Bite-sized stories made for your pocket! A unique twist to interactive story-telling that'll get you hooked. Whether you like scary, steamy, imagined or real, these text message based stories are always one tap away.

Challenge

To meet the entertainment needs of an audience interested in short, serial story content in the form of a chat message between two or more people.

Role

Led all design efforts from research, wireframing, visual design, prototyping and team collaborations.

I worked closely with the CEO, the Product Manager, and the Engineering team to create an innovative solution unlike any others in the competitive landscape.
App Store Button

AUDIENCE & RESEARCH

Our research concluded that the bell curve of our target audience was early teens to late twenties, skewing female. As far as content focus, Horror and Romance were the two category leaders by far with Fandom coming in third.

Research also led me to believe that the ability for our users to create their own stories might be a solid differentiator. A place for story writers of any ability to craft their own stories and get feedback from an audience of their peers.

This thought process led us to explore a future capability of paying our top authors for their content, hopefully creating a positive feedback loop to encourage high-quality, ongoing content as well as a magnet for better authors to write for our platform.

Process

APPROACH

Post competitive review, my initial design exploration was an extraction of the app elements I felt would best help our users find and digest content. This is often a time-efficient way of getting early feedback.

After several rounds of whiteboard based wireframing, I created our first prototype user experience. I conducted some friends and family in person reviews and while feedback was generally positive, I felt the responses indicated a ‘satisfactory’ experience.

I wanted to do better than that, to potentially make viewing fun and enjoyable, eventually habitual.

I also needed to tackle the challenge of a relatively small initial story catalog that eventually would grow to an expansive base of content across many categories and, potentially, in differing formats such as traditional stories, interactive decision-based ‘choose your own adventure’, audio, and video.

Design

Version 1

After running an app naming session using a word matrix, we ended up with the name chat candy as a play on sweet story bites, something we felt would resonate with our audience. A survey of a 100 or so people confirmed the choice.

I made a candy themed chat bubble as the logo with a bold Gotham font. A simple no-registration onboarding offered a choice of the top two story categories which led to a predetermined staff-writer written story as a first reading experience.

Logo and splash screen explorations with colour, fonts, and style

BROWSE EXPERIENCE

For content discovery, a search bar, a sliding category filter that can expand horizontally, and a browse experience as our initial research candidate. Two versions:


Feedback from the first prototype

  1. Overall, easy to use and understand. Some confusion around the difference between candy ratings (a story-level feedback mechanism) and super candy, a Reddit gold inspired monetization idea we were exploring.

  2. Confirmed my assumptions that with such limited content that search and category filters weren’t very important to an initial release. People wanted easy scrolling  content that was easy to read.

  3. Positive feedback for stories across the 3 categories, chat, traditional (book) and interactive fiction, otherwise known as ‘choose your own adventure’ style).

  4. Some confusion about how to ‘use’ the app. To a person those that experienced this did manage to work it out but definitely room for improvement.

  5. A couple of requests for a brief description of the story other than the title.

  6. Some felt the UI was a little ‘cluttered’, ‘busy’, ‘messy’ with too many elements to digest. Repeated questions around the 2 candy icons on the story panels.

NEW INTERACTION EXPERIENCE

I went back to the drawing board and working with the Product Manager and the Engineering team came up with a new experience:

Folding in the feedback and our own aspirations for a compelling and engaging experience, I made the following changes:

  • I modelled the new experience on TikTok with full screen panels to better feature the story cover, to give the associated information some breathing room.

  • Cover View: Simple gestures, full screen scroll, highly visual cover view (which could be animated for video content), plenty of room for associated details to breathe.

  • Story View: Tap to read the story, tap for the next text message, scroll up or down to get to the Cover View of the prior or next story. Simple, elegant browsing/reading experience.
Functional Flow Diagram

From the flow diagram I created new designs:

Version 2: Design Flow Diagram

Navigation Prototype

I then created a simple prototype in Marvel to use to gather feedback.

ONBOARDING ENHANCEMENT

I then added overlays to the tail end of the onboarding flow that first guides the user to swipe up for the next story cover and then to tap on that story to read the story.

When I retested with users that had been confused before, they all agreed that this would have remedied their confusion.

While this is a positive reaction, I was aware that these users had already mastered navigation so this wasn’t necessarily concrete proof of an adequate resolution. I ran a small friends and family test with fresh users specifically targeting these elements and found it to no longer be an issue, at least at a small scale.

App Store

I spent some time experimenting with hybrid chat and candy icons but ultimately ended up with a text styling appropriate for the teenage target audience.

I created images for the app store In the same teen focused style.

Outcome

Chat Candy MVP was launched and is available on the Apple app store. Users have been climbing steadily and some are subscribing.

Authors have been using the story writer without any meaningful challenges. The majority of stories created have been of surprisingly  high quality. Over the last few months we’ve observed user behaviour and the next set of revisions are in discussions.

Highlights

  1. Shift the monetization scheme to credits and pay authors for their quality content. If authors are being paid, we should get their best work.

  2. The need for serial content, copious amounts, with many chapters.
  3. We no longer need to show ads or hide in-story media.

  4. Support traditional and chat format stories.

  5. Content discovery is currently sub par for Chat Candy and needs improvement. We don’t do a good job of surfacing our best content nor is any of it as browsable, searchable and discoverable as it needs to be.

  6. Maybe auto-follow all our house authors initially so that mechanism is also established and our (hopefully) solid content bubbles to the top. Our authors can be unfollowed and any other authors followed of course.

  7. New users are auto-subscribed to all categories of content and can uncheck areas to remove that content.

  8. Need things like best content, top authors, trending etc. - we’re a content platform.

  9. It’s likely we’ll pay 2 to 3 decent authors for regular, quality content and will expand that stable as money + appropriate quality/reliable authors are found.

  10. Need to decide on author revenue split and how administration of that happens.