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TikTok

Case Study: TikTok Re-Imagined For The Content Creator

Creative, But also a Flawed Popularity Contest

My goal was to improve the app for content creators with a more organized & intuitive profile interface, while creating icons that are more specific to functionality, and offer scheduling, filtering and editing feed capabilities. Additionally, I was inclined to create a collaboration feature that allows creators to obtain a higher discoverability rate & reach, promotes equality, and facilitates collaboration and engagement among viewers.

Deliverables

  1. Ux & UI Design
  2. Info. Architecture
  3. user flows
  4. Prototype
  5. User Research
  6. User Testing
  7. Interaction Design

Applications

  1. Adobe xd
  2. illustrator
  3. photoshop
  4. after effects
  5. adobe rush
  6. Figma
  7. TikTOK
Mock up

What is TikTok?

In 2020, when the world hunkered down at home, people ventured online to trade ideas and TikTok transformed from a dance app for Gen Z into an authentic intergenerational opportunity to reach the masses at scale. From life hacks to  survival tips to trivia and comedy, TikTok is transforming how people gain knowledge and engage with each other.

The app released in 2016 but gained its widespread popularity during the pandemic, in 2020. Needless to say, TikTok is the leading destination for creating and sharing short videos.  Viewers can watch and discover millions of personalized short videos based on the personalized algorithm of the “For you page.” Their mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.

No matter the generation, chances are you have an account, and have found yourself scrolling endlessly until your eyes are sore…. or let’s face it, until the  “stop! You’ve been scrolling for way too long” notification appears in your feed. Or maybe, you consider yourself a content creator.

Creative, But Also A Flawed
Popularity Contest

I consider myself a tech savvy person, not your average content creator, but if you asked me if i could easily create a TikTok without having played around on it first or how to find any of my assets on my profile, I’d tell you, no, and that the current interface is not organized. Also why bother? The chances of going viral are so slim, right? That’s the average content creator's main objective - to get discovered, to go viral and to get TikTok Famous. They want to create exciting, engaging, interesting and passionate content that interests others and eventually get paid for it. Inevitably all through an organized, intuitive interface.   

Except, there's a problem. TikTok makes content creators' main objective hard to obtain. TikTok is based around the “For You Page,” which utilizes advanced AI capabilities to serve content to individuals without needing any signals by users to determine interests. The AI pushes millions of peoples content out, but somehow still makes it incredibly difficult to get discovered, if you're not already TikTok famous. It’s unfortunate because if your first couple of viewers are uninterested and scroll past your video then your post likely will not be shown on many other “For You Pages.” Content creators are well aware of this after the countless hours spent creating and editing content, and having received no reward. They feel defeated. They fear they’ll never go viral, and that there is inequality across the platform. They believe that the algorithm is unpredictable and plays favorites. The other problem is the lack of organization the app has to offer for content creators. Content creators want things made easy and intuitive if they’re spending a considerable amount of time and energy on the app.

“They fear they’ll never go viral, and that there is inequality across the platform.”

The App Store Doesn't Lie

After reading countless reviews on the app store, dating anywhere from recent months to over a year ago, I discovered that content creators speak and validate the same issues repeatedly. Some reviews opened my eyes to issues that aren't in plain sight, and will benefit the content creators' experience in the future, if features are added or improved.

Discoverability & Viral Status:

“Please help content creators and allow their content to be seen more. We are all struggling in this pandemic and I feel this would be a huge help for smaller creators in the creator fund.”

“I'm almost positive that the app is rigged. The app is a high school popularity contest in virtual form. There are so many deserving creators that go unseen on the app including me. Big accounts get bigger and smaller accounts work their tail off to go unseen.”

“I'm not getting any likes on anything? Things just aren't fair across the platform. Everyone should have the same status, let the people decide and stop having so much control.”

“I had some videos go viral which is pretty cool, but the algorithm is so unpredictable sometimes that most of my content is barely seen even with the use of trends and huge amounts of effort.”

“I feel they push your videos out when they want to - They mute the growing ones. I don't feel l'Il ever go viral. They want you to pay to get boosted but I want to earn my followers and likes.”

