There are many scenarios where people find themselves wanting to make new friends, such as when they move to a new city. Meeting new people and making new friends can be overwhelming and scary — especially as adults — and anxiety can set in.
As a result, users turn to social and event apps. However, these don’t fully solve the problem. Often, people will RSVP to events, but end up not attending them.
How do we help people feel confident and comfortable when attempting to make new friends?
I began a design journey focused on:
User Researcher – UX
Designer – UI Designer
Sketch, Adobe XD
I started off by studying industry leaders to see what was already being done in this space and how it could be improved to meet Gather’s goals. I focused on the three leaders Eventbrite, Meetup, and Facebook Events.
There were some obvious pain points to address, such as confusing navigation, overcrowded and busy event details, and limited communication with users.
I knew that it was important to create a friendly design that makes users feel comfortable and encouraged to participate. The interface needed to be easy to navigate and transparent, with a focus on communication. The search function should be robust, clear, and have a variety of categories, options, and filters, along with related sections that are relevant and add to the ease of use. Finally, there needed to be direct COVID-19 information, such as clearly marking what events are remote.
I took the information from my competitive analysis and did secondary research about why people attend events, what makes them comfortable, and how online events and app development play into that. I then did a survey that had 52 respondents, and synthesized that into an affinity map.
Not surprisingly, people are ultimately looking for genuine connection with others. Personalized communication and connecting users with other users make people feel welcomed and less nervous to attend events. To combat anxiety, it’s helpful to show users who else is attending the event, get the group acquainted beforehand by starting discussions, and having a transparent itinerary so that participants know what to expect. Incentives can be helpful such as free food and drinks. Online attendees are 47% more likely to ask questions and 37% more likely to speak to someone than at in person events – remote events due to COVID-19 could help users that are shy, introverted, or have social anxiety. This information was backed up by the survey data.
said that they would go to an event more if they knew someone that was going. 59.6% said they would go to an event less if they didn’t know anyone that was going.
Over 50% said they would go to an event more if they knew the group or the person organizing it. Themes also came up.
said they would go more if there was an interesting subject matter or theme, and 82.7% said they would to go an event less if they didn’t like the subject matter or theme.
Also, free food and drinks were seen as a positive, with 53.8% saying they would attend an event more with this available.
With this data, I started to create design solutions for Gather. I came up with an introductory quiz that users can take to customize their experience. For example, they can opt into a message from a group leader or member before attending an event to calm their nerves. I focused on clear categories or themes, a centralized search function, and most importantly, the flow for finding an event and ultimately RSVPing to it.
From there, I created wireframes in Adobe XD before doing a round of usability testing. As always, the testing process was really helpful. All of the participants had an overwhelmingly positive response to the customization options for Gather. One participant was especially interested in being able to talk to a group member or leader before attending an event saying that “there’s a lot of value in it”.
Luckily, there were not any usability issues or confusing elements to sort out, but many opportunities for improvement. The participants really liked that there was a confirmation screen for both the quiz and ticket sales. Concerning the latter, this was described as a “missed opportunity”. I could include a list of people already going to the event as well as prompt users to do things they could choose from the quiz such as talk to members of the group, enter into a discussion forum, or opt into notifications.
The incentives that I came up with were for in person events. There was a discussion of incentives for remote events to ponder over such as free t-shirts and coins. The coins would be a gamification design where users could do things to collect coins, which would result in a reward like free admission to a paid event.
For online events, instead of location information there should be information about the online meeting to make users feel more comfortable, such as knowing whether they would be expected to be on camera or whether attendees will even have the option of being on camera at all. There were some categories that needed to have more of a distinction made between them as well.
After wireframing testing, I concentrated on the friendly style that’s so important to the mission of Gather with a bright pink brand color, a typeface with rounded edges, and a logo that includes two friends waving. The hero image I picked for the home page includes a group of diverse friends spending time together and laughing – this is the vibe I wanted to continue throughout the design. I focused on photography to give a human face to the product.
When working on my high-fidelity designs, I changed the confirmation screen to include options from the quiz and other helpful information like other users that are going to the event to encourage participation. I focused on remote incentives. I still included free food and drinks, but with a creative twist. My example event is a remote Italian cooking one – the incentive is a custom spice mix sent right to attendees’ doors. Although I loved the coin idea, I figured this would be best suited for a future iteration.
I changed the location information to be more relevant to online events, continuing the focus on remote events due to COVID-19. Information about whether cameras are required and whether features like chat, a Q&A, and other activities are available was included. I made the categories or themes more distinctive and clearer as well.
The second round of usability testing presented no issues and all participants had a very positive response to the edits made to Gather. Most of the edits were related to small, cosmetic changes. One bigger thing that was mentioned was a way for users to immediately purchase a ticket at the top of the page instead of having to scroll down to the bottom to find the purchasing area. 4/5 users expressed interest in this. The participants also expressed concern about the button to take users to a related discussion area when viewing a specific event. They weren’t sure where that led, and thought the button was too big and distracting. I completed those tweaks before finalizing the prototype, which can be viewed below.
Overall, people had a great response to Gather. Many said that they saw it being useful in their lives and that it has fantastic business potential. Others shared their stories of being in a new place wanting to make friends but feeling nervous about going to events, and how this would be such a helpful tool in that struggle.
Creating Gather was a terrific experience that I had so much fun doing. There were time constraints for this application that I hadn’t experienced before, which was really interesting. For example, instead of doing sketches and wireframes, I only had time for wireframes. It was a learning experience having to pick which parts of the design process to focus on within those constraints. I learned how to design through Sketch and Figma, but decided to challenge myself by learning Adobe XD for this project. I’m proud of how far I came in such a short amount of time!
I know that social anxiety is a real issue, and it was wonderful to work on a design for good project such as this one, working to solve a problem that impacts so many.
I would love to explore bringing this app to life with a developer using React and Ruby on Rails. The possibilities are endless when it comes to future iterations, such as exploring the coin concept and gamifying this application for further interaction and play.