Since Twitter, many startups started to develop different micro-blogging apps. Compare to traditional blog, micro blogs are normally much smaller, and users normally just posting a short sentence of what they were doing or thinking at the right moment. When I received this project from Hisunsray, I was thinking how can I help them to standout from other similar services, and how to best utilize the capabilities of smart phones, while enhance user engagement. My approaches were as below:
1. Voice was decided to be one of the key elements
Besides text blogging, for Mwuaah app, I proposed to enhance voice feature as one of the key element to differentiate from others. Users can record and share a voice micro-blog; users can also record and leave a voice comment.
Compare to text, voice has more characteristics. Every people has their own unique sound, which belongs to each unique person. Hearing someone’s voice is always something very special, which has an emotional attachment with the voice. Even though you may not be seeing another person’s expression at that moment, hearing their voice can make you feel their feelings. Voice brings more intimacy to this app, which will lead to more user engagement.
I designed this app at 2010, at that time, not many apps have such voice feature yet. Kik app launched later at that year; Wechat was not released yet till 2011. Muwaah app allow users to post a voice blog, comment with voice, or even chat with recorded voice as well.
2. Sound effects have been added to bring more fun
When people record a voice blog, there will be a water dropping effect during the recording, which make the recording itself more fun. Users can pre-listen to the recording, can redo the recording as well. A timeline will be displaying how much time it has recorded and how much time left. (Since it is a micro-blogging, only maximum one minutes of recording is allowed). The whole screen looks like some water bubbles, which make users feel peaceful and relaxed.
While recording, users also have the options to insert different sound effects. E.g. bray, cackle, chortle, chuckle, giggle, claps, blow a kiss, crow barking, snore, applaud, Jeer, burp, alarm bell, lightning, ambulance sound, and so on. These sound effects bring a lot more fun to this app, and greatly encouraged users to interact with each other and even make fun of each other. Hence also enhanced the user interactions and user engagement.
3. Water-drop as main theme throughout the app experience
Just like a novel or a movie, an app should also have its own theme. Merriam-webster defines theme as a subject or topic of discourse or of artistic representation; or a specific and distinctive quality, characteristic, or concern. For my understanding, a theme is like a soul of a product or a story. App as a digital product should also has a theme, which alines with its positioning. For Mwuaah, water drop has been defined as its theme.
The overall color is water blue. The icons' shape are water drop outlined. As we just mentioned, during voice blogging, there will be a water-dropping effect while recording. The blogging interfaces are composed of several sized water drops or water waves (the timeline). When users chat with each other with voice, each talk will pop out with a water drop, together with a sound which simulated and animated like a large drop of water has just been pushed out from a water balloon.
Water brings people to a calmer, more meditative state. It giver target users – city white collar people, a break from fast-paced rhythm of modern lives. Seeing water and hearing water sound interact to produce an overwhelming sense of mental tranquility. Beyond relaxation, the slower brain waves that water bring to people are believed to be able to unleash creative ideas as well. That is why water drop has been designed as the main theme to bring users closer.
4. Use elites to attract followers hence grow app users
The weight of each person on social media is normally not equal on each person. The more followers one got, the more social weight he/she has. However, for Mwuaah as a new social media app, a social eco-system has not been built up yet. That is why we need to utilize the social system that has already exist, from other platform, or from real life.
Some elites, who normally are also opinion leaders in their field, have been invited to open account and start to share their blogs/voice blogs on Mwuaah. A carousel display of famous people in different field when each category is selected. Users can easily browse these elites, and follow them.
Besides, users can also browse hot topics, and view popular blogs/voice blogs by topic. Those hash-tagged hot topics representing the trends. A short cut has been designed which allows users to quickly view the trending topics and follow or participate the topic.
5. Use metaphor and bring real life experience to digital world
The easiest way to inform people something, is to connect with their existing experiences, that is why during my design, I often like to use metaphor, and bring real life experiences to target users when they are shifting to a digital world. For Mwuaah app, besides the water dropping, water bubble, many other places have also used metaphor. For example, at contacts page, user’s contacts have been placed into different folders. These folders looks just like the paper folders they are using in their office; and have been color-coded. When designing the folders like document folder, it make users much easier to understand that this is used to organize.
After click into each folder, the faces of each person is displayed on the screen, the more often we interact with each other, the bigger the profile picture size will be. This is also closer to our real life, the more interaction and communication we have, the bigger their images will be inside our brain.
For “Private Messages” section, those messages have been designed like envelops. Just like every time when we find new mails from our post boxes, which make us feel so joyful. When we are browsing the messages, it is just like how we are reviewing all the letters from the mail.
6. Creative interactions design brings the pleasure of using the app
Many ways of interactions have been designed into this app, e.g. the water dropping during the voice blog recording; the carousel effects at the elites’ page; the moving of folders; the water wave moving at the recording timeline; the pop out of water bubbles while chatting; and the browsing of the message “envelopes”. Compare to the projects I have done before with Symbian platform; the new smart phones have enabled us to explore more ways of interactions.
Through these interactions, Mwuaah app paved the way for innovative user experiences without the restrictions of complex navigation. The interaction designs make the app a joy to use. These intuitive and logical interaction design increases brand engagement, and they have been taken reference from the real world to make them feel natural.
Mwuaah was a voice enhanced micro-blogging app, instead of an audioblog app, which normally puts the vocal recordings as its central part. The problem with audioblog is that, before clicking to play, audiences normally have no idea what the blog is about. That is the weak side of a pure audio based application. Compare to that, texts sometimes allow people to take a quick glance, while audio cannot. From tech wise, texts also are easier to be searched and for the computer to comprehend; while audio files are much more challenge.