UX Case Study: Make WhatsApp a little more comfortable | by Prerna Rawat | Jul, 2021

Prerna Rawat

So I was asked to choose any app that I use and think of ways to improve its user experience. I chose WhatsApp and I promise you this is not going to be some redesign or anything of that sort. This case study is about solving the existing pain points of the user to provide a better user experience.

WhatsApp is an online social media platform founded by Brian Acton in 2009. Currently, WhatsApp has over 2.5 billion users from all over the world. Not only can use it to chat, but WhatsApp can also be used to make calls, video calls, and even update status. Its best feature has to be instant messaging.

I have been using this app since I got my own mobile phone. WhatsApp is the app that has to be there on your phone. Why did I choose it? Because WhatsApp is the social media that I use most of the time. It is delightfully easy to use and very helpful for people’s communication, WhatsApp avoids any unnecessary features and that is what makes it so easy to use, of course, as sophisticated as an application there is always a scope of betterment. As a longtime user of WhatsApp myself, I experienced some pain points, considering those pain points I try to think about how it can be improved.

The first step was to understand my users of course. And here is the first difficulty: WhatsApp users seem to be a pretty large target group!

Indeed, there are 2.5 billion WhatsApp users around the globe, mainly between 18 and 44 years old. It is used in more than 180 countries in 60 different languages. 400 mn people in India use WhatsApp. You can find whatsapp installed in the phone of people of any age group.

While Whatsapp is great for instant messaging and group chat, I think it might use some updated features. Some problems that I face while using WhatsApp –

1. Scanability in WhatApp chat is poor. Group chats and normal chats are all mixed up. There’s no way to easily scan for group chats in WhatsApp except search and scroll through the end. You can’t categorize your chats or make them distinctive. Wouldn’t it be great if there’s some way to distinguish between the normal chats and group chats which will save time and trouble to search and scroll?

2. When you mute a group chat, WhatsApp still shows me the number of messages I am missing out on. This creates a FOMO, and I check the messages anyway, which leads to frustration and time wasted.

3. If you are the kind of person who has a lot of contacts on WhatsApp and your inbox is always filled with new chats then there is a slight chance that some chats might be left unread. There is not any feature on WhatsApp through which you can check all the unread chats in one place. You have to scroll through the whole inbox to find unread chats.

The above mentioned are the problems that I pointed out and I believe that they can be improved to give the users a nice and better experience. While writing down these problems, I got curious and thought I am the only one who faces these issues or the other people who use WhatsApp do too.

The good thing about a well-known app is that you can easily find users to talk to. So I spoke to ten people in my circle who use WhatsApp, and I found out that I was not the only one who thinks that WhatsApp could improve.

9 out of 10 said they do empathize with me on problem number 1

8 out of 10 said they do empathize with me on problem number 2

4 out of 10 said they do empathize with me on problem number 3

Apart from that while talking to people I stumbled upon another problem that is you can’t send a message to a person without saving his/her number on Whatsapp first.

Consider a scenario where you quickly have to send some important documents to a person you don’t know personally on WhatsApp but there’s no way for you to send it without saving his/her contact number. When I asked people to state their concern regarding saving someone’s contact number first to send a message on WhatsApp, they told me that privacy is a big concern here because profile pictures and the about me section are kinda personal things and they don’t want some random person to see their profile picture and the about me section.

I decided to make this problem number fourth to solve.

4. In WhatsApp it’s mandatory to save a person’s contact number first to send a message. This is not a very favorable situation where for some reason you want to send a message to a person you don’t know personally or you just don’t want to save anyone’s number yet.

I didn’t want to make this case study lengthy so I decided to jump to the solution after talking to users and discussing the problems. The solution to the above-mentioned problems is quite straightforward. WhatsApp needs to introduce some new functionalities to provide a better user experience.

Problem 1

While talking about the issue where group chat and normal chat are mixed up in WhatsApp, I first tried to figure out how the competitors are doing it. I only use one app other than WhatsApp which is Telegram. Telegram has come up with a wonderful solution for this problem. Telegram lets you make folders and put chats in them and that folder is visible as a tab. You can make different folders as per your need and categorize your chats. I loved this feature of telegram.

I was aiming for something like this but not exactly this.

Problem Statement – How might I enable users to distinguish or categorize group and normal chats on WhatsApp?

I brainstormed about the possible ideas. I come up with a bunch of solutions.

  • There could be a default word “GROUP” written in front of each group’s name to distinguish the group chats from normal chats. That way it would be easy to scan for group chats.
  • WhatsApp can use the feature “Assign a color” where you can categorize the group chats by assigning a color to them. Assigning a color will make the Group chat more distinguishable from normal chats.
  • Assigning a color to a group chat will also change the message counter’s color, which will help differentiate each group chat.

These functions will save time and help organize chats better.

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