Before Secret and Whisper, there was Yask it, a social media platform for anonymous free speech. The vision of the founder was to encourage participation in local communities through open and anonymous discussion. Its point of difference from existing platforms was to utilize device-level identity to hold anonymous users accountable. This was done using community-aggregated abuse reporting.
The Yask it iOS and web app were tested and used by pilot communities at University of California, Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz, and a youth hostel in San Francisco. In total, about 700 unique devices downloaded the app.
The founder worked closely with customers to understand their needs and identify problems. The biggest usability issue was that the existing user interface, although inventive, was cumbersome and challenging to use. Another issue was that many users did not trust in the app’s promise of anonymity. Additionally, the app needed a professional visual redesign. The existing version had a scrappy design that connoted a darker, more negative image of secrecy, all of which worked against the founder’s vision of an open, trustworthy place to discuss issues.
The founder and I worked closely together to revise the user interface and interaction design, and I led the visual interface and splash screen redesign.
The founder had created a site outline and set of user groups and scenarios based on research and interviews. From that information, I created personas, user flows, interface flows, and a site map diagram to show the complete system. The diagram was edited collaboratively using Keynote and PowerPoint.
The founder also created preliminary UI sketches, which I fleshed out in rapid, iterative rounds. To improve on the clunky navigation, I pulled from standards in the iOS Human Interface Guidelines document, and researched competitive apps and mobile design patterns. Iterations were tested on the pilot communities; tests showed that the revised UI was much easier to use.
Visually, we chose the iconic fist image to symbolize the power of the people to express their voice. I lightened the interface and chose a palette of warmer, earthier colors, and a neutral person icon. These design elements gave the app a more open, friendly feel and helped convey trust.
We created and launched the redesign to coincide with the US Presidential Elections of 2012, with the goal of using that topic to quickly grow the user base. The app was a short-term success among its user communities. In the long-term, though, not enough content was generated to continue to keep users engaged.