Spark

CASE STUDY

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MY ROLE: Testing and UI Design | DURATION: 3 Weeks
STATUS: Complete

BACKGROUND

Spark is the world’s first chatless social connection and networking app. It helps users connect face-to-face within a specific location.

 

Over the course of a three-week sprint, my job was to assist the Spark team with their UX design needs in preparation for the app’s Minimum Viable Product (MVP) launch on September 1, 2022.

01 DISCOVER

My team and I started out researching if Spark was something users would be interested in to begin with. We wanted solid data to back up the app so our clients would have strong points to show their investors and would build a steady user base after their MVP launch.

COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS

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We compared Spark to Twitter, Instagram, and Uber. 

The biggest area of opportunity for Spark: safety

  • Twitter and Instagram allow users to block and report content, which then disappears

  • Uber Immediately reviews reports of physical or verbal altercations

  • Uber has a driver-rider verification system

COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

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We looked at the main competitors of Spark: Bumble, Meetup, and LinkedIn.

The biggest areas of opportunity for Spark: chat, setting intentions

  • All three competitors allow for chatting

  • Bumble allows users to set explicit intentions for the type of connection they’re looking for

  • LinkedIn is explicitly geared toward professional networking

USER SURVEY TAKEAWAYS

Goal: To discover how users currently network and gauge their response to Spark’s key functionalities and differentiators.

There were some positives…

  • 92% use networking platforms on a daily basis

  • 72% were interested in meeting like-minded people in real life based on their location

And some negatives…

  • 72% were not interested in chatless feature to encourage in-person connection 

  • 36% have experienced security issues/concerns with social connection platforms

USER INTERVIEW TAKEAWAYS

Goal: To gain deeper insights into users’ thoughts, behaviors, likes, and pain points when using networking apps.

  1. I use networking apps to make connections based on similar interests or expertise

  2. I want more reassurance when using networking tools to meet in real life

  3. I dislike inauthenticity, spam, scams, and impersonal messages

  4. I don’t like content that seems irrelevant to the purpose of an app

USABILITY TESTING 01

Goal: Evaluate existing prototype provided by the Spark team to see what’s working and what could be improved.

 

Quick Wins

  • 100% success rate for test tasks

  • 83 System Usability Scale (SUS) score

 

Areas of Opportunity

  • 100% of users had concerns about the registration process

  • 80% of users had concerns about the app being entirely chatless

  • 80% of users unsure about reasoning for some of Spark’s features like QR code scanning, chatless functionality, or information being requested upon registration

  • 60% of users had safety concerns about rejecting a spark

02 DEFINE

BUSINESS NEEDS

Spark is for users going to large networking events and wanting to connect with others but not knowing where to start. Spark is a small business with small development resources and they opted to focus on simplifying the registration process to help with user retention after the initial download and converting interested people into actual users. A second area of focus was the onboarding process to help users understand the purpose of the app and its functions which will lead to more sparks, more connections and again a higher user retention rate. 

 

This helped us define what the overall business goals are, to gain and retain users after launch, 500 being the magic number of downloads and growing from there, and how we can design with those in mind, connecting them with users' goals.

PERSONA

The persona was extremely helpful to look back on throughout the design process because it reminded me of the why. It turned the problem statement and “how might we statements” into an empathetic approach to finding ways to answer the question. It was vital in reminding me to focus on what would best benefit the user.

I DON'T LIKE...

  • When profiles aren’t filled out resulting in me having to find information about others through other channels

  • Getting bombarded with messages that are mostly generic spam

  • Having to scroll through a long social feed looking at irrelevant information

Screen Shot 2022-09-05 at 7.21.44 PM.png

I NEED...

  • To make connections with others based on interests or industry

  • To stay in the know about other organizations and possible job openings

  • To find events even if they’re outside of my industry

  • Filters to find connections and job postings faster

  • In-person socialization, not just an app

PROBLEM STATEMENT

Spark users need additional ways to understand the app’s purpose and features to feel comfortable using the app because Spark’s key differentiators (chatless functionality and use of geolocation services to meet others in person) raise safety, enjoyability, and usability concerns that jeopardize Spark’s main business goal of gaining and retaining users.

HOW MIGHT WE STATEMENTS

  • How might we better define and display Spark’s purpose and features?

    • Adding a ‘personal note from the founders’ at the beginning of the app

  • How might we help users see Spark’s key differentiators (chatless, geolocation) as benefits rather than concerns?

