Refining the Way Friends Interact on TikTok

From taking breaks from my academics to the long MTA rides when traveling home to NYC, TikTok fills the empty spaces in my calendar. It’s addictive nature feels like a magic spell pulling me into a trance preoccupying my mind with constant content causing time to just fly.

During my hours of scrolling through my For You Page (FYP), I am consj relatable and funny content with friends in an attempt to connect with them. Whether it’s a dance I want us to learn or something I feel will make them laugh, sharing and receiving content is a major way I interact with my friends on TikTok.

With all the passion and creative expression that Tiktok encourages creators to put into their work, efficiency in engagement with friends to appreciate the content is vital.

The Headache of Sharing Content with Friends 🤕

The best way to describe the current method of sharing Tiktoks with friends is to call it a process which the opposite of what TikTok stands for as a fast paced app. The most popular method of sharing content from TikTok relies on another app…iMessage.

There is simplicity in working with 1 app to share and receive content.

Switching from TikTok to iMessage to watch content sent to you is exhausting which affects responsiveness. You might be thinking — doesn’t TikTok have a DM feature? Well, to be said simply, it’s a bust.

  1. Its far from the For You Page (where users spend the majority if not all of their time).
  2. The AI recommendation system within the For You page is phenomenal at curating individualized content that users forget about other features offered.

The solution is not to cut off interacting with friends or leaving this dilemma alone. This is because the pattern you may have caught up to by now is that: the desire to send is prominent despite lack of responsiveness from the recipient.

The Problem

When I watch TikToks, I want to engage with others in productive discussions about a variety of content we enjoy but I can’t do that well because:

  1. People don’t respond to the videos I share.
  2. It’s time consuming and tiring to go through all the videos my friends share with me through iMessage.

Now for a solution..👩🏽‍🎨

get excited 🥂

User Research Insights 📝

The overall objective was to identify pain points in the process of sharing videos (sending and receiving) as well as gaining more understanding of how users normally interact with the app.

Three TikTok users were interviewed to gain the major insights listed below:

  1. Most content people want are localized on their FYP.

“I just stay on my FYP. I don’t use anything else.”

“I have some messages in my TikTok DMs but I am too lazy to go check it.”

2. Users continue to send TikToks to people despite the lack of response/reaction from the recipient.

“When I’m scrolling and I see something thats relatable or funny, I share it with my friends but they either don’t respond or take days to.”

“Switching to iMessage to send a message attachment to the TikTok I sent is annoying.”

3. Users are open to seeing what is beyond what the AI has personalized for them.

“Sometimes I want to see out of the box content but, I’m not sure what to search up.”

4. Users share TikToks where they believe their friends will be more responsive — iMessage.

“My friends check iMessage more than their TikTok DMs.”

“I send content where I feel the person will be the most responsive.”

What did the user research insights reveal?

The user insights revealed that users are struggling with the process of interacting with their friends which is a key component to how people are able to laugh together on this platform. This problem is worth prioritizing because:

  • People want to share videos with their friends.
  • People want to respond to the videos sent to them but, the process is unattractive and long.
  • People want a way to connect on this platform through the exchange of videos they see on their personalized recommended page.
  • Sometimes people do not want get lost in the addictive nature of TikTok but, stay engaged with their friends on the platform.

How can a feature be incorporated into TikTok to achieve what the people want?

lets get working! 👩🏽‍🔬💪🏾

Brainstorming 🧠

brainstroming!

After some time exploring, thinking and eating through dominos boxes, we narrowed down to 3 solutions.

The 3 possible solutions

A Decision

With the problem in mind, its important to remember the purpose is to design a feature that will allow friends to be interactive with the content they share with one another on the TikTok platform in an easy and seamless way.

To help in picking the appropriate feature, I performed a feasibility and impact matrix for the Friends Recommendation, Quick Video, and Groupchat features.

All the possibilities can help in improving the app, however, a Friends Recommendation page is best for tackling the problem and aligns with TikTok’s business model. The feasibility is not the highest but, the impact is too high to be ignored.

Each user has a personalized recommendation page powered by AI, so why not a personalized recommendation page powered by friends?

