Project Design is a personal project I’ve been working on since the beginning of 2016 — every month or two I analyze and/or redesign an app or website I use.
This is project #6 and I’ll be looking at Houseparty’s user journey along with some business analysis to give some rationale behind why I think it could be more than just a fad.
I’d like to give credit to Vishal Monteiro who helped me with the analysis for this project.
Houseparty solves the user problem of wanting to meet new people and socialize through a platform they describe as “if FaceTime was built as a social network.”
It allows users to join group video calls with their friends — the twist is that you can join any open room that your friends are in, even if they aren’t friends with everyone in the room. It delivers this solution with an extremely minimal UI and a unique user experience.
A chat room can feature up to 8 people at once, making it feel as though it was an actual house party. As soon as you launch the app, you’re put into your own room and your friends all get a notification that you’re “in the house”. From here, you can choose to join others or wait until your friends come to you.
The User Journey
The Ideal User/Persona — A High School/College Student
- Age — 19
- Income — 0
- Expertise — Medium/High — They have lots of experience using all sorts of different social media apps.
- Willingness to Switch — Low/Medium — They’re willing to switch to this app depending on if their friends are too.
- Experience Goals — a simple, clean experience and beautiful UI.
Green boxes indicate when the user is feeling positive emotion, such as excitement, happiness, or interest. Red coloured boxes indicate when the user is feeling negative emotion, such as anger and frustration.
The first stage is discovery — where the user hears about Houseparty and is curious to see what it’s about. Path 1 is where the user discovers Houseparty by browsing the app store — this is where the user is sold on the app purely based off the screenshots, description and reviews. Path 2 is where the user discovers the app from their friends, who tell them to download it. This could be exciting, but is most likely annoying to the user, which also generates curiosity but in a negative manner. Path 3 is where the user gets a text message from their friend who used the share feature in Houseparty, telling them to add them as a friend on the app. Just like Path 2, this is likely annoying to deal with but could make users curious about what this hype is all about. Path 4 is where users discover Houseparty through a news source like Product Hunt. It generates genuine curiosity, causing the user to click on an external link which leads them to download the app.
From here, users are hit with a sign-up wall. This makes me and many other users angry and frustrated, asking ourselves why we’re required to sign up in order to use the service. Why do they require our data and what is this organization using it for? This represents a pretty big emotional swing for some users, especially those who were very interested during the discovery stage. It could make a negative impression on this group, and even cause users from Path 2 and 3 to neglect the app entirely after finding out they have to sign up for yet another account.
After this point, users get to find their friends, which is the “magic moment” of most social media apps. They get excited — their eyes light up when they see that some of their friends already have accounts on Houseparty, and proceed to add them. Next, it’s smooth sailing as they join their first chat room and have their first Houseparty experience.
From here, there’s 2 paths that users can take. If they don’t have any other friends on Houseparty, they’ll most likely leave the app disappointed, and may not come back depending on if their friends are active users. If they do have friends, joining other rooms may cause anxiety for the user — if their other friends are in another room with strangers, users won’t know whether to join or not in fear of what Houseparty calls “Stranger Danger”. After being satisfied with the interactions, users will share the app with their friends and start this cycle over again.
There are a couple of UI changes I would like to recommend in order to get rid of any confusion and enhance the usability.
Hamburger Menu — usually hamburger menus imply that something slides in from the left, and that there will be a lot of options within the menu. In this case, the menu slides down from the top of the screen and there aren’t any options. In fact, the “menu” is actually just your friends list, with an option to add new friends or view your existing list. On the top left, there’s also a settings button which now seems out of place considering it’s a friends list.
My recommendation would be to change the menu button to a different icon, or remove it altogether, since the three lines are used in a different context in many other apps. It makes users confused when they hit it and the typical interaction doesn’t occur.
Another recommendation could be to reduce the amount of lists on the app. There’s 2 big lists right now — one from the hamburger menu and one from pulling down to see activity. If you scroll down on activity you can also add friends from there. So, what could happen is there could be 2 tabs when you pull down — one for recent activity and one for adding/viewing friends instead of having a confusing hamburger menu at all.
Settings — my final recommendation is that if we’re getting rid of the hamburger menu, to put settings somewhere else. On the main screen, settings would be too upfront of an option. Instead, we could have settings on the top left after pulling down to view activity. This way, the user will feel like they have to go out of their way to find settings, but it’s still merely 2 clicks away.
Breadcrumb Menu — is it really needed? The three functions it contains are “Mute Mic”, “Flip Cam”, and “Lock Room” which could easily be changed into 3 separate buttons on the bottom of the screen. With features like mute and changing cameras that need to be highly accessible, there shouldn’t need to be more than 1 click to perform these actions.
+Person icon is not intuitive — this button/icon makes me think that I’m adding a friend to the room I’m currently in, which isn’t how the room feature even works. This creates a lot of confusion with the functionality of the app — because clicking the button essentially shares the app with your friend via SMS. My recommendation would be to change the icon to something that looks more like a share arrow that represents what the button really does.
The great thing about this app from a business perspective is that it’s easily sharable with the all the invite and share buttons sprinkled over the app. Adding and finding friends is also built well so that it syncs with your contacts, meaning all your friends in your contact book with Houseparty automatically appear in your friends list with the ability to add them. A key part of the “magic moment” when downloading this app and any other social media app is seeing which of your friends are already on it — so it’s important to make sure this list is as large as possible when the user first signs up. Users are also able to see and add friends of friends, showing the number of mutual friends between the two of you. These may be people you’ve heard of, but haven’t formally met yet, so it actually makes it awkward because you’re not sure whether it’s weird to add them on the app or not. What Houseparty should do is allow you to sign in through Facebook since that’s majority of peoples’ largest network of friends.
With social media apps like these, you’d expect them to be short fads or a one-time-use app. However, with Houseparty, I find myself going on pretty consistently even after a week after download. This is because of the notification system — it sends you a push notification whenever a friend goes on the app. If one of your friends signs on, you’ll immediately feel obligated to sign on and join them in a chat room. Additionally, there’s a feature that lets you send a push notification directly to a specific friend telling them to go on the app. That way, Houseparty can outsource part of their retention strategy to their more loyal users, who will constantly notify their non-loyal friends.
Why It’s So Addicting
I think Houseparty is so addicting because it lowers the barrier to entry of having a high human-to-human interaction. When you hop on a FaceTime call, usually it’s coordinated first through a text or voice call. However, with Houseparty, you’re immediately put into a video call with your friends and other people that you may not have considered video calling before.
When you compare this to the social media app Peach, which had a lot of cool features, it makes sense why it blew up and died down soon after. Peach just doesn’t have the level of human or real-time interaction that Houseparty does. The nature of Peach in combination with the weak sharing and friend-finding features explains why it hasn’t retained its users.
Houseparty has built an app with a hip concept and an addictive model. There are a few gripes I have with the user experience and some UI elements in particular, but if the app really blows up then users will adapt to these counter-intuitive interactions. The true next steps for Houseparty are to figure out how to retain users in the long run, and how to monetize after building a good user base.
This concludes my analysis for this product. Thanks for reading — give it a ? if you were feeling the content or hit me with a response if you have something to say!