    • Reducing the number of registration screens

    • Adding more registration progress markers

    • Align ethnicity and gender options to industry standards

    • Reducing amount of information collected during registration to only necessary details

  • How might we encourage users to complete registration and continue using the app?

    • Adding an onboarding process to walk users through the key functionality of the app

USER JOURNEY MAP

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03 DESIGN

MID FIDELITY WIREFRAMES

I stripped the high fidelity wireframes provided to be able to work on increasing the functionality without any distractions from the patterns detected through research.

 

The most important things tackled were the registration and onboarding processes. 

  • I condensed the onboarding process from 10 screens to 3

  • I added guided pop-ups on screens for an explanation of what the purpose of that feature was so users would be able to fully understand what Spark offers

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USABILITY TEST 02

We performed the second usability test on the mid-fidelity prototype which included the redesign of the registration process and onboarding pop-ups.

 

From this testing we saw:

  • 80% of users have general safety concerns about using the app, especially with interacting with other users.

  • 40% of users have concerns about rejecting a spark on the threat of negative interactions as they are at the event in person. They also found the design not intuitive because they thought they could reject a spark from the pop-up.

  • 40% of users have concerns about the style/persistence of pop-up messages. They felt it was interruptive to the app and didn’t necessarily want to act on it right away.

  • 40% of users have concerns about the app being entirely chatless. They had way-finding concerns in case a meet-up didn’t work out and wanted the ability to connect easily.

  • 40% of users have concerns about determining where to meet based on pre-set options. They felt it limited them in deciding a meet-up location.

  • 20% of users want a way to see their mutual spark history, especially if they go to big events in the future and want the ability to meet up again with a Spark user they enjoyed connecting with, or sparked with but never ended up meeting.

DESIGN ITERATIONS

There were a few designs we iterated upon that were extremely important to users’ understanding of Spark and making the overall flow easier to navigate.

1. To address the general safety concerns about using the app, we added a rating system for users to rate their interactions (e.g. Uber model) with other users displayed on their profile.

2. For the concerns about rejecting a spark, we added additional copy on the reject confirmation that users will NOT be notified of rejection. We also made it possible to dismiss a spark rather than needing to address it right away (timed banners that are moved to notifications menu).

3. For the concerns about the style and persistence of pop-up messages

  • we changed the notification style to banners that auto-dismiss after a delay and then are moved to the notifications menu

  • a global navigation bar was added to every screen (besides registration) to give users a persistent and intuitive “way out”

4. To address the concerns about the app being entirely chatless, we designed "quick chat" options or prompts/update buttons for the sake of troubleshooting. For example, to be used when two users are having difficulty finding each other or something changes where they can no longer meet up.

5. For the concerns about determining where to meet based on pre-set options, we drew more visibility to “other” text box where users can input a custom location and we made it the default option.

6. To address the concerns about being able to view mutual spark history, we created a separate notifications tab to allow users to see their spark history.

SUCCESSES

After implementing iterations to the registration and onboarding processes, the average SUS score across users increased from 83 to 90.5!

 

It was evident to us that our iterations were successful and our changes improved the app. User concerns and mindsets shifted after iterations.

  • Initially, 100% of users were concerned about registration and felt that it was too long or unclear why certain pieces of information were necessary. After iterations, 0% of users were concerned. This addressed business concerns of solving user bounce rates with a long registration process. 

  • Initially, 80% of users were concerned about Spark being chatless, but after iterating and clarifying the purpose and how positive it could be, only 40% were concerned about being entirely chatless in case of troubleshooting or miscommunication when finding a place to meet up, which we solved with quick-chat options.

Users affirmed that the chatless feature was positive. They said things like:

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For safety, users said they don’t think the app introduces any added risk. They mentioned:

  • “I don’t know that I have concerns that the app itself would create more safety concerns.”

  • and “I feel fine using the app because I’m there in real life already.”

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04 DELIVER

FINAL PROTOTYPE

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NEXT STEPS

The recurring theme in our next steps revolve around safety issues that 80% of our users had concern with after our second round of usability testing. This leaves a opportunity areas and some of the recommendations include:

  1. Consider providing more information to users about what happens when they report another user, such as how reports get reviewed and at what level action will be taken.

  2. Design an identity verification process (e.g. government ID upload, face scanning/verification, or cross-verification with other social media apps – in addition to phone number verification).

  3. Integrate safety tips or other safety options besides reporting in case of extreme security issues or situations where users feel unsafe.

  4. Consider redesigning the matching process so users only receive notifications when there is a mutual spark. This could help alleviate concerns about tension arising from dismissing or rejecting a spark from a person who is in the same physical location as you.

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