Reimagining the Meetup app for online social interaction

Yilin Jia
Yilin Jia
Sep 9 · 10 min read
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The pandemic has changed my social life entirely.

It has been half a year since the Lockdown in the Bay Area and I’ve never been spending such a long time at home. At the same time, I was suggested to avoid unnecessary outside activities, keep a social distance with others and wear a mask wherever I go. Even for Wasabi (a high-energy boy of my roommates), he was forced to stay away from his kind when we walked him outside, which makes both him and I feel cruel and upset.

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I was lucky enough to have friends to live together and because of them, my life after the lockdown was not that miserable. At least I have someone by my side to talk with, share foods or just complain about the weather. My mental health is still in good shape but deep in my mind, I feel tired and lonely. And I’m not the only one.

Regardless of living situations, interactions with people outside the home have been extremely limited for everyone after the lockdown and the social isolation from that can lead to a higher level of social loneliness.

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This situation is so similar to the time when I first moved to the West Coast. Without knowing many people here, I mostly relied on social apps to explore the community and meet new people. One of the best products I’ve used is Meetup. I was an active meetup user who joined a lot of events before. With the same mental modal, I opened the Meetup app and tried to find some fun stuff. Undoubtedly, a large number of in-person events are now moving online. But Meetup focuses more on the in-person events and encourages people to meet each other offline which works well until the lockdown due to the pandemic. I think it’s time for it to reconsider the different formats of meetups and prioritize online social interaction in the long run.

That’s basically why I want to redesign Meetup.

Disclaimer

This is a passion project. I’m neither working for nor affiliated with Meetup. All design decisions are made by myself based on my research data. All credit to the incredible designers from Meetup who create such a great product.

Before the design

Premises

Here’re three premises I have before redesigning:

  • Loneliness is one of the worldwide post-pandemic ramifications for everyone.
  • People do have an increasing need for social interactions during the lockdown.
  • Connect without contact is the safest way to keep socialized before the pandemic is gone.

With the premises above, my design process starts with understanding the company and its product. After setup the design goal, I took the well-practiced human-centered design thinking process as the framework when I was comping up with my design solutions.

Understand the company and the product

Meetup is a service used to organize online groups that host in-person events for people with similar interests. — — Wikipedia

Founded in 2002, Meetup is a group-based social networking platform that connects people with shared interests through events. As of 2017, it has a user base of 35 million across 180 countries which provides an international channel for similar people all over the world to get connected.

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In-person meetups are mostly encouraged and will always be the top consideration when hosting events on Meetup. It was written clearly on the website as well as the event hosting statement.

“In-person events will always be our focus and priority, but we also believe online events have a place on Meetup.”

Meetup also made efforts to foster online meetups, including educating hosts to create a successful online event and allowing organizers to share an online event link instead of a physical location.

My goal

When offline events are not encouraged, how to make Meetup a better app for online social interactions?

Design goal

  • Make the event search more personalized
  • Simplify the online event participation process
  • Keep the community alive and engaged

Design process

1. User Research

Before diving into the problem, I want to identify the user, their needs and struggles when using Meetup.

Meetup users can be roughly divided into two types:

  • Attendees
  • Hosts

Each type of user also has different roles in terms of different motivations or responsibilities.

Attendees

  • Regular attendee — learn new things (long-term goal)
  • Event seeker — find interesting events (short-term need)

Hosts

  • Group organizers — set up groups, organize events and develop event content
  • Event coordinators
  • Video conference hosts
  • Guest Speakers
  • Affiliated group organizers(Fackbook, Slack and WeChat)

(To narrow down the research and design scope, I’ll be only designing for attendees in this project.)

User reviews analysis (N=200)

I started the research with a user review analysis on the Meetup mobile app. By collecting and analyzing about 200 reviews on Google Play Store from March 2020 to August 2020, I found patterns in some repetitive usability issues and organized them into three themes to help me make sense of it all.

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Survey (N=11)

With a rough idea of some existing usability issues in my head, I designed a survey to 1) validate those user problems; 2) answer user-related questions; 3) develop user personas later on.

As I mentioned before, my target user group is the attendees and they should have at least some experience with using Meetup. So I spread out the survey to my Meetup groups and the affiliated Slack channels and got 11 valid responses in total (including 2 pilot tests).

The survey answered the questions below:

  • What does a typical Meetup user look like?
  • What are their reasons for using Meetup?
  • What keeps them coming back?
  • What stops them from using the app?

Specifically, I want to know about their online social interaction experience with Meetup:

  • How do users use Meetup for online interactions during the lockdown?
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Remote Moderated Usability Test (N=5)

To draw a more clear picture of the user that I’ll be designing for, the last part of the user research is a usability test. Due to the safety concern of Covid-19, I conducted my usability test remotely to make sure nobody got affected. Those 5 participants were also people who had taken the survey. To interview participants and ask them to perform certain tasks on the Meetup app, I used Zoom for recording and screen-sharing.