Friends Recommendation Page:

  • It is easier to share and respond to content without dependency on an external app — iMessage.
  • TikTok is not known as a messaging app and therefore, its DM feature is not as efficient as Instagram. Therefore, focusing on implementing the feature on the homepage where most engagement occurs is most impactful.
  • Shared videos compartmentalized and stitched in one space will mimic the FYP which user find will efficient and has the power of solving the problem of lack of response due to its time consuming nature.
  • Having a private comment section along with the shared video mimics the comment section which users tend to explore often.

Creating the Solution 👩🏽‍🎨

TikTok Visual Design

UI Kit

Explorations for Recommending (Sending a TikTok) Entry Point

Entry Point Explorations for Recommending a TikTok

All the entry points above (A, B & C) for recommending a video to a friend were explored through user testing and here is what it revealed:

  • It was instinctive for users to click the share icon when told to recommend a TikTok.
  • Depsite the recommend icon being on the screen for entry point A and B, users grativated to the share icon first.

All in all, I wanted this feature to feel seamless and easy to navigate and therefore, decided on what felt similar to how users already interact with the app. The share icon is both easily accessible to the thumb and a natural action. This also boosts the feasibility of the feature.

Explorations for Recommended Page Entry Point

Entry Point Explorations for Recommended Page

These entry points explored ways to compartmentalize videos sent to you in a space similar to the For You Page where users will engage with recommended TikToks sent to them from their friends.

User testing entry points A and B above revealed the following:

  • Having the recommended page on the homepage felt easy and seamless. All users need to do is swipe left or right.
  • For entry point B, users needed to be told to go to the discover tab to get to the recommended page.

Explorations for Recommending a TikTok Middle Flows

The user testing for these middle flows revealed that the horizontal layout of the profile pictures of friends in option B felt more familiar than the vertical layout in option A.

Explorations for Responding in Recommended Page Middle Flows

Within the recommended page, users will have a recommended videos sent from their friends stitched together. Along with these videos are messages that friends sent that need to be responded to. These middle flows will explore designs for responding to the recommended videos.

User testing insights revealed that besides the actual content in the TikTok, the next best thing is reading the comments attached to a funny video.

Example of TikTok comment section

It was important for the design responding to messages attached to the recommended videos to mimic the comment section because it has the potential to increase the urge for users to respond and truly make it feel like their own private comment section with their friends. Feedback showed that the easability of being able to swipe from the public to private comment section felt smooth.

Final Interatcion for Friend Recommendation Page (FRP)

Final Flow For Recommending a Tiktok to Friends
Final Flow for Watching and Responding to a Recommended TikTok

The final flows showcase the two aspects of the feature which include sending and receiving. The first flow shows the the user watching a TikTok on their For You Page, recommending it to a friend and attaching a message with it. The second flow shows the user on their recommended page watching a TikTok sent from their friend and responding to their friend’s message.

Final Prototype

Now for the finished protoype.

Conclusion & Self-Reflection: The New FYP, RFP 🙌🏾

RFP: Recommended by Friends Page, a recommendation system powered by friends

Starting from random screens with no direction or clue as to what I was doing to having my final prototype, its an understatement to say I learned a lot. This is my first design project ever. This project has taught me that the product is more than what the eye sees and that designers works to make products feel seamless and cater to users’ needs.

Here are a couple things I learned during this project:

  • I have learned that although a solution needs to fit users’ needs, it also needs to reflect the company’s mission.
  • I need to be open to “mistakes.” As I am becoming more open to the deisgner’s mindset, I am learning the importance of understanding there is not one right answer. The brainstorming session showed me that I was limited in my thinking. There are various solutions that can solve my problem. My feature isn’t the only resolution.
  • Working with others to get feedback is essential in helping to carry along the iterations throughout the design journey.

This was my first UX case study but certainly not the last. It will however be my most memorable. After these 8 weeks, this project has confirmed my love for the the entire design process of user research, brainstorming, design, testing, and discussing with my critique group. I am eager to continue in this direction.

Looking forward, I am hoping to continue editing this project with the more experience I gain and feedback I receive.

Thank you for reading! 🥂

I am not affiliated with TikTok in anyway. I am a junior at Cornell University majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Information Science (UX Design).

This is a case study for a project in Intro to Digitial Product Design.

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Mariam Siyanbola

Mariam Siyanbola

junior at cornell studying design 🧚🏾‍♂️ check out my TikTok case study ✨ | mas823@cornell.edu