Love in the time of Covid-19

Conceptually enhancing the Hinge online dating app experience

Summary

A conceptual two-week group project to add new features to the Hinge dating app providing users additional ways of engaging with each other, particularly now that face-to-face contact is restricted as a result of the Covid-19.

Tools Used: Pen & Paper, Figma, Miro, QuickTime, CloudConvert

Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash

The Brief

Hinge is a popular dating app with a difference; once successful in its mission in helping users to build a ‘meaningful relationship’ to find ‘the one’, it’s designed to be deleted!

With in-person dating more difficult during the pandemic, Hinge has a major opportunity to provide users with other ways to get to know each other, online.

This project’s challenge was to understand what those opportunities are and to create a high-fidelity prototype to meet those needs.

Our team of 5 UX designers shared the tasks, working both individually and collaboratively, to deliver this project.

DISCOVERY PHASE

What does the market look like?

Dating apps usage has greatly increased during the pandemic. Tinder registered over 3,000,000,000 swipes on 29th March 2020, its highest ever.

While Hinge’s direct competitors, including Tinder, Bumble and Match.com, offer similar features and focus on different aspects of the dating market, they have all been experimenting with new ideas, including ‘virtual dating’.

What sets Hinge apart is its mission to help users to meet ‘the one’ through ‘meaningful connections’, claiming that their algorithms are better than their competitors.

While considering ways of building meaningful connections, we looked at indirect competitors, such as House Party, to see how they supported fun ways of engaging remotely. Fundamentally, people enjoy playing games online with friends.

The results of our competitive analysis found that Hinge was best placed to support meaningful connections but had opportunities to evolve online features to support dating during the pandemic.

Analysis Quadrant: Hinge relative to the competitor’s on Covid-19 & supporting meaningful relationships

Is there a gap in the market?

The research I carried out identified two statistics that were quite surprising and shocking:

Could a safer way to engage on Hinge improve gender balance and reduce fear?

Who currently uses dating apps?

To help us understand the market and usage of dating apps, I constructed a screener survey using Google Forms, which we shared across our friends and social networks:

Of the 61 respondents (27 male, 33 female and 1 queer) who had used dating apps:

  • 30 (17 male, 12 female, 1 queer) were currently single and open for a relationship.
  • But only 19 (11 male, 7 female, 1 queer) currently use at least one dating app.

This supported the findings that there are more male app users (58%) than female (37%).

How could dating apps be more engaging? It’s time to ask the users…

Interviewing using Zoom

Using our script, we interviewed 19 users from the screener survey and put their responses on virtual Post-It Notes using Miro. Then, using a card-sort affinity mapping technique, we grouped similar ideas and identified the key themes:

  • Users were generally open to the concept of online dates.
  • Active users typically spent 30 minutes a day on dating apps.
  • Users found it difficult to start new conversations and then to keep them going.
  • Users don’t like pop-up notifications as they could appear at the wrong time (that could be embarrassing!).
  • The majority would enjoy playing games as part of the ‘getting to know you’ process.
An example of one of the Miro boards with responses and grouped themes. Contact me if you want to read the Post Its!

DEFINE PHASE

Hi Claudia! How’s online dating for you?

With the insights from our research, we created a persona, Claudia, to represent the core findings and an empathy map to summarise her feelings and thoughts:

Claudia’s Persona: Capturing the essence of our research
Claudia’s Empathy Map

In bringing Claudia’s challenges to life, we next considered a situation that would help us highlight the things that she gets excited about and what she finds frustrating, by creating an experience map.

It’s Saturday night…

Claudia’s Experience Map: Her highs and lows of online dating

Her main pain-points were trying to open the new conversation and then to keep it going. The outcome of the define-phase was captured with the problem statement:

Claudia needs a better way to engage with potential matches on Hinge because she feels like her conversations die out as quickly as they begin

DEVELOP PHASE

So ‘How Might We’ solve Claudia’s problem?

To start the creative thinking, we considered what questions we could ask that would help solve Claudia’s problem and individually created several using the ‘How Might We?’ question technique. We then agreed the best one to consider in a ‘design studio’:

  • How Might We make it easier for a match to engage with Claudia?

Let’s get creative in a Design Studio!

With the question very much in mind, we ran a time-boxed design studio. With just a pen, paper and stopwatch, we started sketching as many creative ideas as possible. Then after sharing the images on Miro, we each explained our concepts, before dot-voting the elements of each design we liked.

Core ideas from the initial question: How Might We make it easier for a match to engage with Claudia?