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User Persona (N=2)

After the user research, I created two user personas based on my understanding of the target users. The data of each persona was not imaginary out of nowhere but came from the patterns and similarities across the attributes of users I studied.

Two personas are aligned with two types of Meetup attendees:

Persona #1

  • Regular attendee: Learn new things (long-term goal)
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Persona #2

  • Event seeker: Find interesting events (short-term need)
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2. Problem Finding

Now it’s time to dive deep into the user experience and find the real problems. What I did was reviewing the usability test footage of all five participants and making a transcript of each person’s interview. I also kept a record of those key moments when interviewees were struggling, complaining or failing in any given steps. These qualitative data got analyzed and synthesized for further problem identification.

Then I drew a user flow to visualize the path to find an event on the Meetup app in black marker and marked the possible pain points in red marker.

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Through the user flow and thematic analysis, I chose the top6 user pain points as the design problems I would address.

(Other pain points discussed a lot by the users but I didn’t mention here is because 1) that pain point is beyond a simple UI redesign; 2) that pain point is only on the Andriod device not the IOS. )

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Pain point #1

The date filter doesn’t allow users to pick a specific date or a range of time.

“I’m having a hard time believing that they don’t t let you filter by what date you’re available”

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Pain point #2

Online event filter

There’ no such feature yet.

“Trying to search for an online event and app is requiring me to select a location”

Pain point #3

Online event thumbnails are inconsistent on the web and mobile.

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Pain point #4

Uninterested events remove

There’ no such feature yet.

“Can’t block groups or events which don’t interest me from appearing in the feed making it difficult to find any events amongst the spam.”

Pain point #5

Recording info of event(lectures or talks)

There’ no such feature yet.

“If it’s more like a seminar or somebody gives me the talk about a topic, then I’ll definitely like to listen to the recorded version.”

“Link to a recording would be fantastic”

Pain point #6

Calendar personalization

The Meetup IOS app will automatically add events to the Apple calendar (except asking for user permission for the first time) which is not useful for Google calendar users. Besides, the feedback designed to tell users the event has been added successfully is too vague and confusing as well.

“I manually add the event to Google calendar or use the email calendar they sent to me on the computer”

“Got confused because I don’t know if I did add the event on my calendar”

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3. Ideation

Since the user pain points have been defined, I sketched out the initial UI to visualize some possible design ideas. This basic visual representation helped me to think about the layout design and interaction style before hi-fi prototypes.

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4. Prototype

With the lo-fi sketch ready, the next step was to create hi-fi mockups and digitalize the redesign solutions.

Design solution #1

Add a “Choose a date” filter and a calendar so users can select whichever date that matches their needs. This new feature can be found in the date filter grid located in the middle of the “Explore” page as well as the filter set on the top of the search result page.

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Design solution #2

1) Move the sort function into the top filter set on the search result page because it’s hidden under the top filter and users tend to ignore it. 5/5 participants failed to use this function when they were performing tasks in the usability test.

“The search results are not even in order (don’t know how it sorted)”

2) Add another “Online event only” filter to narrow down the search results so it’ll be easier for users who just seek events online.

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Design solution #3

Add an online signifier on the top-left of the event thumbnail to indicate it’s an online event. This new design is consistent with the thumbnail design on the web as well.

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Design solution #4

Add a “REMOVE” feature that reveals when the user swipes left. With this feature, users can easily block uninterested or spam events.

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Design solution #5

Add a section on the event info page that allows event hosts to share the link of the event recording if they have one. Attendees who can’t join the event because of a conflicted time or different time zones will be able to watch the recording even after the event ends.

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Design solution #6

1) Add a pop-up box for users to choose which calendar they want to put the event on after clicking “Add to calendar”

2) Replace the static “Added to calendar” with a clickable “View on calendar”. Users will be navigated to the calendar page after clicking.

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5. Validation

I created an interactive prototype and did a quick test with another two people who had little experience using Meetup. 2/2 reported that they didn’t have trouble in performing the given tasks and the interaction was easy to understand.

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For iteration purposes, I’m actively looking for feedbacks and preparing for another round of usability testing.

Thank you so much for reading this far!

If you are interested or want to learn more about this project, hit me up or leave a comment below.🤝🤝🤝

Feel free to reach me @ yilinuxdesign@gmail.com

Bootcamp

From idea to product, one pixel at a time.

Yilin Jia

Written by

Yilin Jia

I find problems, design solutions and empathize with people | a hybrid UX/Product/VUI Designer

Bootcamp

Bootcamp

The best resources for designers starting in Design, UX, and UI. Bootcamp is a new product publication from the team behind the UX Collective (http://uxdesign.cc). To submit your story: hello@uxdesign.cc

Yilin Jia

Written by

Yilin Jia

I find problems, design solutions and empathize with people | a hybrid UX/Product/VUI Designer

Bootcamp

Bootcamp

The best resources for designers starting in Design, UX, and UI. Bootcamp is a new product publication from the team behind the UX Collective (http://uxdesign.cc). To submit your story: hello@uxdesign.cc

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