VSCO is a photo-sharing and editing app that takes a twist on the classic social media experience. The platform is devoid of likes, comments, and follower counts which allows the user to focus on the photo-sharing experience instead of worrying about media engagement. VSCO encourages its users to express themselves and find the content that speaks to them.
On the discover page, there are photo challenges, editorials, and broad categories that are supposed to attract the interest of the user and assist them in finding new content. However, many users find that the discover page is confusing and severely lacking in content that is compelling to them, and thus, they do not interact with it.
People wish to find more photos and videos that align with their interests instead of relying on arbitrary topics that mean nothing to them. How might VSCO allow for a deeper sense of community while enabling users to find content that speaks to them?
The Discover Page Disappoints
During my interviews, I wanted to understand how users go about finding new profiles and how they discover content. Here’s what I learned:
1. The discover page is underutilized because the categories are uninspiring and the search feature is not very accessible.
I never really check the discover page since it’s not for me. It’s too generalized and not catered to what I like. Also, I’ve never really payed attention the search function.
2. Users look for posts they have a connection with.
I notice new content through the reposts of the accounts I follow and through people’s personal collections.
3. It’s hard to find accounts and even friends to follow from just using the app.
My friends will tell me to follow them or I find people’s VSCO accounts through their Instagram biography. Otherwise, I do not know how to find accounts that interest me.
4. Users do want to find more content that speaks to them.
I would like to use VSCO more, however, since I can’t find people to follow, my feed remains unchanged and I don’t feel incentivized to check regularly.
VSCO users want to find material that speaks to them, but they can’t do that well because:
They don’t want to look through content they don’t have a connection with.
They cannot find users they relate to.
Approaching the Final Design
After going through several packs of sticky notes, three key opportunity areas were identified: Profile, Posts, and Actions to Accounts. From these spaces, I decided to look into three possible solutions that would tackle the People Problem.
- Account Reposts: Similar to reposting photos, users can repost their favorite accounts. This allows other individuals to easily discover new profiles that inspire them right within their feed; instead of having to dig through search results.
2. Muses: Users can come together and connect with other users with similar interests. These communities, or “Muses”, promote the discovery of other creatives and imaginative content.
3. Highlights: Users can add content to their highlights that will appear to their followers at the top of the feed page. This allows the users to see exciting content of other unfamiliar accounts.
To compare each feature, I used a SWOT diagram and constructed a feasibility matrix:
After looking over the results, I decided to move forward with Muses because of its high feasibility/impact and its ability to foster a sense of community between creators who wish to explore their inspirations.
Materializing a Muse
As I reflected on VSCO’s existing information hierarchy, I thought about how to seamlessly integrate the Muses. I wanted to make sure that the feature was noticeable to the users but also situated in a way that did not take away from the app’s principal functions.
Through user testing, I received feedback that accessing the Muses through B was unintuitive and unappealing. Users had difficulties finding the Muses because many individuals do not use the search function and do not think to check there.
Version A made the most sense to users because the discover page is where they would expect to find Muses. In A, the Muses are noticeable since they are at the top of the page, they fit in with VSCO’s current look, and the layout provides the user with a nice overview of the feature. One user was concerned that they might miss out on this feature because they do not visit the discover page.
Users appreciated that entry point C was presented on a page that they frequented often. However, the users did not like how the feed would be split into two components. Users stated that C interrupts the browsing experience, feels out of place, and doesn’t give them a good sense of what the feature actually is.
Ultimately, I decided to move forward with entry point A.
In A, the users liked how the metrics weren't directly on the page. However, they thought the follow button was bulky and they wished the share button was on the front page. In B and C, the users liked the minimal buttons but did not like how the metrics were presented on the page as it seemed very “social-media” like. Users loved that they could switch between top and recent posts in B. In C it was hard to differentiate the follow button from the title and header text. The users were indifferent to the post-engagement buttons.
New and Improved Version B
I decided to pursue B but I reiterated the design to better reflect the users’ feedback.
I decided to choose B to provide the users with an uncomplicated and straightforward way to keep up to date with the Muses they follow.
Piecing Things Together
Applying the visual styles that VSCO currently uses to Muses.
While establishing the visual design elements, I also designed an icon for the Muses. Since the photos will show up in the feed, an icon is needed to differentiate Muse posts from regular posts and republished posts. This design, which draws inspiration from Relationship Circle diagrams, depicts individuality and being a part of a larger circle. This icon matches the minimalistic and sleek design that VSCO embodies and represents what it is like to be a part of a Muse.
Additional Feedback and Final Changes
User testing revealed additional pain points:
- Comprehensive Viewing — while interacting with the discover page, users tried to scroll through Muse categories similarly to how the Challenges section allows for horizontal scrolling
- Viewing the Muses — in addition to viewing the specific Muse posts in the feed and their respective pages, users wondered if there was a way to comprehensively see the posts
New Component: Muse Activity Page
The main feed can be overwhelming at times as it's hard to keep track of what picture is what. Implementing another type of post just adds more clutter to the mix.
One way to alleviate this crowdedness is to provide a separate channel to view the Muses. The user can click on the Muse Activity title which will bring them to a new page. This page will consist of pictures that have been posted to any Muse that the user follows. This separates the Muses from the “main” content of VSCO and makes it easier for the user to view the photos that they are interested in.
Final Flow & Design
VSCO emphasizes the fact that it is a place where individuals can come to find inspiration and explore new ways to create. However, the discover page, where users are supposed to find new content and accounts, is lackluster as it only suggests broad, extraneous topics that do not appeal to the large variety of users on the app. VSCO is missing a way to explore and connect with content that the USER enjoys.
With Muses, the user is at the forefront as they hold the reins in choosing what topics to follow and what topics to interact with. Within the Muses is a community of individuals who can come together and bond over a shared interest. This feature adds a new element that enhances the fact that VSCO is a platform for creatives who are free to express their true selves and connect with other storytellers.
I am not affiliated with VSCO. This was a project for Digital Product Design at Cornell University.