Case Study: Meetup Feature Design Concept— Newbies

Amber Plant
10 min readMay 3, 2022

Have you ever really wanted to go to an event, but not had anyone to go with? Did you go anyway, or did you cancel? 👻

If your answer was the latter, this concept function could be something that resonates with you. Our team took on a collaborative project to alleviate the worries of anxious newbies everywhere.

Often, going to events can be a nerve-wracking experience. Many people have a hard time navigating social situations and feel anxious when they are in a new place without someone they know. We wanted to create an app feature that would allow users to connect with one another based on events they’re interested in so that they could find a “buddy” for their next outing, and expand their network to bring a sense of familiarity at future meets.

The Team: Team of five — self-governed, agile methodology
My Areas: Research, UI Design (Newbie Feature screens), Copywriting, Feature Ideation (Newbie) and Data Analysis
Time frame: Three week sprint
Technology used: Trello, Figma, Figjam, Google Docs, Maze

The Brief

To create a new function for the online platform Meetup, which encourages users to attend events that they have signed up for. The function must encourage passive users to overcome their fears and anxieties about meeting new people in real life.

What is Meetup?

Meetup is an online service used to organise online groups that host in-person and virtual events for people with similar interests. It’s a handy tool for people to meet others, make friends, find support, grow a business, and explore their interests.

It has several features that set it apart from other social media platforms. For example, you can’t gain “followers” or other connections on Meetup; you can only send messages to other members of groups you’re in, and to event organisers. Instead of creating your own content, you simply browse through a list of existing events that might interest you and make plans to attend them.

Business Assumptions:

Meetup is experiencing a high IRL bounce rate — users are RSVPing for events but not turning up. Meetup believes there is a link between the bounce rate and their users experiencing social anxiety.

User Assumptions:

  • New users do not know what to expect and worry about meeting new people
  • People sign up to events without the intention of going (This could be due to free events or events having unlimited spaces) or forget after RSVPing
  • People have worries about safety when meeting strangers

🤝Empathise

Competitive/Comparative Analysis

In order for us to complete this brief, we needed to understand Meetup’s existing offerings and undertake research on its competitors to identify areas that could benefit from improvement.

We started with a Task Analysis, looking at Meetup and Meetup’s direct competitor EventBrite, with the purpose of identifying the number of steps needed to achieve the task of attending an event.

We then completed a competitive analysis by looking at Meetup and its other direct competitors (Eventbrite, Ticketswap and Locals.org), analysing each platform’s homepage, event page, profile section and navigation bar. Lastly was a comparative analysis, looking at indirect competitors that primarily focus on mental health (Slack’s Donut extension, Ginger, Hubspot’s Community Guidelines and the app Headspace).

From this research, we made the following findings and recommendations:

User Interviews

Now it was time to ask Meetup’s target users what they thought, and clarify our assumptions — we remotely interviewed 5 people over Zoom and asked a series of questions about how they locate events, how many they actually attend and tried to identify any potential reasons for event “ghosting”. The data was organised using affinity maps and sorted into categories of “personality type”, “anxieties” and “reasons for not attending”.

Key Takeaways

Our research shows that Meetup has a huge opportunity to be more proactive in addressing the reasons why members hesitate to RSVP for events.
We learned that our target users want clarity when they are looking to attend an event, they want familiarity in the people they will be meeting, and they may need a bit of extra assistance when it comes to icebreakers to make their initial introductions less anxiety-inducing.

🧠 Define

To better focus the team on the task at hand and empathise with the summarised user data, we transformed this into a persona.

Meet Morgan — he’s ambitious and driven but battles with social anxiety around new people and unfamiliar settings. He’s more on the introverted side but enjoys the company of others and going to in-person events, so when he finds an event that he could network and find mentorship at but doesn’t know anyone going, he cancels at the last minute.

A scenario that many of us can relate to. What would you do? How would you solve Morgan’s problem?

We visualised Morgan’s path in a User Journey Map to step into his shoes and empathise with his feelings:

The next stage was defining a concise problem statement to summarise what Morgan needs in order for us to begin brainstorming a solution. We did this by individually brainstorming ideas and combining the most effective parts of each problem statement to produce a “Frankenstatement” (A term in which we dubbed to describe a conglomeration of words collected from multiple brains to create a final statement)

“Morgan needs a way to overcome his concerns and social anxieties, so that he can benefit from helpful events that suit his needs and interests.”

Our team then used the same ideation method to consider a handful of questions about how we can help Morgan. Our final question:

“How might we create a function that helps alleviate Morgan’s fears and anxieties when meeting people for the first time?”

We pinned this in our FigJam board, along with our problem statement to be referred back to at any roadblocks.

✍🏽Ideate

We now had synthesised interview data, a problem statement and a question to answer, so we headed into our Ideation stage.

