Renee’s User Experience of Messenger
Facebook Messenger is an instant messaging service and software application which provides text and voice communication. Integrated with Facebook's web-based chat feature, Messenger lets Facebook users chat with friends both on mobile and on the main website.
As a very active user, I am willing to share my delights and frustrations in my journey of Messenger and gain insight into user experience in order to make recommendations and potential improvements to the application.
Personal Usage Pattern
1. About Renee
I am Renee, an active Messenger user. I spend much of time in daily life on Messenger. Why?
- I love my friends.
I like chatting and sharing interesting things with my friends. Besides texting, I share pictures, videos, music and movie etc. with my friends. Sometimes, my friends and I have ‘sticker or GIF conversation’ which is silly but with so much fun.
- I work in team.
There is no exam for my master program but instead there are tons of team work projects. I am always the one who likes to create group chat and contact with team mates on Messenger because it is convenient to share ideas, hold long distance discussion and upload working documents.
- I rent house.
Recently, I am trying to find a new place to live for school final project. I have joined some Facebook rental pages and contact house owners to ask details on Messenger. It makes my life much easier than emails because we can share pictures locations and chat in real time.
2. Information Architecture
First of all, I summarize the information architecture of Messenger by sticky notes. It seems much more than I expected but when I consider how often do I use the functions, it is shown in the image below that only ‘Recent Chat List’ is where I always stay.
3. Chat Window
Next, let me show you my chat window with a virtual person and how I feel about each function. Based on my feelings, I categorize the features of Messenger into three parts :
- I like! :)
I like texting which is simple and easy. It is just like walking during a journey which I spend most of the time on but I never get bored because of other interesting experiences.
I like stickers and GIFs. It seems to be one of the most important reasons that Messenger differentiate itself from other competitors like WhatsApp. Users can go to the Sticker Store and download collections of stickers or search funny GIFs across apps and send them to friends. Personally, I enjoy light and witty conversation with my friends a lot.
I like customization. Messenger allows users to control the color of the chat bubbles, change the emoji and even give our friends nicknames. This feature of customization spice chatting experience up and add another layer of personalization, which is undoubtedly a brilliant design detail.
- I don’t like :(
Some features related to privacy really make me feel uncomfortable because I feel like it is crossing the line.
- Read receipt
The Read Receipt alerts users in the conversation when one party has received and processed the message and, even more cruelly, reveals the exact time at which that happened. The sender is able to calculate the exact number of minutes that have passed between when the message was sent and when the receiver finally decides to respond. As a sender, it is good to know if others receive my messages or not. However, as a receiver, it means it's obvious when you ignore people as they can see you're using the app and choosing not to reply. According to my research, this feature is not just bothering me. And some users who try to get rid of read receipt even download third-party software like unseen or unread to solve the problems.
See this awkward conversation below:
“Are you there?”
“Look, if you don’t want to talk just say something.”
*AWKWARD SILENCE FOR THE REST OF TIME*
- Online status
This feature is similar with read receipt. The purpose is to allow users to see people on Messenger is available or not but it indeed brings some troubles as well. See a girl’s talking about her experience with her boyfriend on Messenger:
Sometimes it’s good because you think “oh thank God, he was online 14 min. ago, so he wasn’t hit by a truck!”, but other times it’s “hey WTH is he doing on FB mobile at midnight when he told me he went to bed at 10pm?”
- Voice message forwarding
Actually I like sending voice messages because sometimes I feel my fingers becoming sore when I type too much. It’s a great way to send short and convenient voice messages instead of typing. However, Messenger enable users to forward other's voice messages which I feel that my privacy is not protected well. People’s voice has a great personal identity. Imagine that if your voice messages are forwarded to others on purpose maybe even in a different order that would possibly cause some terrible consequences.
- I’m confused. :|
The most confusing function to me is sending pictures. Apparently the two icons of camera and photo aim to separate the two functions of taking photos (or videos) and choosing them from library. But when I go into deep and explore all the paths of sending a picture I get confused. One reason is that some useful functions are hidden in deep and I don’t even know them before such as filter, crop and draw. Another reason is that the structure of sending picture is not very clear and rational. Some of the functions are similar but they are placed under different categories. To clarify this function, I will choose sending a picture as a specific task and walk through all of the possible paths in order to figure out how to make a better user experience.
