Design Case Study: How to increase the use of Telegram?

Jun 18 · 10 min read

Hi there! We (Nastia, Oleg, and Ostap) are a group of students of the Product Interface Design Professium. And we believe that theory without experience is a mere intellectual play, which is why we’ve united into the Prodlenka Team (literally meaning the homework club) to go through 9 circles of hell of the product research and make our fair share of mistakes.

Two months into research and studies of Professium, we’ve been coming up with ideas about how to improve Telegram. Sadly, we didn’t get the chance to make them public, as just a week prior to publishing the article, our ideas became reality in the updated version of the messenger.

But! Instead of giving up, we’ve decided to finish what we’ve started: complete the case study, describe the difficulties, and present the findings. And the first thing that we’ve learned is, “Don’t linger.”

“You’ve learned a good lesson. And it’s great that it came almost at no price. Because, for example, Nokia paid for a similar lesson with the life of their company” © sudilkovsky.

What is Prodlenka?

Omg….What was that?

In just a half a year of our studies, we’ve managed to learn 30+ tools and methodologies that help us take the most out of our research and improve the product. So to reinforce our knowledge, we’ve created the Prodlenka.

Why Prodlenka?

– to find out when we can go against the rules;

– to develop self-organization and build up teamwork;

– to learn how to write articles and present the results;

– to share experiences and motivate others to conduct research.

Why did we choose Telegram?

Secondly, this product has a diverse audience, which we could quickly interview and study.

And, thirdly, it’s a messenger for everything you need and a little more: from chatting with your friends to accessing secret channels and earnings. Wouldn’t it be cool to cause changes in a product like that?

So we began with a research plan.

Tool — Plan

Results — defined the purpose of the research to move from the dead point.

Thanks to Professium, we know that any designer’s task doesn’t start with a graphical editor, but with an answer to the question “Why?”. Why change something and what do we want to achieve as a result?

That’s why we’ve divided our work into the following steps:

  1. Dive into the context and analyze the capabilities of the application;
  2. Collect feedback, pains, and joys of users through surveys;
  3. Focus on the main tasks and users problems
  4. Brainstorming ideas — the more, the better;
  5. Test hypotheses and improve solutions for maximum benefit.

Dive into the context and analyze the capabilities of the application

We grouped our vision of what affects people’s communication

Tool — Mind Map

Results — found out what factors make a person use a messenger daily.

This conceptual model helped us:

– dive into the context and identify the scenarios of potential contacts of the user with the product;

– look at the task from a bird’s eye view and discover interconnections;

– structure all knowledge about the communication process and its causes;

– identify areas to focus on during in-depth interviews.

Telegram application structure

Tool — the product structure

Results — solutions fit well into the app and do not break anything at the stage of the product changes.

With the help of the product structure we:

– discovered the scale and possibilities of expanding the system;

– identified classes of objects and methods of interactions;

– understood what was buried under the hood of Telegram;

– found problem areas and formulated questions for the survey.

Collect feedback, pains, and joys of users through surveys

Thanks to Telegram’s channels like “Projector” and “Lavka produktovaya” we’ve managed to receive 709 submissions from the active Telegram users, and gather contacts for further interviews and tests.

The survey helped us collect the data to discover a cross-section and dive into the context of their use of the app.
The question “What do you like the most about Telegram?” helped us highlight the valuable properties of the product and formulate requirements for new solutions.
We forgot to ask about Calls, but only two people have pointed out that they regularly use this feature. That’s when a new hypothesis has emerged: maybe sound and video messages have replaced the calls?

One of our hypotheses was that Telegram needed to separate channels and chats. To confirm it, we’ve added the question “What do you think should be improved in Telegram and why?” The hypothesis was confirmed, 30% of respondents wanted to change the current view of the channels and chats.

Every person knows the feeling when one wants to change something, but doesn’t know what exactly. It happened to our case. Hence, to dig deeper and understand why users want to separate channels and chats, we created a cross-section of these people and continued to question them.

Focus on the main tasks and problems of users

Schematically grouped the tasks, problems and joys of users

Tool — Value Proposition Canvas

Results — summarized the research results, and formed the requirements for the product.

Brainstorming ideas — the more, the better

Crazy 8 brainstorm results

Tool — Crazy 8

Results — fast generation of ideas

According to Parkinson’s law, work expands to fill the time available for its completion. And only a tight time frame can stir the brain. Therefore, to come up with as many ideas as possible, we’ve brainstormed according to the Crazy 8 method. The process is simple: we focus on one question, and in 8 minutes we scrape together 8 solutions to the problem.

