VSCO, More Than Just Filters
A UX Case Study on VSCO’s iOS App
It all started when I noticed my friend jumping between different apps making edits and applying filters, until finally switching to Instagram to post the final photo of our dinner. It seemed he really liked the filters from an app called VSCO, but could not be bothered to use the app’s other features that would’ve saved him from having to switch to different apps. This got me thinking: Why is he bringing the photo to another app when he can do all the same edits on the VSCO app?
Identifying the Problem
There are even more icons in the edit menu in addition to the ones above.
After browsing through the app, I could start to see why my friend was hesitant to use the app’s full features. A pain point I discovered was the lack of labels for icons especially during the photo taking and editing process. There are some icons that are recognizable without a label, however, most of the icons that VSCO decided to use were confusing and required a lot of guesswork that left me quitting out of the app before getting to any meaningful results.
Multiple icons without labels lead to confusion, frustration, and ultimately poor user experience. It turns out that I’m not the only user out there suffering from this problem.
Here are some reviews from the app store:
“This app is stressful to use.” — Alovesd
“Unmatched film presets plagued by poor UI/UX…Everything is so minimal to the point where it isn’t intuitive, and it ruins the experience.” — David_Burns_Red
“Tremendous potential, but continuously lacks usability.” — rik.venture
What are those?!
Persona and Task Flow
In order to help me find problems with the app, I created a persona named Charles based off my assumptions of what a typical user of VSCO looks like. Charles is 19 years old, a casual photographer, and is currently a student in college. He wants to take a photo, add some cool edits and filters, then share it with his friends.
Below is the ideal scenario for Charles:
- 1 -
Charles takes a picture of the awesome burger he's having and wants to apply his favorite filter from the VSCO app while also making some minor photo adjustments.
- 2 -
After applying a filter, Charles decides he wants to adjust the saturation a bit. He goes to the photo edit feature and is able to find the saturation settings with ease.
- 3 -
Charles saves his photo and shares it on Instagram via the VSCO app. All his friends like his photo and he is very happy.
Using the ideal scenario above which encompasses the journey of a user wanting to apply cool edits to his photo before sharing with friends, I created a task flow to help me see how a user gets to a positive outcome with his or her initial goal/motivation.
Using the task flow, it was clear to me that I needed to emphasize making the core features; taking a photo, editing, and sharing it as smooth as possible by fixing any pain points in that process. As the core features, they should be delivering an optimal user experience in order for the app to succeed and increase user engagement.
Guerilla Usability Testing
I had an assumption of what some of the pain points were, but it wasn’t enough. I went out to a local park with beautiful scenery in hopes to find photographers similar to the persona I created. Using the task flow I was able to set up some tests for these users in order to find specific pain points in the app. Each user was provided a scenario that closely represented the task flow above.
Here is an example scenario:
- 1. Open the camera and lower the exposure before you take a photo of anything interesting around you, then apply a filter you like.
- 2. After applying the filter, I want you to make some edit changes like adjusting the contrast or temperature of the photo.
- 3. If you are satisfied with your changes, save the photo and share it on social media.
After reviewing the videos of each testing session, I took down notes that included observations on user actions, comments, and thoughts. Then using affinity mapping, I grouped each pain-point into its respective category which helped me get an overall picture of the problem.
Notes from Usability Testing.