As a college student, I’m a part of many groups on campus, like my dance team, project group, or my freshman year crew. I use GroupMe to communicate with my friends online and share information, but when it comes to sharing important details, I use other products like Facebook, Messenger, emails, etc.
GroupMe allows users communicate all kinds of information with everyone in the group. But users have difficulties sharing and finding important or specific messages because:
- It’s hard to find in ahuge pile of messages.
- Users can’t do things like pin or save messages they want.
Some Messages are More Important than Others
Going into this, my original assumption was: if GroupMe made features like pinning, users could share and find important information easily.
But, what’s the actual problem?
Currently, GroupMe offers a ‘Popular’ page, where you can see:
- The most popular messages (messages with the most likes).
- Your messages that other people liked.
- Messages that you liked — which is kind of similar to ‘saving’ messages
Keeping in mind that there is a comparable feature to pinning (or starring) that GroupMe offers, I conducted a user research to find out how users used GroupMe’s existing features, and how they feel about using GroupMe and/or other group messaging products.
From interviewing 3 GroupMe users, I found 3 main insights:
- Users want to communicate efficiently. (“I send messages on GroupMe because I want the everyone in the group to read it. Otherwise I would use direct messages”)
- Users want to share useful information with others in the group chat. (“I use GroupMe to tell people whats going on, or to plan or make decisions together.”)
- Users don’t even know about GroupMe’s ‘Popular’ page. (“What is that?”)
To find out what GroupMe was missing, I explored how other products allowed their users to find important information in group chats.
Slack heavily focuses on group interactions and communications online. However, even though Slack implements many features that help users find meaningful information in a group environment — such as the Thread feature, Pinning and Starring feature, etc. — it’s too heavy for a casual environment like group me.
People Want Efficiency
At first, I thought that a feature like pinning or starring would fix the problem. But the problem actually rooted from the lack of efficiency in GroupMe chats.
People want to communicate efficiently and share meaningful and useful information with each other.
Finding the places to improve
With my friends Allison Kim (a Sophomore Sociology major) and Jenny Yang (a Senior Pre-med) as my brainstorming buddies, we found 2 solution spaces:
- Organization — How might we enable users to organize the conversations better, so that they can efficiently find or share information?
- Emphasis — How might we enable users to emphasize certain messages from others, so they can differentiate certain messages from others?
What if Users Could Organize Messages?
I wanted to find out if organization would actually improve the efficiency in GroupMe chats. So, I drew out some user flows of features that might help achieve that:
01 | Announcement Feature
This feature allows users to post announcement, separate from group messages — kind of like a notice board. Although it has potential, a feature like this would take away one of GroupMe’s major qualities: instantaneous communication.
02 | Tagging Feature
The Tag feature allows users to organize messages on the fly — kind of like Slack’s Thread feature, but more instantaneous.
Using a simple #hashtag, users can categorize different messages under different tags (i.e. #random, #marketing, #important, etc.). This feature came out to be more favorable over the other.
The Power to Emphasize Messages
The Tag feature allows users to organize messages with customizable tags. But it also allows them set apart certain messages from others.
Improving Organization While Maintaining Simplicity
To find out how users feel about the feature, I conducted a small user testing, from which I gained a couple of insights:
- Users found it tedious take extra steps to enable the feature. To enable the feature, users have to 1) click the icon, 2) fill out the keyword, 3) fill out the message, and finally 4) send the message.
- They noted that it did not look as “aesthetically pleasing” as other existing GroupMe features.
Thus, I brainstormed some more visual explorations:
From the user testing and visual exploration, I was able to identify the issues in my initial design (02):
- Visually crowds up the area
- Complicates the workflow
- Made users feel like they must fill out the additional text line
- Takes away GroupMe’s simplicity and effortless design.
So, I decided to go with Visual Exploration 03 because:
- It maintains GroupMe’s simple, clean, and intuitive flow the most.
- Makes users feel like it’s an option for them to create a tag — not a must.
However, using Visual Exploration 03 meant that the feature is now discoverable. So, users need a way to find out what this feature is and what it does — on-boarding.
Getting Users On-board [ing]
After exploring some possible on-boarding designs, I decided to go with the one shown above because of its simple and light, similar to other GroupMe’s existing features.
I then ventured into what the on-boarding message would actually tell the users. The goals that I wanted to achieve through this were:
- Tell users that there is a new feature.
- Give users a concise description of what the feature does.
- Keep the on-boarding message quick and light — users don’t want to sit there reading a long message
After getting some feedback, I went with Exploration 03 because it felt the most concise and illustrative, while satisfying the goals that I set previously.
The next step I took was figuring out how the different tags were going to be listed:
After the exploration, I decided to go with Exploration 03 because it is consistent with GroupMe’s existing design.
Further Emphasizing the Importance of Tags
Since the overall idea behind the Tag feature is to organize as well as to make messages more meaningful, I asked myself some questions regarding how I can achieve that:
- How do you make a message more meaningful to everyone in the chat?
- How do you let people know that the message is important?
- How else can we differentiate message with tags?
After brainstorming, I got the idea that accountability can add meaning to messages. If users knew the scope of the message they sent — such as seeing which group members the message has reached — they would have a better understanding of whether or not they need to further stress the details in the message.
Therefore, I implemented the ‘seen’ feature, specifically for messages with tags in them:
To keep the components of the Tag feature consistent with the rest of GroupMe, I adapted GroupMe’s existing design that shows who liked a message. To successfully adapt the existing design to the new one, I had to consider two scenarios:
- Seen: when people see the message but don’t like the message.
- Seen+ Liked: when people like the message (they would have already seen in)
Thus, the message details for the Tag feature shows a list of people who liked the message first, then the people who has just seen the message, satisfying both scenarios.
Final Interaction for Creating and Accessing Tags
The finished prototype puts the tag feature into action. It shows how users can create a tag and access a tag through the message and chat menu. With this feature, users can separate important messages from casual and light-hearted conversations. It also allows users to find the information easily and efficiently.
Group platforms like GroupMe play a huge role in our daily lives, especially today. And GroupMe is only one of many other group platforms like Facebook, Messenger, Slack, and WhatsApp. However, group chats can get inefficient at times. I myself am a part of countless group chats, more than half of which I don’t check consistently. Most of the time, this is because of the overflowing messages, which makes it difficult for me catch up. With a feature like the Tag feature, users have the ability to organize messages in a way that is more useful. But more importantly, it makes the messages more meaningful, which then creates more meaningful relationships.