“TikTok participates in algorithm alteration. It's not right and it's not fair.”

“Hopefully one morning we will wake up and have millions of followers & views, and be in the TikTok Content Creator Program monetized for a sustainable income and endorsement deals that allows us to pursue content creating full time.”

Organization & Scheduling:

Tiktoks Current Interface

TikTok's Current interface

“All your favorite-ed videos are in the same place with one problem - You can favorite thousands and have no way of finding that one video from a couple weeks ago. The app desperately needs organization. Favorites should have a sorting feature to group videos manually.”

TikTok does not offer any mass editing features, or filtering features, making the experience of finding a particular past liked or saved video a nuisance to find. There are features that are buried within the apps interface, for instance, your previously viewed or watch history. This feature would be useful, but yet again, most users don’t know this feature exists because it’s not easily found.

Lack of organization

TikTok's Current interface

“The draft button is not apparent enough and it’s becoming a problem. People are fond of their privacy, yet they still love the idea of making videos. This leads to many creators making little cringe-y videos that they would then just save to their drafts to post later or to just save the sound. People have been accidentally posting their drafts. Not only is this a nuisance to mentally check every time that you are not posting a draft, but it can be very compromising to creators who need videos to be only saved in their drafts, away from their followers.

Some buttons, including the “Drafts” button,  are horribly placed. Therefore, resulting in accidental clicks or posts of private content you never had intentions on sharing.

lack of organization

TikTok's Current interface

“Don't like the new draft page - You can't tell what you already put hashtags on and you lose track of videos you already used or want to use in the future. Maybe put a way to put a checkmark on the videos you’ve posted so creators can easily tell which assets they’ve used”

The “Drafts” feature desperately needs organization and its own section on the interface. These are your working videos that you want to come back to in the future. Content creators need organization and a specific space to hold and group their assets for each idea they have. They might have numerous audio files, clips, graphics, etc that they want to include and these assets should all be readily available for them to manage on TikTok Drafts interface.

Tedious Tasks

TikTok's Current interface

“Please make an option to delete all your videos at once or delete multiple at a time. I don't understand, two years ago TikTok deleted all of my old videos and now they're back? I don't want to have to delete them manually!!

"I feel like we should have the option to schedule our posts on the app, to make it easier to create posts consistently without us having to worry about timing. On tumblr we're able to put our posts in a queue or schedule them to be released at a specific time.”

Again, content creators want things made easy. Currently, TikTok does not provide a mass editing feature for users who want to mass delete or mass edit videos at one time. Instead, they need to manually delete one by one, which is tedious. Additionally, users would like a feature that planning easier for them.

Key Takeaways & Improvements:

  1. Organization, Functionality & Intuition
  2. Facilitate Collaboration, Interaction, Equality and Discoverability

Overall, content creators fear there is inequality across the platform and believe the algorithm is unpredictable, limits discoverability, plays favorites and makes it difficult to achieve viral status or “going viral.” There is a lack of organization throughout the app’s interface, especially for content creators & on the user profile. Content creators need features that are going to support them in achieving their goals and alleviate tedious tasks.

Shaping The Path:

After taking all of the reviews & suggestions into consideration, I began to create a list of improvements and features, and grouped them by the discovered takeaways.

Creating a list was crucial before I started re-designing for a couple of reasons:

  • Allowed for me to obtain an overview of issues
  • Ideate on solutions and new features that would help benefit the Content Creator
  • Receive professional feedback from both an industry product manager & friend who works at TikTok
  • Enabled me to organize & prioritize my workflow approach
  • Prioritize the importance of each feature, the navigation, & how each works

From here, I shaped the information into a flowchart.

TikTok Proflile Page

navigation Flow

TikTok Proflile Page

Task: creating a Collaboration post

Putting The Pieces Together

Problem #1: Organization, Functionality & Intuition

Mission:  Improve the app for content creators with a more organized & intuitive profile interface, while creating icons that are more specific to functionality, and offer scheduling, filtering and editing feed capabilities. 

Now comes the fun part - Redesigning the profile interface. 

