Zhihu Task Center
My role: Product designer
Project Type: Intern project
Timeline: May, 2018
Team: Individual designer
Design Scope: App design
Tools: Sketch, Invision, Principle, Pen&Paper
Design for 17 millions of users
Zhihu is the largest Chinese online Q&A platform where all kinds of questions are created, answered, edited and organized by the community of its users. The number of registered users of Zhihu had reached 17 million as of May 2015 with 250 million monthly page views. Zhihu University is a cluster of the paid content services within in Zhihu. The current revenue streams include paid consulting, pay-per-view live-streamed talks, podcasts, and e-books, many written or edited by top users.
Design a task center for Zhihu Prime members to promote the user growth
In the beginning of May 2018, Zhihu University released its new membership system — Zhihu Prime. Along with the publish of the Zhihu Prime, an incentive scheme needed to be designed to promote the user growth with the secondary goal of increasing the exposures. The company came up with an idea to design a task center for prime users to achieve these goals. I joined the Design team to design this new feature in an attempt to encourage current and new prime users to be more active on the platform.
What is a task center?
Given a large problem space, I little understanding about the task center. In this way, I started off researching and discussing with product team on what a task center was and what attributes of a task center were.
Insight 1: A task center is like a reward center in game design
Users can unlock any task to complete. Upon finishing it, they’ll be rewarded with coupons that can be used to purchase SKUs in the Zhihu University. At this stage, the task was to share designated Zhihu University products (Live, Podcast, Books) to different platforms, mainly WeChat group or moments.
Insight 2: The attributes of our task center
Narrow down the problem space through competitive analysis
Upon finalizing the definition of the task center, it was still conceptualized for me to move forward. In this way, I decided to narrow down the space through competitive analysis. Since many products in China utilized the same way to motivate users, I chose 2 of them which gave me inspirations and designed a 2 x 2 matrix. This matrix also helped the team figure out our design opportunities.
Learn from users
Having an initial impression on the scope of this project, I think it was time to learn from our prime users. I reached out to 7 internal Zhihu Prime users to conduct interviews by encouraging them to describe their expectations for this task center. Combining user views with product requirements, I created this user flow below.
According to this flow, I found out this task center can be dissected from two perspectives. One would be the entrance where users can tap to see more detailed information and another one was the task list which can display all the tasks for users to choose from.
After I digested the research results, I began brainstorming the possible solutions for this task center by using the HMW questions.
HMW 1: How might we design the entrance?
The first question came into my mind was where we should put the task center entrance. In order to solve this question, I looked through all the related pages and found 2 candidates: the Zhihu University page v.s. Zhihu Prime user profile page. To make final decision, I turned to data team for help. According to the data report, Zhihu Prime user profile page had the most page views among potential candidates, and thus it provided more possibilities for users to notice and participate in the task center activities.
When it comes to the entrance design, I came up with 2 design alternatives. Since the goal was to maximize the visibility when the user was scanning the screen, the second option would make more sense.
HMW2: How might we design the task list with a clear hierarchy?
The task list was the most important part. How to display all the information related to a task was a tricky problem. With an attempt to find out what information was necessary when displaying the tasks, I first collaborated with our PM to map all the relevant information. Since I was not the end user, it made sense to see how they would react to this. As such, I asked another 5 prime users to let them rank these pieces of information based off of their preferences. Below was the result.
HMW 3: How might we define the success metrics?
To define the success metrics, the team discussed about the data report and finalized the following metrics to measure the success of this design.
And then I started crafting
After gathering the information and material necessary for the first iteration, I started my initial sketch as soon as possible. Meanwhile, I used a lot of dog-feeding to test micro-versions between iterations to improve my design based on internal feedback sessions. Believing in agile, I also hoped that by the end of several iterations, this feature could be user’s gateway to tasks.
First Iteration: Exploration
With the clear insights of product logics and features, I started my first design iteration. The overarching problem that needed to be solved in this iteration was to help users navigate through this newly added feature seamlessly. Before jumping to the detailed design, I divided the information displayed in the task center into 3 modules.
The wireframe played a vital role in connecting the navigation to the overall visual features of the design. Followed by the modules I created before, this wireframe constructed a three-step flow of navigating to the task center and task history with straightforward button affordance.
Low-fidelity prototype was created after building the wireframe. The prototype was based on the feedback collected to test a few styles and icons. However, several problems still persisted when I found the following issues.
Second Iteration: Innovation
The second design iteration’s purpose was to address the problems that were identified in the previous iteration as well as to embrace new design ideas that could possibly make the task center fun to use.
When it comes to the visual design, I used 4 different colors to represent various task statuses. However, it stirred a discussion about whether this color palette fitted Zhihu’s current overall style impeccably.
Third Iteration: Combination
After going through a back and forth conversation within the product team and the design team, I decided to make some adjustments to the color to better reflect Zhihu University’s identity. I got the inspirations from the previous two rounds of iterations, and I tried to keep the card view but replace the large area of colors with icons. As a result, here came the last iteration.
Final Online Version:
Was it a touchdown? Yes!
Considering the task center as a relatively new feature on Zhihu, we were thrilled to see over 50% participation within the Zhihu Prime users. The growth in daily task completed user view has increased by 34% after it rolled out in 1 week. The daily page shared also increased by 8% percentage on the Zhihu University platform. Most importantly, these statistics were still increasing. The product team and the design team both agreed that this version was a great milestone on engaging users with tasks. Currently, the task center is also open for non Zhihu Prime users.
Things I learned
As my first intern experience, working at Zhihu as a product designer has significantly improved my understanding of the user experience design and the product related knowledge. Thanks my mentor and all the other co-workers for their patiences and trusts which allowed me to grow fast during the past 6 months. At the end of the internship, I wrote down all my thoughts and reflections that will help me to become a better designer and a better person!
Finding a simple but elegant solution to a complicated problem
Acting as a junior designer, I used to start my ideation with a myriad of possibilities followed by a circuitous path that struggling towards the final destination. However, I learned that thinking with a well-prepared structure that prioritizes each possible solution could be more efficient, which was exactly what a senior designer would perform. Though tedious, it is up to a designer’s responsibilities to discover the core issue by reducing the complexity and solve it with elegance.
Communication is the bridge to success.
Good communication decides if a project is a success. At Zhihu, delivering my design ideas correctly and efficiently in a cross-team collaboration environment leverages my contribution to the project. It was clear to me that interpreting stakeholders’ requirements was the same as unfolding an equation with many unknown variables. Without not all the constraints been mentioned explicitly, designers need to communicate with the stakeholders to unravel the internal and external constraints together.
Get ready to be challenged at all times.
I had a fantasy that all of my design proposals were impeccable at the design critiques. Unfortunately, such daydream was pierced when every small details were examined by my fellow designers. Overwhelmed, I had to accept the suggestions without reservation. Later on, I realized that designs that haven’t been challenged by oneself would never stand if questioned by others. Therefore, I sketched flow charts before designing to have a clear understanding of every design decisions that I made. Meanwhile, I noticed that those flow charts helped me better defend myself and my design when necessary. Getting ready to be challenged at all times would force myself to think outside the box.