I started this project because I noticed a few aspects of Facebook Messenger’s user experience that I thought could be improved. However, I wanted to make this more than just an unsolicited Dribbble redesign project. I decided to talk to real Messenger users to find out if they shared my opinions. My research goals were to determine whether my two strongest opinions — that Stories are a waste of space in Messenger and that the draft button should be more accessible — were valid. I was also interested in any other pain points users may have.
Disclaimer: This is an unsolicited project that I chose to do in order to practice conducting user experience research and user interface design. I was the sole user researcher and designer on this project and I am not affiliated with Facebook in any way.
I started by gathering some quantitative data via a 10-question Google Form and then went on to interview five participants for more qualitative information. Both of these research methods were used to learn more about the daily habits of Messenger users.
Based on the 30 responses, here are some of the key findings on user behaviors:
During the user interviews, participants were presented with a few initial designs to determine which features to move forward with.
These wireframes showed three variations of a new “floating” draft button and three variations on a new navigation.
The winning features were the floating button with the pencil icon and the bottom navigation with Chats, Camera, and Stories. Both of these were favored because of their familiarity to the existing UI.
The majority of the feedback from the user interviews aligned with the survey results. However, the greatest takeaway from the interviews was that the Messenger app should be customizable. The Facebook app already is — users can choose which shortcuts get displayed in their navigation bar such as Marketplace or News. Why shouldn’t Messenger also offer its users the opportunity to personalize their app?
After analyzing the key findings from the surveys and the feedback from the interviews, the following adjustments were made in the first design iteration:
Once the first iteration of designs was complete, usability testing was conducted with six participants. Of the six, four were in the age range of 25-34, one was in the 18-24 range, and one was in the 45-54 range. The participants were given four tasks:
All of the participants were able to smoothly navigate the new version of Messenger. The conclusion was that the design was fairly familiar and straightforward, but the language could be more clear for the new settings.
After the first round of testing, a few tweaks were made to clean up the UI of the app, but the main adjustment for the second round of usability testing was to restructure the task list. The first two stayed relatively the same, but the last two questions were switched to better reflect the user flow pattern seen during the first round of testing. The second round of usability testing saw a 100% success rate on all four tasks.
The “new message” pencil icon in the top right was replaced with a floating button for easier access with the thumb.
A gear icon was added to take the user to a settings page where they can toggle on different shortcuts in their navigation bar to customize their app.
On the current app, one has to tap on their profile picture to get to Settings, which was not clear how to most participants.
The People tab was replaced with a Stories tab because the majority of users surveyed have never used the People tab.
On the current app, Stories are displayed both at the top of the main Chats page and on the People tab. In this revised design, Stories have their own tab, so they can live there instead of taking up space on the other page.
The option to hide Stories from the top of the main Chats page was added and can be used whether or not a user has the Stories tab toggled on. Most of the users interviewed did not want to see Stories on the Chats page.
Before starting my research, I had made three hypotheses:
The first hypothesis was not validated, though I did discover that most users used the search bar to start a new conversation, rather the pencil icon. Should the floating button be installed in the new design, it still might not get as much usage as the search bar.
My opinion that Stories are unwanted and unnecessary on the main Messenger screen was somewhat validated. Most users are not interested in posting or viewing Stories on the main page, however, because 17% said they do view stories, it seems important to keep the option available.
Third, my assumption about group chats was not validated either. The research determined that most users are not in a lot of group chats on Messenger anymore. Though the participants interviewed did not necessarily want to separate them out, none of them were opposed to having the option to do so.
Overall, the participants in this user experience research project found the design revisions to the Facebook Messenger app straightforward and were excited about the ability to customize their app to best fit the way they want to use it.