Let’s take the awkward out of making new friends
The Problem Space
As I grew older and left my teenage and university years behind, I slowly began to notice how much harder it was to connect with people and how hard it had become to build that bond that was once so easy to make. It became apparent to me that as you start to grow into your late twenties and thirties, friendships are harder to maintain and even harder to make. Social anxiety when faced in larger groups and the idea of having to plan something fun to do to make sure things don’t get awkward was a daunting task every time I had the opportunity to connect with someone new. I decided to explore the motivations behind friendships and how the concept of close friends and making friends has changed after reaching a certain age in life.
How might we
facilitate the process of developing adult friendships through
My first step was to dive into research. I found that loneliness kills more people than obesity each year and that social support increases our survival rate by 50% an equivalent to giving up 15 cigarettes a day. This was a pivotal moment where I knew this problem space was worth tackling.
What does it mean to be lonely?
I spoke with 6 people, all from different social circles and varying age groups. The one thing they all had in common was a sense of dread or fear when it came to meeting new people.
Illustration by Maggie Ferguson
3 Key Interview Insights
Social insecurities when surrounded by large groups
Lack of leisure time & motivation to make plans
Connections are formed through shared experiences
Making plans with a new friend
Creating an experience allowed me to explore how the act of making plans with a new friend can lead to frustration and insecurity. I explored what someone might be feeling, thinking and doing in order to fully immerse myself in the process and get a good grasp of the roller coaster of emotions.
With all my insights, I created two personas. Ricardo, who is new to the city and wants to explore his surroundings. His social circle is small and meeting new people is difficult and daunting for him. I also explored Veronica as a persona. She’s outgoing but is afraid to branch out. Having been surrounded by the same social circles since her early teenage years, it’s become harder for her to interact with new people. Both Ricardo and Veronica struggle with social anxieties in different ways, and the idea of connecting with strangers seems so far out of reach from their everyday lives.
Task flow & User Stories
As a introvert I want to match with people who share similar
interests so I can have an easy way to start conversation
Selecting a task flow
The next phase of my design process allowed me to fully think and feel through the mind of my potential users. I created user stories to get a better understanding of what my primary task flow in my prototype will be.
Iterate, and Iterate Again
With my newfound insights, I began the sketching phase. I initially started with a core design sprint method, crazy 8s. At the end of each round of sketching, I went through a process of justifying each idea and making critical decisions before any design went onto the next round and into the holistic vision of the prototype.
I then began to translate these sketches into two sets of wireframes. Each set was tested with 5 users who gave me insights on the prototypes usability and overall how intuitive each design decision I made was. With that being said, some design features went through some key changes, specifically the interests screen, where the aesthetic affected the usability of the content.
Discovering the brand
The brand is warm and inviting. It became important to keep these words in mind when injecting colour for branding consistency
Discovering a Mood
Before starting my hi-fi wireframes, it was important for me to gather inspiration for colour and UI elements. I wanted the prototype to feel welcoming, quirky and fun. Incorporating shapes as backgrounds was a design pattern I drew inspiration from to evoke the quirkiness of the screens. I opted for bright and vibrant hues to channel the outgoing energy I wanted the prototype to evoke in its users.
As I came closer to finishing my prototype and after each iteration, the impact of this social platform kept resurfacing. I came back to my initial assumptions and questions and formed new ones. How can a user abuse this platform? How will society’s need for constant newness affect the usage of this platform? In this modern world, the idea of satisfaction can be a bit twisted. With information at our fingertips, we crave constant stimulation and reject things that aren’t immediate. My future steps will be to look at how friendships and meeting new people has become gamified. With social apps like Tinder and BumbleBFF, swiping through people has become so easy and insignificant, we begin to forget there is actually a human being on the other side of that screen. Hangout addresses these concerns by focusing primarily on the experience shared with a person. Through research and testing, it became apparent that connections are made through a commonality and passion for the same interests.