A User Experience Guide to Clubhouse

Is its User Interaction novel, or is this the story of the emergence of AirPods as a Platform?

James Futhey
Jun 28 · 8 min read
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Could AirPods become a platform in 2020?

What is Clubhouse?

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A single, black and white image of a human face, sets the tone for Clubhouse, giving it a unique vibe not found elsewhere on the App Store.

An iOS and mostly AirPods exclusive experience, Clubhouse brings a combination of live-streaming and podcasting to a select group of already-popular influencers, mostly in the startup and tech community.

Clubhouse centers around individuals, most of whom have done something remarkable or noteworthy. They represent existing cults of personality (at least, in a more humble, silicon valley form), typically with tens of thousands of Twitter followers, and a pre-built audience.

You notice this when you sign in to the app, and view a list of rooms, centered not around topics, but individual influencers. A Room is defined by who is currently speaking. So, you may receive a notification to join a room where Sahil, Drew, and Tyler are speaking. No profile pages, or lengthy explanations as to who’s here. Either you’re in the know, or you aren’t.

Novel User Interaction, or just Phone Calls?

But what makes a phone call toxic in 2020, and Clubhouse refreshing?

This boils down to community, curation, and interaction.

Why Voice Works

Moving from our MacBooks to our phones and AirPods, gives us mobility. Removing video reduces friction, and removes the need to “prep for a call”, giving us more flexibility to decide how to hang out with others.

Simply put, adding video introduces more friction to the call experience than it’s worth. Clubhouse introduces a new mode of interaction that can be more spontaneous, casual, and frequent than a Zoom call.

Clubhouse Onboarding

An invite-only community, it seems like each invitation is a planned event, scheduled in advance. New users receive a TestFlight link, and are welcomed personally by the app’s creator, who explains how the app works.

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Onboarding Flow for Clubhouse. Profile creation steps are assumed.

Since new users are mostly in the same time zone, it is possible the app’s creator receives a notification each time a user downloads the app. Since the user is asked to add a profile photo and enter their real name, this gives the creator a few minutes to intercept the user, and onboard them personally.

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The “Room List” is the earliest published screen in the new user flow.

After we exchanged pleasantries, Paul explained how the app works. There’s one global “room,” and when you join you start off on mute, but anyone can unmute themselves. When you open the app, it sends push notifications to everyone on the app, so they can join you and chat if they’re free.

Source: Inside the Clubhouse

The End-to-End User Experience

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Inventory of Key Functionality

  1. Users receive notifications each time someone enters the app, or starts a room
  2. Users can update their username and profile image

During a Clubhouse Chat

  1. Users can unmute themselves to become a speaker
  2. Users can raise their hand to politely interrupt a speaker, or request speaking time
  3. Users can announce they are leaving the room
  4. Speakers / Hosts can invite other users to speak
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Usability Problems to Solve

Building Communities

  • Selective Notifications to Reduce Noise
  • User Profiles

Discovery

  • Mechanisms to share profiles outside of Clubhouse
  • Alerts when live streams begin

Removing Noise During Conversations

  • Ability for rooms to be moderated by a “Host”
  • Ability for hosts to decide who may speak
  • Ability for hosts to remove listeners from a Room
  • Ability for hosts to assign moderation privileges to others

Final Thoughts

Podcasts are dead. Long live Podcasts.

However, it centers heavily around individual users in a way I can only compare to Tech Twitter. Thought leaders speak at length on topics they care about, and provide value to the community at large.

Each broadcast is less like a Podcast, and more like a Twitter thread.

The Initial Community will Set the Tone

What the site initially lacked in functionality, it made up for in focus. Since it started out as a niche community, the quality of the content shared made it unique.

While it’s easy to draw comparisons between Clubhouse and Twitter because of their focus on the influencer, Twttr’s mainstream launch at SXSW in 2007 may have fast-tracked the app’s initial user acquisition, where the initial community of users set the tone for how the network evolves.

This explains the guarded stance Clubhouse’s founder takes to user acquisition. Not only can exclusivity be a powerful marketing tool, but it significantly increases the attention the app receives from top influencers, who have little else to gain from using the app. Knowing that they will eventually define what the app is, it’s important that Clubhouse not rush to find its initial community of users.

Clubhouse opens up new modes of interaction

AirPods as a Platform

By the end of the year, there could be 180–200 million AirPods users worldwide.

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By the end of 2020, there could be 180–200 million AirPods users worldwide

Add to this the copycat products for Android with near identical functionality.

Never before have we seen such standardization of hardware to solve a particular problem since the launch of the iPhone.

Perhaps unexpectedly, Apple has created a platform for audio-first experiences beyond music and telephone calls. For designers, this platform provides an exciting and new, completely evergreen experience for building experiences at scale that weren’t previously possible.

Applications include:

  • Augmented reality, voice notifications
  • Audio-only telecommuting
  • Spatial Audio
  • Seamless switching between audio sources (music, video, television, real life)
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Final, Final Thoughts

  1. Clubhouse is just beginning. Watch out for an explosion of copycats, niche community products, and novel applications for audio-first experiences.
  2. Phone Calls are Dead. Or at least they were dead, when we started 2020. But if you isolate a billion humans in their homes in lockdown, by the end of the year voice calls will be a solved problem.

Bonus: Listen to a Clubhouse Call (1 hour of audio)

Want to Try it? Want to see what all the fuss is about?

But I’ve prototyped the core experience as a Progressive Web App you can try and install on any device. Invite a friend to see how it works.

Join an exclusive community of designers who have read to the end of this specific Medium article:

https://house.quik.chat/

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It’s a Progressive Web App: Feel free to Install it to your desktop with Chrome, save it to the Home screen on your phone, or use it in the browser

Feel like this article could be improved?

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Meetingroom365.com | @kidgdzilla (Twitter) | @futhey (IndieHackers) | @kidgodzilla (GitHub)

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +718K people. Follow to join our community.

James Futhey

Written by

Founder, Meetingroom365.com | The Fastest Way to add a Display to your Office | Startups, Prototyping, Design

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +718K people. Follow to join our community.

James Futhey

Written by

Founder, Meetingroom365.com | The Fastest Way to add a Display to your Office | Startups, Prototyping, Design

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +718K people. Follow to join our community.

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