Rize is a social media app that leverages Props' many-to-many video infrastructure. It enables everyone on the platform to engage real-time and gain upvote curation power, content trending boosts, and status for their contributions to the growth of the network. The target group is mainly teenagers in the United States, but people in other countries such as Germany, Spain, Turkey and Vietnam are also active on our platform.
Create a new live streaming app for the decentralized economy
Including the design lead Olivier Desmoulin, we were small team of 3 as product designers in YouNow. In this case, I was able to dedicate in every project, and several of them have already launched such as Props and Rize. With Rize, I had the chance to build a product from 0 to 1 and iterate the product from 1 to 100. In this project, I observed users' behaviors, discussed product strategy, Individually designed the branding and UI, wrote function and UI spec for iOS and Android developers, Communicated with my lead, product managers and developers.
The YouNow team has been innovating in the live video space for six years. Initially, the team pioneered a mobile-first, two-sided virtual economy that allows users to give virtual goods to broadcasters. It compensated and highlighted the lives of social media stars like no other platform could. The seamlessness of the video technology enabled stars like Oli White to connect with their audience in a unique way.
We’ve always looked to minimize the barriers between influencer and audience wherever possible — launching “Guest Broadcasting” on YouNow, for example. A feature allowing broadcasters to bring a viewer on screen during a live session, and it quickly proved to be one of the most popular and most engaging tools on the platform.
We imagined an app that empowers millions of network stakeholders by democratizing curation power, trending abilities, and status recognition, rather than having that power concentrated among a few personalities. We also recognized that this would mean building a modern solution from scratch.
Rather than work within the confines of YouNow’s legacy infrastructure, we decided to build a new interactive experience from the ground up. In our design journey, as we worked to build a user interface that would facilitate an action-packed in-app environment inspired by and for the network stakeholders themselves. The result is Rize, and here are our journey’s highlights:
From One-to-Many to Many-to-Many
Nearly two years ago, we began considering ways to improve the ecosystem. First, we had to dissolve the space separating broadcasters and viewers, flatten the natural hierarchy (creators entertaining on a one-lane road), and expose the latent talent and content-creation potential of millions of silent audience members. We drew inspiration from a number of IRL scenarios, music festivals in particular.
The value of a festival experience stems from these 3 elements:
- Hanging out with existing friends
- Meeting and making new friends
- Enjoying live performances and taking part in them (ie. climbing on stage, crowdsurfing, etc.)
From this example, we formulated the main characteristics for a new type of social live video experience:
- Horizontality: Everyone is equal. As a user, I can be entertained by other viewers as well as the primary broadcaster. I can find my friends, and meet people and engage with them
- Everyone is live: Anyone can chat with everyone
- Everyone can earn: If everyone is a source of entertainment, then the opportunity to earn should also be unrestricted.
Testing ideas and experimenting with prototypes
Having defined these guidelines and requirements, our initial goal was less to design a polished and finalized product than to explore new ideas and free our minds from the habits we had developed over years with the YouNow app. We also wanted to get a sense of what was technically feasible if we wanted every user on video.
Before we started, we talked with some of our users and big influencers on YouNow app and asked their
Key Quotes directly from YouNow users:
“I want to interact more with my audience.”
“I want to invite more people on my broadcast”
“As a viewer I want to interact with the other audience members”
A 1st hackathon to warm up our creativity
To kickstart this new project (called Rize), we rented an isolated house in New Jersey and threw ourselves into an intense 3 day-3 night hackathon.
The 1st concept we crafted was inspired by the music festival metaphor. In this example, users can watch a live concert and at simultaneously talk to other people in the audience. This interaction with other people could either be public — by shooting a message that would be seen by everyone — or private.
We also considered using the camera to communicate, and tried voice-to-text technology so that users speaking during a concert could see their thoughts shared via text over the video in order to maintain the sound quality of the stream.
This hackathon validated several ideas. Even though we did not keep the speech to text feature, we confirmed our technical ability to bring many users on camera simultaneously and conducted user testing to validate the idea of giving users distinct levels of communications (group, private, public) while watching a public broadcast.
A Deeper Dive into the Design of Rize App
1- Designing a Live Experience with 3 Layers of Communication
The primary design challenge was creating one page with several distinct levels of interaction: broadcaster to audience, audience to broadcaster, and among specific audience members:
The top section is the broadcaster’s stage (think music festival). It is visible and audible by everyone in the room. When other people join the room, they join the audience in the bottom section, by default.
The room owner can invite anyone in the room to the public stage by dragging him or her to the top. Once dragged, that person can drag other audience members on stage, as well.
Similarly, audience members can invite other viewers into a private video chat while watching the primary broadcast on stage.
2- Everyone Can be Recognized for their Contributions
In this new type of live room, where everyone brings value to the live experience, we had to design a recognition system that would fit the experiences we were crafting.
To make things as simple as possible, we designed an intuitive interface that offers recognition options the moment you tap on another user’s image. Every gift received enables the user to curate the network via trending and boosting content.
3- Explore Content while Being Live
User synchronization is essential for live video app technology. It mimics real-world scenarios, when friends are in the same place.
To optimize the design, we built out an experience where users could go live as soon as they joined a room. Much the way that you can continue to interact with your friends when moving from one stage to another at a music festival, users can broadcast, explore content, and switch room while maintaining their live connections with other viewers.
What we've learned
The democratization enabled by today’s technology offers incredible opportunities for content creators and other network stakeholders, and fun design challenges for people like me. I’m proud of the design work we’ve done with Rize to help achieve our company’s bold vision. We built the app step-by-step, testing numerous prototypes and alpha versions, and collecting qualitative and quantitative feedback from early testers and users in the YouNow community.