Challenge Accepted: Building echo

To be more awesome?

When I first spoke to echo’s co-founder, I was working a 60 hr week at one of India’s best UX studios. I have to admit, across the genres of apps that I’ve worked on, I’d never had a go at something like echo.

echo is your friendly neighbourhood social planning app. It’s got a simple mission – to help you and your friends have fun. To know more, give the app a spin , use access code fbwelcome

We started off with what we thought was our MVP (Minimal Viable Product). All I did at that point was add a layer of interface design for the app. The plan was to give it a test run and find out what our users thought. Well, that’s when the hypothetical shit hit the fan.

watcha gonna do when they come for you?

Challenge 1

People already have their methods of making plans with friends  which, have become conditional reflexes. We had to disrupt this mechanism. Challenge accepted indeed.

Let’s face it, with or without an app like echo, people have been and will continue making social plans with friends. We spoke to some people who fall into our user base and it turns out there are a variety of ways in which people do this – whatsapp groups, facebook messaging, calls, what have you. Our users regularly use these other apps all the time and are accustomed to them.

So, we went back to the basics – more research. What is the hardest part about orchestrating social gatherings? It was clear that the initiators suffer the most. They have to lead all conversation, keep trying their luck with different groups and then track all those parallel conversations. After all this, just imagine, someone puts up a picture of a cute kitten or something and all that effort’s down the drain.

clever, clever plan

The initiator became our primary persona, these only had the persuasive powers to switch a bunch of people to echo. For them we wanted to make it as seamless as possible to make a plan and have a place where all relevant info about the plan would be displayed. Hence, ‘make plan’ journey & ‘plan info’ were birthed.

Challenge 2

After attempting the herculean task of disrupting existing habits, we now have to get our users to create new ones. Learn new processes which no app had offered before.

Now, if we were a Tinder, a first of its kind app, then it would be great to introduce a shiny new process to be able to achieve the purpose of our app. They said swipe left to discard and right to express interest. With echothe effort to learn new interaction could negate the benefits gained from using echo.

We did not realize this right away, after all there was no precedent to echo. So we went on as gunslingers, building interactions that we thought were both super cool and novel. As we took the prototype to our users, we realized they seemed to take a while to grasp these. If we weren’t sitting in front of them, they’d probably uninstall the app right away.

Countless articles and dozens of app I’d designed, did not come to the rescue. We went back to the drawing board created new wireframes, tested these with users, iterated & pushed out design 2.0

Plan info evolution
Evolution of the plan info…

We leveraged all that our users already knew from other apps, we held their hands when they explored echo the first few times. We added more context, more familiarity, more relevance.

Challenge 3

Echo is like a vitamin, not an antibiotic of the app world.

Taking a step back and looking at echo on the whole, is it an app people can survive without? Probably yes. It is a must have? We want it to be – just like Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram. The world now wants everything to get simple, seamless, hassle-free. However, with echo these benefits were not obvious. The people we went to, with prior appointments for usability testing, were quite keen on using echo. Nonetheless, if they hadn’t caught a glimpse, they may not have been with us. Now we know that if we just got some conversation going, we could be loved.

We didn’t really know how to face this. So we did/are doing everything. We write better descriptions on app stores. We speak to people. We blog, we tweet, we post. More than anything else, we onboard users.

We have a multi-layered onboarding process – it starts with receiving an invite from a friend. This invite takes you to our web app where we show you the glimpse of the plan.

Glimpse of our 'new user' onboarding journey

Glimpse of our 'new user' onboarding journey
Glimpse of our ‘new user’ onboarding journey

We let users, take advantage of our web app to get acquainted with echo and then make a conscious decision to download echo as & when they deem fit. If you do choose to get echo, then we have some visuals and punchlines which attempt at summarizing what echo is with the least possible effort on your side. Finally, as and when you unravel the mystery that a new app brings, we hold your hand through it.

There you have it folks, some of the challenges we faced building echo. I’m hoping to write a ‘Part 2’ because honestly, I just know there are going to be more   🙂

Hope you liked it, I sure loved the challenges. If this has made you somewhat curious about echo –  give the app a spin , use access code fbwelcome

2 thoughts on “Challenge Accepted: Building echo”

  1. Good writeup.

    Just curious to know, when I am invited, I have option to ‘join’ or ‘decline’ but if i am undecided then do I have the option to say – ‘not sure’ (remind me)

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