Designing the profile interface sets the foundation for the rest of the workflow and project. I needed a clear and organized map of all the content on the profile page before I could start designing anything else, like the filters, editing icons, the collaboration feature (which I will talk about next) and so forth.

With that in mind, I obtained all the screenshots of TikTok’s current interface, so I could use them as a reference as I started to create my color palette, rearrange and play with layouts, and then design each and every icon.

Below are some early drafts of layouts that I mocked up and discussed with my clients.

Artboards

Once I landed on a layout that I was confident with, I moved on to the functionality of the icons, created the overlays, wireframes, created interactions and animations.

Comparison of Old Interface vs. New Interface

So content creators weren’t guessing where the features moved, I created learning prompts to appear when the profile page launches.
See below -

Problem #2: Lack of Equality, Discoverability,
Interaction & Collaboration

Mission:  Create a feature that allows creators to obtain a higher discoverability rate & reach, promotes equality, facilitates collaboration and engagement among viewers.

It’s clear that one of the most distinct complaints within the reviews among content creators was that the platform seems to have an unpredictable algorithm and to some, plays favorites. Content creators fear they will never go viral. 

After doing my research, I knew I wouldn't be able to solve TikTok’s favoritism and algorithm issue, but I thought what if there was a collaboration feature that allows multiple people to go viral at once? 

What is it?  A collaboration feature. A single post that appears in 2 different users' feeds (lives on both profile grids.) On TikTok’s current interface, if your collaborators are reposting the same content by duetting or stitching your videos (which are both still valid functions of the app), you’re competing with yourself for views and likes. With a Collab post, a view from one account benefits both accounts.

The Benefits?

  • Both account names appear on the header
  • Shared to both sets of followers - creating an equal opportunity for both individuals to achieve a higher reach and discoverability
  • Shared view count, likes, comments, etc. 
  • Coordinate a brands presence with the influencers promoting it
  • A way for brands to leverage the feature and optimize sales
  • Removal of duplicate content resulting in more refined feeds
  • Both accounts go viral

Collaborations aren’t just restricted to brands and influencers. The purpose of this feature is to promote collaboration and engagement between content creators, large or small. The feature allows influencers to reach out to their followers across multiple accounts, and followers can collaborate with their favorite influencers.

Sounds Familiar?  Sounds similar to Instagram’s collaboration feature, right? It is. But, unlike Instagram, TikTok is universally diversified and appeals to a larger demographic. It relies on its advanced AI capabilities to serve better content to individuals without needing explicit signals by users to determine interests. Instagram focuses on the network layer and on explicit signals by users. Not only can engagements using the collab feature quickly build up since they are coming from 2 different communities, the TikTok AI will consider the high engagement rate and make your collab post visible to more users. Therefore, I believe that this feature will actually benefit TikTok & content creators more than Instagram.

The Collaboration Feature

Overview at a glance

Does it work?

Since this case study is focused on Content Creators and not viewers, I chose 5 Content Creators for user testing. All participants are experienced creators and are incredibly familiar with the current/old TikTok interface and user flow. These creators have 20 or more posts, and have gone viral at least once.

Testing Goals:

  • Identify design improvement opportunities
  • Identify if the new interface is intuitive & organized
  • Identify if users can easily navigate through the collaboration feature
  • Identify information architecture improvement opportunities
  • Identify if UX is more efficient or frustrating in comparison to the old interface


I opted for Content Creators to provide feedback through remote recordings of themselves navigating through the prototype. I had them speak out loud in real time so I could better understand their interactions and behaviors, while keeping in mind the questionnaire I had provided them to answer amidst & after they finished with the prototype. It was beneficial to hear them speak and navigate at the same time, as it provided feedback on specific design choices, and whether or not these design choices were successes, failures, or surprises.

Measuring Success:

I studied each recording, took note of their behaviors and analyzed the answers from the questionnaire. These insights shed light on improvements to be made prior to moving on to the, “hypothetical,” development stage. In the end, only a couple of revisions to the UI and interactions needed to move forward. Specifically to maintain TikTok’s authenticity when clicking into and scrolling through videos.

