When Meetup recently redesigned their mobile app, the calendar of events view was removed. The app now relied on a card based design based around topics. My fellow researchers and I wanted to evaluate how users preferred to navigate the Meetup application on mobile, by introducing a calendar view option in the navigation system. Participants would interact with a high fidelity prototype in order to find an event. They would then be given free choice to use either the card/topic or calendar based navigation. For the actual evaluation, we used a semi structured observation method that encouraged the participants to talk aloud during their session.
Task Conflicts –
Although Group leaders are able to give descriptions about the event, Members may be unclear as to the intended outcome. They may have different expectations for each meeting, or are not fully aware of the purpose of the meeting. Email reminders are sent out prior to an event, however there is the possibility that these will be overlooked. Overlooked emails could contain important updates to the event, which the member will miss.
Affective Conflicts –
New members to a group might have little or no prior interaction before the initial meeting; existing members might offer little information in their bio, creating uncertainty about who the active members are; and due to the casual nature of the meetings, members may not feel motivated to actually attend. Also, long time members may feel that their Meetup is being taken away from them if there is a large influx of new members who attempt to start calling the shots.
Process Conflicts –
The RSVP system can give a false sense of who will be attending, causing under or overestimates for meeting locations, amenities, or costs. Disagreements over how to communicate location changes since messages can be sent out to everyone, a post can be made in the discussion forum, or the location field can simply be edited. Also, agreeing on the timing of meetings can become a challenge for a diverse group as work, school, and family commitments all compete for the same time.
Proposed Solution –
Shortly after we started this project, Meetup proceeded to completely remove the calendar views/features from the mobile version of the app. Taking the other conflicts into consideration, we felt this was a glaring omission and presented a substantial opportunity. Meetup removed a valued part of their application and introduced Task and Process conflicts. Users were no longer able to see days of upcoming events, only items events from the past. They could no longer use the app to plan out events or sync with their existing calendar. Although we see the value of emphasizing categories to find interesting events, why introduce conflicts for scheduling? Because of this change in the Meetup app we moved forward with developing a prototype that would include this missing feature.
For our evaluation we had 7 participants: 5 Male and 2 Female. The age ranges of our participants fell into three brackets, the breakdown of which is: 18 – 24 years (3 participants), 25 – 34 years (3), and 45 – 54 (1 participant). Overall we feel this is a good sample size of appreciable variety.
Feedback from the participants was that the topics view was very accessible and gave a high affordance to find quality events. Their interests are already captured by the box on the topic view, so they can easily find Meetup’s that could be beneficial to them. Participants also felt a high amount of confidence in the quality of events and the quality of the people. Having pictures of people at a Meetup in both the topics view and on a Meetup’s info page makes it feel more personable. To quote one of the participants. “There’s just something about seeing people smiling that makes it better.”
With regards to the calendar view, the participants overwhelmingly felt that this was the least effective method to find events. Only seeing what is available over the next week felt too limiting to the users. The feedback was that the calendar view would be effective to manage existing events you subscribe to, but in a very limited capacity. We recognize that our participants were all novice users and hypothesize that expert users may find more value in the calendar view.
SUS Score –
The converted SUS score is an 85, which reinforces the ease of use the participants all expressed.
Due to the overwhelming response to the Topics view, we suggest looking at ways to redesign the topics cards to increase membership. One such method would be to include the avatar of a user’s social connections in the card (perhaps via an integration with other social networks). According to Kraut et al., showing existing social ties to a potential user increase their potential bond to a community. It shows the user that people they already have a social tie with are engaged with the community, thus encouraging them to join if there is interest in that group.
Another possibility could be looking at the user’s tie strength  to a given group or event and displaying that strength as a number overlay on the card. The number could be called something like an “Interest Score” and pull data from the user’s various social media streams. Using location and context awareness as well as applying data visualizations could potentially improve the user experience of, and increase engagement with Meetup.com and its mobile app.
 Kraut, R. E., Resnick, P., Kiesler, S., Burke, M., Chen, Y., Kittur, N., … & Riedl, J. (2012). Building Successful Online Communities: Evidence-Based Social Design. MIT Press.
 Gilbert, E., & Karahalios, K. (2009, April). Predicting Tie Strength with Social Media. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 211-220). ACM.
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