screen

It’s that simple. First time users will likely understand that the camera button is there so that they can record a Beme. Also, this button would get rid of the problem of starting Bemes if your hand accidentally covers the proximity sensor.

2. Beme’s Readability Sucks

When I use Beme, I feel like I’m sitting in front of an antiquated terminal staring at line after line of code. I don’t feel like I’m using the hottest new social networking app.

This terminal is not very readable. Beme is not very readable. To illustrate what exactly is wrong, let’s compare Beme’s legibility to it’s cousin, Snapchat.

Here’s a Beme:

Now, here’s a Snapchat Story:

Which is easier to read? Well, I’m giving Snapchat the victory here. Snapchat doesn’t have all the extra information, it just has the username. Which in this case, is “dbacks.” Beme uses a quasi-monospace font which is good for programming, but not really good for reading.

The legibility problem is further compounded by the fact that Beme uses white text on a dark background. I personally dislike white text on a black background, and a scientific study shows others do too. Bauer and Cavovius (1980) found that participants were 26% more accurate when reading text with a light background as opposed to a dark background.

The Fix:

Luckily for the team at Beme, the fix here is relatively simple. All that has to change is the font and the color scheme. Since Beme is trying to be unique and different, my recommendation is to move to a font like Avenir, which is a clean, readable font, but not used enough to be considered “generic” (like Helvetica.)

Also, the color scheme has to go. The background needs to be white or at least a lighter color. Even though black would look best on a white background, Beme could use any color text on top of that if they wanted to add some character. (Such as green or blue.) Bright colors may sacrifice some readability, but Beme may think its worth it to not look too generic.

3. Reactions???

This feature confused me for a while. One feature of Beme that is unfamiliar to modern social network users is the concept of reactions. When you watch a Beme, a little box in the corners appears with your face in it. If you tap the reaction box, it sends a selfie to the Beme poster.

This is not intuitive at all. Are the users just supposed to know that they can tap the react button to send a selfie? I’ll walk you through my first experience with reactions.

  1. “I see my face the upper corner. That’s kind of random. Huh. “
  2. Umm, what does it do? It says react.
  3. “Oh shoot, the box just disappeared, I hope nothing bad happened.”
  4. Opens another Beme
  5. “Hey my face showed up in a floating box again. “
  6. “I guess I’ll tap it.”
  7. Screen Flashes
  8. “Wait did it take a screenshot or something?”
  9. Google “Beme React” to see what react button does.

Maybe I’m the dumb one, but it seems like first time users will have a very hard time figuring out what the react button does.

The Fix:

Once again, the fix here really isn’t that difficult. All Beme has to do is let the user know that they can send a selfie of them reacting to the Beme poster.

Instead of saying “React”, the box should say “Tap to React.” Even that is still a little vague. It would be even better if that in the first Beme you ever watched, it would stop the Beme to show a screen that tells you that you can send a selfie if you tap “React.”

And what about the problem of the react box only showing up for a few seconds? Beme should place a message in the top right corner that says “Prepare to react.. 3… 2… 1… ” This way, the user can be prepared to react in the short time window.

Wrapping Up

I hope I wasn’t too overly harsh on Beme in this piece. I like the idea of the app, I just think it’s hindered by an unintuitive and ugly user experience. This is my feedback, and I hope the ugly ducking Beme will grow out of its infancy and mature into a more usable and accessible social network.

Like this article? I would be stoked if you would give it a share.

Or maybe Beme yourself reading it.

If you can figure out how to record.


by Gabe Roeloffs