Overall, the user feedback verified that the new UI of the profile page, added features and improvements are a success. All of the content creators love the new profile view and options to filter and adjust all at the creators fingertips. They were easily able to navigate through to the collaboration feature.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to test the actual success of the collaboration feature, as this needs to be tested at a much larger scale and implemented into the app itself.

Next Steps - Testing Before Launching Globally:

In terms of next steps, I'd have to do user testing at a much larger scale - have both content creators that are familiar with the app's current interface and aspiring content creators who’ve never used the app before, and test it. From there, I’d measure how intuitive it is for the ones that have never used TikTok before and see if it makes the user experience more efficient or frustrating with the experienced/familiar users.

I would test the feature in select markets before launching globally or to the general public. I would observe the rate and comparison between number of likes on an original post vs a collab post, views, comments etc. I would look at the number of follows they originally started with and see how the number changes over time during the testing period.

How does Instagram’s Collaboration Feature Measure up?

As mentioned earlier, Instagram has a similar collaboration feature. Let’s look at the comparison between how the feature works on instagram and if the feature has been rated successful in increasing discoverability and engagement. 

Instagrams Collaboration feature works super similarly to the way I designed TikTok’s feature, however, the flow in which you create one is a little different. Instagrams feature is located under “tag people,” and not as obvious as my interface designed for TikTok. See below.

Instagram Comparison

User engagement is key to a social platform's growth. With that said, I dove into the influencer marketing spectrum to collect some data.

In this new age of content creation, stale and formulaic strategies that dominated feeds in the past will no longer cut it. To cut through the clutter, brands need to invest in co-creation with creators (and their communities) and should provide creators with a platform to amplify their presence and voice, especially since influencer-created content draws 60% more engagement than brand-created content alone.

Influencer marketing, which involves a collaboration between brands and influencers, is a powerful approach that can help companies grow. It’s a marketing strategy that has been successfully used by thousands of businesses and brands and has experienced continued growth over the past decade.

Because Instagrams Collaboration feature has not been globally released long enough to obtain such performance metrics from a macro standpoint, I used the below stats in projecting Instagrams Collaboration features future success.

  • According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the market grew from $1.7 billion in 2016to $13.8 billion, in 2021.
  • The market is projected to expand to a whopping $16.4 billion industry in 2022
  • Micro-influencers are expected to play a bigger role in 2022, as their audiences tend to be more engaged and are more likely to take action. They exude authenticity, relatability, and credibility, which today’s audiences value.
  • Due to influencer marketing increasing, global sales through social commerce platforms are estimated to reach $958 billion in 2022.  

According to the above, I conducted a comparison between a couple of influencers and brands using the collaboration feature together and apart

Such metric research included comparisons of the following:

  • The number of views between both a regular brand and influencer post vs posts that have used the collaboration feature together
  • The number of comments & likes between both a regular brand and influencer post vs posts that have used the collaboration feature together
  • Accumulation of followers, for both the brand and influencer, specifically after any recent collaboration postings

Below you can clearly see the difference between the amount of likes and comments on a collab post with Hailey Bieber and the brand, rhode, versus likes and comments on posts on each account's content individually. When Hailey Bieber collaborates with the brand, this post gets more discoverability because of her 46.9M following.

Measuring Success

Key Takeaways & Learnings:

In consensus, my overall mission was to create a more organized experience for the content creator, giving them options to mass edit a feed and filter through their feed, a new collaboration feature that allows creators to obtain a higher discoverability and reach on the platform and also eliminates duplication on the average users feed and benefits brands and influencers for partnerships. I believe I did just that. 

As a case study, this truly showed me how useful and connected user feedback and design decisions can be. As a designer, I learned not only do I love the aesthetics and designing the User Interface and interactions, but how much I love to seek out the problems and design solutions. A huge takeaway for me was the importance of prioritization, knowing how many improvements were needed and having to design solutions to the most consistent pain points.

Sources:

https://influencermarketinghub.com/influencer-marketing-statistics/
https://www.wgsn.com/insight/article/94260#page8

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House of Vagabonds