Scheduling on Messenger: A UX Case Study

This study focuses on design for iOS.

I use Facebook Messenger all the time, for an embarrassing number of hours per day. But for good reason. Messenger is how I stay in touch with friends and schedule meet-ups. It’s the main hub for a (virtual) social life.

Lately, I’ve been relying on Messenger more and more to organize online gatherings, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. All my friends communicate using Messenger, but having to send Zoom links, polls to gauge friends’ interests or availabilities, and meeting reminders either clutter the chat or disappear from sight (and from mind) as conversations move forward.

Was anyone else feeling frustrated?

User Research: Pain Points

I asked 13 users to tell me about their experience using Messenger and scheduling or organizing through the app. Here’s what I learned:

1. Users don’t like scrolling back.

“It can be kind of annoying to realize I have to follow up on something, and then I have to swipe to look for the convo.”

2. When it comes to scheduling, users care about the outcome, and not as much about the process of getting there.

“I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m not interested in seeing the updates on who answers the polls. I feel like I only care about the end result.”

3. Users care most about the conversation.

“When polls are there, it takes up more space than the convo.”

I discovered that after people set dates and times for meetings, the schedulers would neglect to send reminders, and members of rest of the group chat would often forget about the meeting. The reason for this was that once a date was decided, the chat would continue, and the arranged time would be buried behind text bubbles.

Left: poll updates take up space. Right: people forget their meetings.

People care about and want to focus on the conversation.

Scheduling is important, but they don’t want to be distracted by it.

People want to see meeting times and poll outcomes, but they don’t want clutter.

The Process

My friend Devin and I got to work writing our ideas down. We came up with some possible options:

  1. Silent reminders: Users can set reminders in the chat for decided meeting times.
  2. Minimal interference: Instead of updating polls in the chat every time, include a method for checking poll results.
  3. Ability to choose: Users can “subscribe” to poll or reminder notifications.

I then realized that I didn’t have to only pick one; I could combine some or all of these ideas.

Left: real sticky notes. Right: virtual stickies (thanks Miro)

I sketched some possible ways to include visible reminders without hindering the texting experience. The navigation needed to be organized in a way where scheduling-related buttons can be next to each other. Additionally, since I wanted to incorporate both ideas for polls and reminders, I didn’t want them to run into each other if users wanted to see polls and reminders at the same time. The placement had to make the experience seamless and enjoyable.

First, I considered possible icons for the reminder button. I decided on the clock icon, since Facebook already uses bells for notifications, the list looks a little too similar to Messenger’s poll icon, and the pencil was not as clear an indicator of scheduling as the clock would be.

I considered two options for reminder entry points. One possible entry point is in the upper corner next to the call buttons, and the other is where Messenger currently has their entry point for polls. I discovered that Messenger also had two entry points for GIFs — one was through the smiley emoticon in the text field, and the other was through the “+” button.

GIFs have two entry points. Why not replace GIF entry point 1 with a reminder entry point?

I toyed with putting the reminder icon in the upper right, but since multiple users also had complaints about accidentally pressing the “like” button instead of the “send” button, I decided to replace GIF entry point 1 with an entry point for reminders. Users won’t want to accidentally call the entire chat!

For consistency, I mimicked the format of creating polls for creating reminders.

Side by side comparison for creating reminders and polls

Now for the trickier part: how to integrate visual indicators of currently running reminders and polls without interfering with the user’s conversations?

After creating a reminder or poll, how should they appear on the screen?

A. Bar at top of chat

B. Drop-down

C. Buttons that result in a drop-down or modal

A (a bar at the top) would be unobtrusive. B (drop-down) would be good to show poll information. C (top icons) was also a possibility, but in that case it would make more sense to have that location be the entry point. C also seemed to contribute to a few too many buttons on the interface, so C was ruled out.

I also wanted users to have as few taps as possible to get to reminders and/or polls. We decided to try A, and integrate the drop-down / expand idea for polls.

Since poll creator and poll participants will want to see poll results eventually, I considered two possible ways. One would be to have poll results appear as a drop-down, and the other would be to leave it as it appears currently.

Two possible options for poll results

Option A:

  • Pros: The running poll is located at the top of the screen, so it would make sense to have results drop down.
  • Cons: It looks messy. There are too many things happening at once.
  • Cons: It doesn’t fit with the pattern of features appearing in an upward motion. When finding GIFs, uploading photos, and choosing emojis, the content moves in the same upward direction.

Option B:

  • Pros: The current method Messenger has for viewing polls is cleaner, since the focus is completely on the poll results, without the distraction of an ongoing texting conversation.
  • Cons: Does it make less sense visually for something to come up after tapping on a bar on top?

A had more cons than B, so I decided to go with B.

After testing the prototype on users, I ran into a second problem. While users found it easy to create and find reminders and polls, they wanted to know if they would be able to create multiple reminders.

Prototype testing in Figma!

If users create multiple reminders and polls, it will clutter the screen. In the case where multiple polls were created, only the most recent one should show as a bar. Other running polls could be accessible through a carousel.

I liked the arrangement of D the most, as it fit into the overall visual flow.

Both the reminder and poll bar should only show the most recent update, but the user should be able to easily access the settings for the reminders and polls created. This could be accessible in the chat settings, where users can end reminders or polls, set how many reminders can be created at one time, etc.

This interaction shows creating a reminder, creating a poll, and viewing poll results.

Visual Design

This is the UI Kit I came up with while conducting this case study.

Reflection

This was my first UX case study and a wonderful learning experience! I found that combining elements from various ideas was a great way to come up with with even more ideas. I also re-realized how important it is to bounce ideas off my partner and to test often with users for feedback.

There are still more avenues that I could explore: what if Messenger includes more features in that space where scheduling is located? How should it then be designed to fit more than 2–3 features? I still have a lot to learn and a lot of room to grow, and I hope to continue to hone my skills as a UX designer and schedule virtual hangouts through Messenger.

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This case study was conducted as a passion project. I am not affiliated with Facebook Messenger.

UX Designer at rapStudy

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