Progress feels so slow in the days before releasing a new version of VIVA.
We have had some tech hiccups getting to this point... but we are edging closer every day. Every day feels like the eve before the release of a new version, but not yet! The user feedback from the last few months have guided us to focus on making improvements to VIVA - small tweaks for big wins.
They may not be enough though.
"So I guess you aren't doing an overhaul just yet," Adam wrote in an email to me last week.
If we reduce VIVA down to its core, there are only three components:
Our tech team has been split along those three paths, trying to divide and conquer. Since our team is lean (read: small), we have had to prioritise certain things above others, even though they are probably equally important.
There is a jigsaw puzzle of possibilities...
John and I caught up last week to talk other business. These meetings serve as a good distraction from VIVA, so that I can turn away for a little bit, gain some distance, and tackle problems afresh.
We are close to the new version now... and with the benefit of the distance, the progress feels too slow and the changes feel too insignificant. I feel like we are the tortoise in the race. I hope the fable comes true, and that maybe we will win the race in the end.
I should be focused on Python coding this afternoon. Nishant sent a skeleton template for our data cleaner and labeller this morning, and I just have to go through and repeat a few hundred lines of code to label events data. I really should be doing that... but instead, I feel compelled to write a blog post about releasing the next version of the VIVA app.
One thing I should do more is survey and listen to our customers. It is fundamental to product design to listen to your customers. What I have failed to do in the last two months is to monitor our app reviews on the Apple App Store. It took a phone call with Adam to bring this to my attention this morning. I haven't felt the sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach for a while, "Oh sh*t, I really f*cked up, and there is no rewind button for life." I felt it during the call with Adam.
Was I asleep at the wheel? How did I miss the one-star reviews on the App Store?
One user wrote, "It’s definitely a problem that needs solving but unfortunately the uninviting and unintuitive interface detracts from what the app could possibly offer. Hopefully it gets better soon as I don’t like that Facebook is the go-to place to find out about events."
Another user was more abrupt and wrote, "Worst navigation with the worst user interface ever. Don’t even bother downloading it."
Dave, our UX consultant, had pointed out the unintuitive interface in September last year, and we have been trying to figure out a way to fix the interface without losing the soul of the app. We could have changed VIVA into the standard list style apps that everyone uses or model ourselves completely after the Google Material.io philosophy, but we wanted to be a little different. Perhaps that is my ego speaking.
We are close to releasing a new version now, and here's a sneak peek of the redesigned screens.
This is a snip I took of my FB feed this morning...
Over 80% of the page are filled with ads.
I did not intentionally set up the page to look like this. I stopped scrolling for a few seconds to look at my notifications, and only noticed all the content on my feed was ads when I left the little notification bubble. I don't know when it became this way - we are all scrolling through Facebook, consuming ads other people pump out to us, driving our decision making.
Aside from the ad targeting problem in the news recently (e.g. this WIRED article), there is a more fundamental UX problem.
Why are we allowing FB to give us so many ads?
I couldn't find any statistics on the ratio of ad content versus non-ad content on Facebook. Primarily because all the marketing agencies have optimised Google's SEO for any searches relating to ad content on Facebook - which is a different problem for another day. I did find other interesting statistics, like this one, and this one, but none that addressed the underlying question - why have consumers not revolted against Facebook's overwhelming proportion of ads?
I think I know the answers to this - it has a lot to do with tolerance and addiction - we will tolerate ad content on Facebook because the overall experience gives us just enough dopamine to continue scrolling. Sadly, even if that were not true, there is no viable alternative to Facebook out there at the moment.
Maybe Adam has a view on this one.
Every day, I try to think of ways of making VIVA better.
Adam passed on some feedback from Dave, our UX consultant, this afternoon - we need more user testing data.
"I know," my inner-monologue moaned for the 20th time in the last month.
At the moment, we are operating on a three month timeframe each time we start a round of user testing to when we complete changes to the app from feedback and insights that round. Since reviewing Lurnea's feedback, I have been the bottleneck for implementing the next round of changes - designing solutions is taking much longer than I would like because I am too attached to what we have done so far. Peeling things away from the app causes me near physical pain. While my mind knows I have to listen to user feedback, my gut feels like it has taken a few heavy punches.
As the newish old line goes:
A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it isn't that good.
It has been quite a while since I felt exhausted like today.
Before, between and after a marketing call with Adam and a meeting with The Swinging Cat, I spent all of today with Lurnea, who joined us from Academy Xi for a week to audit the user experience when they first use VIVA. At this intersection of marketing and product, we ask the question - are we giving users what our marketing promised to deliver? Her work is intended to complement the work done by Dave, who prepared a red-flags audit of VIVA's current user experience and user interface.
After spending the last couple of weeks introducing a new feature into the apps - the guest map screen - we are now at a stage where we have the luxury of thinking about how to fix 20% of VIVA to gain an 80% lift in user experience. I am calling September and October our Pareto months (this is despite no one else on the team calling them the same).
I need to stop thinking about work all the time. Even tonight, where I wanted to spend it relaxing at trivia at the Quarrymans, a thought whispered... maybe I could talk the trivia master into signing up to VIVA...
There was just enough sense left in my fuel tank to stop mixing work and play. Sadly there was not enough to remember the name of the movie "The Departed" to win just one more point.