Design Studio

We held a design studio to begin our ideation process in order to get all of our thoughts out onto (metaphorical) paper — we used FigJam for this and cycled through rounds of Crazy 8s which were then condensed down and voted on to feature the most effective ideas, which were:

  • A Pairing Feature to connect Morgan to other opted-in newbies that have groups and interests in common, creating a clear line of communication and reducing discomfort which was a problem suggested within our research
  • Pre-determined icebreakers for Morgan to use if he is feeling nervous, with a text field also included if he wants to free-type, further reducing discomfort and making introductions smoother
  • The Newbie Hub — this is the place Morgan will go to for information and resources about networking, conversation tips, in-person icebreakers and support, in order to give him on-demand information and lessen his anxiety
  • Newbie Badges that can be ordered by hosts and distributed at events and displayed on user profiles so that if Morgan meets another Newbie that he hasn’t connected with, they can still identify one another and have common ground to strike up conversation on. This would also enable more experienced attendees to be mindful of newbies and open up the lines of communication for mentorship

At this point, I made a joke about how funny it would be if we had a feature for app newbies called NewBees because bees are the most effective communicators in nature and apparently I can’t exist without making puns. This eventually became part of the main feature. Go bees! 🐝

User Map/Flow

We mapped out our User Flow to finalise how Morgan would access each feature on the app, as seen below:

First Sketches

With the flow in mind, we began some very rough sketches to outline how the features would appear within the app. We worked from Meetup’s existing layout to keep our new features in line with the current app’s infrastructure.

There were some additional ideas here that didn’t make it through to the final iteration, such as the “roll the dice and connect” feature (top right — could have been off-putting to anxious users)and the larger pop-up overlay (top left — too obtrusive).

These sketches were done individually and again, we held a group discussion to decide where and how to implement the features which acted as a guide for our mid-fidelity greyscale wireframes:

💡A-Ha! Moment #1💡 It was at this point that we noticed that the Newbie Hub hadn’t been expanded upon nearly enough in our sketches. As a feature catered towards anxious first-time users like Morgan, there needed to be more content geared towards converting apprehensive users and alleviating anxiety. The messaging feature would only work if the Newbie feature did. We added sections for resources and a carousel slider with further information about the feature’s capabilities.

💡A-Ha! Moment #2💡 After some discussion, we realised that using the term “Newbee” (bees, remember?) may have not been clear enough for testing and could cause confusion — it was a good pun, but would our testers understand it? We amended the feature name to “Newbie Hub” but Newbie the matchmaking mascot remained and was later described by testers as “delightful”.

Expansion on Newbie Hub feature

🖊Prototype

With our team’s initial ideas in place, we began to mock them up as Mid-Fidelity wireframes on Figma. This gave us the opportunity to implement Meetup’s UI (including typescale), decide on the placement of text and imagery, and solidify how the details of the feature would operate.

🔍Test

Our team recognised the need to be able to respond quickly to changes in user expectations and market requirements. Through the adoption of Agile we were able to incorporate user feedback into our designs early, allowing us to make changes quickly and minimise risk for the project.

We carried forward the mid-fidelity prototypes for testing. We conducted unmoderated testing through Maze, which gave us heat maps and the confidence levels of our 7 participants.

Full view of usability testing with heat maps on Maze.

During user-testing, we found that 100% of users completed all tasks with the expected paths. However, the heat maps revealed that users had a high rate of mis-clicks for the home screen when given the task to join the Newbie community and again when asked to find more details about Newbie community.

Failed Task: Join the newbie community
Confidence Level ranging from 1–10

The confidence level averaged 8/10 — when we asked our testers for feedback, a recurring theme was that the copy wasn’t clear enough. The “Newbie” button went through various iterations to reach full clarity. Between Button 2 and Button 3, our team engaged in a quick round of A/B testing with a small group of 5 testers. 100% of testers understood the intended result of Button 3.

To further refine the Newbie feature, we introduced a scrollable element on the main screen. This helped to reduce visual overload and mental fatigue and break the information into easily digestible segments. A bottom scroll bar clarified the length of the content. A call-to-action button to join and browse events in Meetup’s classic orange-red kept in line with the current theme, with a complimentary blue used for the Newbie hub.

Full High Fidelity Prototype

Next Steps

If our team had more time to work on this project, we would have liked to expand on the profile section with “newbie badges”, as you may have noticed these were absent from the final product. Further usability tests on the final prototype would also have been preferable, and if our team had a broader timescale this would have been where we would have headed next.

Key Takeaways

During this project, I noted the importance of clear communication and the necessity of always checking back in with the brief and user data to ensure time is utilised efficiently — if there is even a slight lack of communication, errors can be made that can eat into the project timescale, which in turn can cause internal tension. Productive conversations with open, clear and concise feedback were tantamount to the success of the project. Encouraging and facilitating an open and communicative culture is something I will bring forward with me as my career in UX progresses.

Thanks for reading! 🌈

If you’re interested in my work, check out my portfolio at amber-plant.co.uk

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