Test hypotheses and improve solutions for maximum benefit

Hypothesis #1: The Dump

Users’ feedback: “Finding that one message in the dump of everything and anything is very tiring.” “It’s hard for me to find a message from a person who wrote me a couple of hours ago on the list. I was busy, did not answer, and that’s it … I can’t find them in this mess. That message is now the 40th on the list.”

Solution: We think it’d be better to separate channels and chats into different tabs, so they would have different meanings for a person. Messenger and groups — for communication, channels — for content consumption.

We’ve changed the “photo” view of channels and chats to round and square to distinguish incoming messages. Testing has shown that this solution helps users quickly find the chat they need, without being distracted by alerts from channels.

Hypothesis #2: 999+ unread messages

“I have to scroll the feed in search of unread messages from interesting channels. I am constantly distracted by the decision to either “read now (is it that important?) or read later (stuff)”.

Solution. Add the ability to read all messages from channels in one feed.

Now some bots solve this problem, but in most cases, it is a crutch that is not widely known or doesn’t work smoothly. And this way, the user can customize the feed, and quickly find interesting content with a reduced view of the posts.

Testing has shown that this solution helps read new posts faster without going into each channel separately.

Hypothesis #3 — Unneeded chats

Solution. Customize swipes and add Archiving feature.

Replace the feature Delete with Archive. This feature will help hide unneeded chats and speed up access to the current ones.

Archived chats will get hidden in the settings. And if the archived chat has the notifications enabled, it will return to the general list of chats when a new message arrives. Chats with disabled notifications will remain in the archive.

Also, customizing the swipes will help configure fast actions that users utilize the most. For example, replace the action “Mute” with “Shared files” or “Call.”

UPD. While we were writing this article, Telegram has already introduced archiving chats, which only confirms our hypothesis.

Hypothesis #4 — Display of the content

“It’s hard to keep track of the work chats, I don’t want anything to distract me.”

The lists of channels and chats are growing, and each person uses the content for different purposes: reading news, sharing files, communicating with friends and family, work chats.

So the problem emerged: how does one filter the message flow?

Idea #1 — Create folders for channels.

Problems: complexity in implementation, unobvious process of creating a folder, testing on a dark theme is unusual for users.

Idea #2. A natural way of creating folders, but testing has shown that it’s difficult to see how many messages are in each folder and from whom.

Ideas did not work, but they helped shape a new hypothesis.

Solution. Content customization for users: filtering chats and channels by tags. User has the freedom to filter the content as he wants without a certain set system.

Offering ideas for the future

1. Cloud storage.

The survey showed that the majority of respondents use “Stored messages” as a clipboard and file storage. For example, a library of links for quick access, details or notes, transfer files from phone to desktop. But since all the messages and files are in one heap, it makes it difficult to find what one’s looking for. We offer to add more filters or the ability to create files.

2. Channels.

3. Notifications

Quick actions that are in the desktop version, should be added to the mobile application

During our research, we’ve noticed that people always have a phone on silent due to an infinite number of notifications.

We offer solutions for testing:

- break notifications into 2 types: for channels and for personal messages, with the ability to disable each of them;

- notification modes (off during business hours or at night);

- add the ability to disable notifications for 2 hours, as in the web application.

4. Privacy

5. Onboarding.

Many users don’t know that as they press Play, they can bring up the phone to their ear and listen to the audio message just as if they were on the usual phone call. In this case, the sound is transferred to the corresponding speaker, disabling the speakerphone.

The survey showed that many useful features are known to only a few. For example, how to use bots, how to disable stickers in groups and protect a chat with a password. When updating or adding new features, we suggest Telegram use the GIF tutorials and promote them through the official Telegram channel.

Lessons learned

  1. Test more. We started to draw prototypes for iPhone X (cause it was in trend), but we had to redo it for the 7 models to test it on our phones.
  2. Pen and paper are the best tools for testing ideas.
  3. Improve the features that are really used.
  4. Sync with the team. It is necessary to discuss your ideas with the team and tell them if you have problems in developing ideas — this will help solve common problems faster.
  5. Check the spelling. You do not know who can repost the survey and how many people will see your mistakes.
  6. The rightly asked question (even to yourself) is more than half of the job done right.
  7. Ask people not about what they want to improve or add, ask why they are not satisfied with the existing solution.
  8. Do not break the existing system and maintain the ease of use.
  9. And the most important lesson is not to delay. Competitors never sleep.

What tools did we you use?

Miro Board

Miro helped us synchronize all thoughts and research results. We used Figma, Principle and Adobe XD for prototypes and animation. Note for notes and lots and lots of paper for sketches.

With love, Prodlenka Team: Oleg Umansky , Nastia Anikanova , Ostap Gorin

Thank you Denis Sudilkovsky, motivator and course supervisor

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