We decided to focus on two user flows:

  • An online game feature that Claudia could opt-in to
  • A nudge feature for conversations Claudia had started but not responded to after a few days.

User Flow 1: Claudia likes Juan… let’s play a game

Claudia wants to start a new conversation with a potential match, Juan, and spots that he loves playing Scrabble…

A ‘happy path’ user flow for Claudia to invite Juan to play an online game

User Flow 2: Nudge to keep the conversation going

Claudia gets a nudge from Hinge to keep an existing conversation with Juan alive. Hinge suggests playing a game…

A ‘happy path’ user flow for Hinge to remind Claudia that she’s not replied to Juan after 2 days

How could these features be integrated into Hinge?

To understand the current app, each member of the team signed up for a Hinge account (for research purposes only!). We identified both the current application map and a potential home for the new features. Games would require a new screen, whereas the conversation nudge would be built into the existing chat flow.

Application Map: Showing where the new game feature would be at home

Time to start low-fidelity wireframing…

With Claudia in mind and ideas on how to solve her problem, we got sketching, focusing on how an online game could be incorporated, as well as how ‘nudges’ could be presented.

Examples of my game prompt in a conversation between Claudia and her potential match, Juan.

Following usability testing, we iterated the screens into digital low-fidelity wireframes in the collaborative design tool, Figma. Low-fidelity is a low effort way to test concepts and the user’s mental models before moving to mid-fidelity.

Feedback included:

  • The initial ‘I love games’ option didn’t follow the same ‘like’ flow used by the other options in Hinge.
  • Users expected to see more game options in the conversation view.
Examples of the feedback from the Low-Fidelity wireframes

Increasing the detail in Mid-Fidelity

Usability testing continued following the team’s iteration to mid-fidelity:

  • Confusion over the ‘I’m online’ black circles — ‘do I have a new message?’
  • ‘Is that all the games?’ — users didn’t find the game category intuitive.
  • ‘I’m not sure where I’m meant to be looking on the game page’ — the visual hierarchy needed to be reconsidered.
Examples of the feedback from the Mid-Fidelity wireframes

Iterating to High-Fidelity: Almost ready to prototype…

Onboarding & Empty-state: How do I start playing?

With the addition of the new features, I considered how the new game tab would be presented, and before the first game, how this otherwise empty state should look and new features onboarded.

Onboarding the new game tab. Left: Onboarding Middle: Initial empty-state Right: game options

Fun for everyone? Checking Accessibility

Initial accessibility testing of the new features suggested they worked well by switching to high-contrast monochrome for colour vision-impaired users.

Testing the Accessibility of the game selection screen. Left: Full colour. Right: High-contrast black and white

DELIVER PHASE

Welcome to the new Hinge… prototype concept!

User Flow 1: Claudia likes Juan…

Claudia likes that Juan plays Scrabble and wants to kick-off a conversation with him by inviting him to play. He replies instantly:

User Flow 1 Animation

User Flow 2: Nudge to keep the conversation going

Claudia hasn’t responded to a message from Juan, so Hinge ‘nudges’ her and so she invites Juan to play a game of Draw It, before finally initiating a video call with him:

User Flow 2 Animation

Fancy looking at the clickable version?

The prototypes are available in Figma:

I’d like to consider some next steps…

I hope you enjoyed seeing the new nudge and game features we created to satisfy Claudia’s problem of keeping conversations going with potential matches. From the overall feedback received, there are some next steps to consider:

  • Add additional options for the initial ‘like’: I’d like to test the concept of an ‘I like music’ feature to provide further insights to shared interests.
  • ‘What we have in common’ feature: Create and test this concept to see if it helped increase successful matches.
  • User Test the ‘I’m online’ indicator concept: Is this feature actually counterproductive to encouraging meaningful connections, adding pressure to respond quickly?

With the addition of these new forms of online engagement within Hinge, I would want to test if these would help to reduce the fear of abuse that affects so many female dating app users.

What have I learnt?

Our team functioned really well, with each person playing to their strengths. I really enjoyed the research and interviewing, as well as working behind the scenes to ensure the project was progressing at the right speed to meet the deadline.

I initially felt outside my comfort zone with this project as it’s been a long time since I needed to date! But I quickly realised how I felt enthused and energised by researching something I wasn’t familiar with; it allowed me to research and design with genuine interest without being disrupted by my personal expectations and potential biases.

I also really got to grips and developed my skills in using Figma and loved its collaborative features.

Thank you for reading!

I’d love to know what you think and welcome your feedback; all feedback will help me develop and hone my UX skills.

If you want to know how I can help you, please drop me a line!

UX Designer | UX Researcher | Coach