A community-building social media app for women by women
There are many social media platforms that allow women to connect to like-minded people online to exchange ideas and seek inspiration. Women enjoy bonding over shared interests and experiences, how might we bring these experiences offline especially for people who live in the same area so that they can benefit more from the relationship? How might we design an app to foster local community building among women?
This case study takes you through the process of designing the mobile app Diaverse from research to design, ideate, prototype, and test. It also discusses the mistakes made along the way and lessons learned from each of the mistakes.
I have worked with my wonderful teammate Ruzana Shahab and Judith Ann Kumar on this project. We have decided at the beginning of the project that each of us will take turns to be the project lead so that everyone has an opportunity to practice leadership, concurrently all of us also played the role of UX/ UI designer. The project kicks off in Oct 2020 and lasted for 6 months. A Design Thinking Framework was adopted to implement this project. The followings are the main activities performed under each of the design thinking phases, it is an iterative process.
01 Empathise: understand users’ pain-points
A series of research was conducted in order to have an in-depth understanding of social media space, women's community trends, our target users’ needs & pain-points.
We have first done a SWOT analysis to understand our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threads for developing this app. All of us in the team are active social media users. Being women we are intrinsic to women’s needs. We are from different ethnic groups so we think we ourselves are quite representative in terms of diverse user groups. We believe that women's communities are empowering, the need for a women's community-building app is strong. However, we are a small team and new to UX and mobile design we need to pick up new skills in order to design a useful and user-friendly app. We also need to constantly watch out for the new players emerge into social media space for women.
We then proceeded to conduct Desk Research to validate our hypothesis that women communities are empowering and essential. We are glad to find out that several articles including Forbes have discussed the importance of women communities. As mentioned by an article titled The importance of women communities and how they help women become empowered on yourstory.com:
“These communities are instrumental in encouraging women to be their best selves and realising that we are stronger when we come together. We trust that women who are empowered have the power to bring about positive change in the world.”
We are also excited to discover that women community building is a growing phenomenon as mentioned by an article titled Online Female Communities: Why They Matter And How To Build Them on Forbes.com:
“Communities built by women for women are still a fairly new phenomenon, but the trend is on the rise. This is a great opportunity for the pioneers, but inevitably involves trial and error, because there is no established playbook yet. Yet the rising power of the female consumer means that women now demand to engage with companies and products that speak to them.”
Through this research, we also had a better idea of what makes a successful women's community: it needs to be a safe space that provides personal and professional support, and enables women to discover new opportunities.
Then we moved on to conduct Competitor Analysis, we studied the mainstream apps which enables online community such as Facebook and Reddit. We also studied some women-centric apps such as Giggle and Hey! Vina. Apparently, Facebook and Reddit focus on “using social media” as the medium to bond like-minded women. Whereas Giggle and Hey! Vina focuses on connecting like-minded women online based on their interests. Subsequently, it is up to the users how they want to take the relationship to next level. We have not found an app that caters to both social media/ online and offline community building.
Then we proceeded to conduct several User Inquiries and User Interviews and one User Survey. The objective of doing these is to have an in-depth understanding of how women interact with social media platforms, what they are interested to achieve and what their concerns and pain points are. We found that women enjoy going online to keep up with news, connect with their friends or like-minded people, and get inspiration. They spend a lot of time online but their attention span is short. Some of them are afraid of connecting with imposters or fake accounts and therefore not making friends online.
However, these surveys did not provide clarity on users’ needs and concerns on local communities building offline. Later on, we fired off one more User Survey to understand if women like to extend the community experience from online to offline and if yes what activities they are keen to do offline with other like-minded women. Here are the key findings from this user survey:
To sum up the entire research phase: women spend a lot of time online, they enjoy bonding with like-minded women over shared interests and experiences, however, they also wish to bring these experiences from online to offline so that they can foster deeper relationships. Women enjoy being part of a supportive community, they would like to seek advice and provide support to each other over challenging issues. People enjoy bonding with people who live in the same neighborhood as it offers convenience and it feels safer.