Task Challenge: Sending a picture
Since I am confused about sending pictures, I decided to give myself a challenging task which is to figure out all the possible paths of sending a picture. So I tried every different way to send a picture and drew every user interface that I’ve seen in the process. The result is pretty astonishing where we can see that there are so many ways to send a single picture on Messenger. Don’t worry! Let me summarize five different paths and walk you through separately. Let’s see where are the pain points. :)
1) Path One: Tap the camera icon to take a real-time photo or video --> Retake or send it
2) Path Two: Tap the picture icon to view the camera roll --> Slide to choose one of the photos --> Send it
3) Path Three: Tap the picture icon to view the camera roll --> Slide to choose one of the photos --> Tap Edit --> Add text or scrawl on the picture --> Send it
4) Path Four: Tap the picture icon to view the camera roll --> Tap “More” icon in the bottom left corner --> Select more than one pictures from camera library --> Send it
5) Path Five: Tap the picture icon to view the camera roll --> Tap “More” icon in the bottom left corner --> Tap top-left camera icon to take a real-time photo or video --> Tap the button in the middle to take a photo and automatically go to “Filters and Crop” window --> Choose filters and crop the photo --> Use it (“Use”= “Send” here)
After showing my personal feelings and the process of task challenge. Here I summarize three main pain points as a Messenger user.
As I mentioned in personal usage pattern section, there are three concerns about privacy: read receipt, online status and voice message forward. These features more or less cause some troubles for users. Currently, the Privacy&Terms setting of Messenger is under Settings menu and also it combines all the privacy settings on Facebook and Messenger which are numerous and drive users away.
2. Chat Menu
In the latest version of Messenger in Canada, there are eight irons in the chat window menu which are: Type messages, Camera, Photos, Stickers, GIFs, Voice message, More and Emoji. As I discovered, location function is under the “More” menu which is hard to find. From a design perspective, it is proper to keep certain numbers of icons in the main menu. However, with bringing in new features, how to maintain consistency meanwhile to create a reasonable menu is getting harder and harder.
3. Pictures Sending
During the task challenge of trying all the paths of sending a picture I find out some pain points and things need to be improved. Firstly, there are picture editing functions both in path-3 and path-5. There is no reason to separate “Add text&Scrawl” and “Filters&Crop” into two different paths with different access. It can show that users are confused and useful functions are hidden. Secondly, in path five after I choose filters and crop the photo there is a “Use” button in the top right corner which means “Send” here. Lastly, I’m frustrated by the uncertainty about whether I’m making the right choice during the whole journey of sending a picture.
Based on my three pain points, I come up with three recommendations to solve the problems and deliver a more pleasant user experience on Messenger.
1. Improve Privacy Settings
It is advisable to provide users options to set visibility of read receipt and online status as well as to let them control voice messages forwarding. Currently, there is only Facebook general privacy setting on Messenger. Since Facebook is trying to separate Messenger App from Facebook App, it is also important to separate privacy settings of these two apps. So I design a group of privacy settings towards Messenger in order to solve the problems about read receipt, online status and voice message forwarding.
2. Customize Menu
As mounting new features appearing on Messenger, there are more icons shown in chat window. It’s difficult to decide how to manage the icons in the main menu since users have different needs of these functions. So why not let users design their own menu? It inspired me to design a customizable menu. When users tap “More” icon, a small window will pop up to show other functions. Next, users can drag the icon which is not frequently-used to “More” menu or vise verse. The similar concept can be seen at customization of IPhone home screen by simply pressing and dragging icons. In this way, users can enjoy their personalized menu in chat window as well as saving the time of Facebook to consider the changes of main menu when new features are added to Messenger.
3. Redesign User Flow of Sending Pictures
As we can see in current user flow of sending pictures, it is not well-structured and there are some confusing details need to be improved. So I redesign the hierarchy of sending pictures trying to make it simple and consistent. It can be concluded with two aspects that I slightly modified:
Firstly, I put every functions related to picture editing into a separate edit phase. Whenever users take a photo or choose a picture from library, it will lead them to edit window. The new user flow will be: Choose filters & Crop --> Use --> Add text & Scrawl --> Send
It solves the previous problem that when users tap “Use” of filters or cropping, the picture will be automatically sent. Additionally, combining all the features of editing as a whole eliminates confusion and enhance effectiveness.
Secondly, I merge similar functions together. As it is shown in the flow charts, when users tap camera icon in path-1 and path-5, it will lead them to two different windows of taking a real-time picture. This makes a simple thing harder and confusing, so I suggest that maintaining the same functions consistency to make users feel confident in the whole journey.
Lastly, here shows the contrast between current user flow and redesigned user flow of sending picture on Messenger.
During the process of this project, as a user and a designer, I understand how important it is to show empathy to the user because we are not designing to users. We design for users. Sometimes, a company spends lots of time on develop new functions and add new features but neglects the deliverable patterns for users. As Don Norman said "It is the whole experience that matters."
Thanks to my awesome UX mentor Karin Schmidlin, I can have a chance to gain insight into my favourite chatting app and learn design thinking.
Mar. 8th 2016