02 Define: user personas, customer journey map, and problem statements
The following 2 user personas were created to better define target user groups for Diaverse:
We attempted to map out the user journey of Lynn trying to connect to a “Yoga community” using the Facebook Group function:
- How might we provide a community-based social media platform for women to connect and bond with the like-minded?
- How might we encourage offline community building since it is essential for women’s development & empowerment?
- How might we provide the above in a safe & engaging environment?
03 Ideate: user stories, MVP, value proposition, and information architecture
In order to better empathise with our target users’ needs and experience, we tried to put ourselves into our users' shoes by coming up with the following stories:
Use Story 1: Emily wants to join a “20s community” in her area so that she can meet like-minded for offline activities and build friendships. Later on, she also wants to consult them regarding her career.
User Story 2: Lynn wants to connect to a “Mom community” in her area, she is thinking of if she can carpool with them to send children to school. She also wants to find out the best enrichment classes and activities to do for kids in the area. She is interested to arrange play dates for the kids living in the same neighborhood too.
Minimum Viable Product: With user personas, problem statements, and user stories established, we prioritised the most important features for Diaverse app 1.0:
- Enable communities to be created online based on geographical locations
- Enable users to exchange ideas/ info via the online community board
- Enable women to connect online and bond offline through community events/ activities
Value Proposition: Foster women to bond, play and provide support to each other through engaging & vibrant communities.
The app name story: Diaverse is the short form for Diamond and Universe. We see our users as diamonds in the universe. They are strong, determined, and welcoming people from all walks of life to form communities that are empowering and supportive to each other.
04 Design: wireframes, prototyping, UI design & usability test
We have gone through many rounds of design iterations. We first started with sketching out low-fidelity wireframes on paper, which we showed to a few users around us just to ensure it flows and the screens make sense. Then we proceeded to draw mid-fidelity wireframes using Figma and made them into a prototype. We then tested them with a few users to ensure it flows well and it addresses the problem statements we identified.
Then we started working on the UI design for Diaverse which include mood board and style guides (color palette, logo, typography, and iconography). After many trials we found the best combinations we then applied the style guides to the mid-fidelity wireframes and came out with the hi-fidelity wireframes as shown below:
Here are the prototypes for the above 2 use cases, you can also play around with them here.
05 Final Thoughts
Results: Diaverse app enables women to form communities online and bond offline via community events/ activities. It empowers women to exchange ideas and provide support to each other and perform meaningful activities together. It addressed the problem statements which have been defined earlier, however in a very straightforward and not-so- innovative way. Due to time constraints, it still requires further studies, usability testing, and many rounds of design iterations to make it a more compelling product.
Looking back, we did not allocate adequate time to define problem statements and use cases at the beginning and quickly moved on with the ideation and design phase. The problem that was identified initially was too broad and therefore the solution provided did not have a unique selling point. This has been rectified by conducting more research at the later stage and based on the refined problem statements, the solution and design have been revised accordingly.
There are a few thoughts and loose ends which cannot be addressed at this point in time due to time constraints, here are some of them:
- Having a safe space is one of the top goals for women, Diaverse strives to provide a safe space by having female-only users. However, how to make it an even safer space is something that we need to think about & further study. Having moderators for the community board and build-in NLP (natural language processing) ability to filter and scan through the community boards can be some of the solutions.
- New features such as Group Buy, Carpool, Group video/audio calls can be implemented in Diaverse as these are the wishlist features from users (via user survey) and they also work well in a community setting.
- Gamification features should be designed and implemented for Diaverse to entice users to sign up and participate in community-building activities.
- Revenue generation for Diaverse app will be through merchant ads, event ads. Since the members are community-based, ads that target a certain community will work extremely well in Diavserse.
- Partnership with event organizers of women's events. Implementation can be made through a “popular events around me” feature in Diaverse.