Reddit: Designing a Profile Content Showcase for Reddit Creators
2018 • USER RESEARCH • UX • UI • PRODUCT DESIGN
About the Project
Reddit, best known for being the “Front Page of the Internet,” is a go-to online platform for communities, conversations and connection — and of course, all done through anonymity (if so you choose). Reddit has over 330 million monthly unique visitors, 18+ billion views per month and nearly 150,000 active communities.
Reddit launched its first full redesign in early 2018, including a user profiles experience. And this, my friends, is where our story begins.
Reddit has a niche group of users that we refer to as original content creators (i.e. gamers, writers, artists, photographers, and so forth). However, when the user profiles were first launched, users had limited ways to showcasing their proudest posts or content, and couldn’t really express themselves in their profiles.
The overarching goals of this project is to: (1) Help creators better showcase their work directly on their user profile; (2) Simplify the profile viewing experience by removing multiple views (based on user needs); and, (3) Increase profile usage.
Results & Solutions
Profile (showcase) pinning increased by roughly 25% within the first month of launch
Designed a profile showcase widget at the top of each user profile for creators to pin their best content
Designed “showcase units,” that are not only being used on user profiles, but also across the platform for products such as Search and Discovery on desktop
Owned the entirety of the project as the main Product Designer of the project, with some guidance from a Lead Designer (Lauren), and working with a PM and a team of engineers.
THE DESIGN PROCESS
While this doesn’t fully align with my go-to design process, I implemented a particularly specific design process for this project. Typically, there are tweaks between Ideation, Validation and Prototype — however, in this case, we were limited in user research and timing resources. Sit tight, I’ll dive further in in just a bit.
User Research + Synthesis
Despite the fact that Reddit is not technically a social media platform, I made sure to analyze various social media platforms that included products which contained a self-curated “featured” section. For example — Facebook Featured Photos, LinkedIn Media, Pinterest and, strangely enough, Twitter Analytics.
However, I discovered that with the many post types that Reddit allows for (ranging from photos, GIFs and videos to title-only and fully bodied text posts), the showcase units must be designed to be scalable across the entirety of the Reddit product and also be applicable for all of such posts.
USER RESEARCH + SYNTHESIS
Considering the fact that many of our coworkers were hardcore Redditors, Lauren (Lead Product Designer) and I went around and conducted user interviews with folks in the office. We spoke with 7 people in total, and learned that the majority of them had similar habits when it came to how they interacted with their user profiles. All 7 interviewees were familiar with the major content creators on the platform (i.e. u/spez, u/kn0thing and u/Shitty_Watercolour). Overall, they recognized that the current profiles experience was lacking.
Here were my four major takeways:
The pinning experience is limiting as users are only limited to two pins.
One of the first things users look for on their portfolios are the number of trophies they have.
Users are concerned with their vanity metrics (i.e. karma points).
Hardcore Redditors frequently check and update their profiles (pinning), and lurkers frequent the profiles of famous Redditors.
Funny enough, a feature request was posted just in time on r/redesign regarding the exact problem we were working on solving!
Showcase User Flows
With the combined in-person user research + synthesis, as well as research on the posts, behaviors and profiles of the major content creators on Reddit (i.e. u/GallowBoob, u/Shitty_Watercolour and active Reddit gamers) — I created four specific job stories that are real life representations of these types of users and the “lurkers” of Reddit. Thereby, defining the core needs and features necessary.
Defining necessary core features
Taking from the previous parts of the design process, I knew the new profile design had to more clearly emphasize the content showcase — ensuring that users had a smooth and simple experience when pinning and unpinning to their profiles, as well as vanity metrics, which included a redesign of the existing trophy case.
To be frank, this part coincided with (III. Ideation) as my mind began running at the speed of light to come up with blue sky ideas for what the user profile could look like in the future.
SHOWCASE USER FLOWS
With this particular project, we focused mainly on the UI of the new profile showcase first, then decided to work backwards in order to consider the empty state and onboarding/education process for pinning.
Pinning and Unpinning Consolidated Flow
Blue Sky Sketches
Blue Sky Explorations
BLUE SKY SKETCHES
BLUE SKY EXPLORATIONS
In the office, I referred to these as the “Buckwild Profiles” — as you can probably see why. Beyond the overall new profile layout, I also made countless explorations on the trophy case as well as how different types of content could fit into Reddit’s (what we call) “structured styles” with particular content creator types in mind.
Trophy Case Explorations
And, the “Buckwild Profile” blue sky dreaming continues…
Keep in mind, that with all the explorations, we had weekly (sometimes even twice a week) critiques in which all designers, PMs, engineers and stakeholders were invited to join.
”Walk the Wall”
Collaborating with Engineering
We held weekly (sometimes even twice a week) critiques in which all designers, PMs, engineers and stakeholders were invited to join. Eventually (as in many design critiques later), we ended up with a user profile that aligned closely with the original design, but included the new profile (pinning) showcase feature and a new trophy case.
Also, apologies — but we weren’t allowed to take photos during our critiques as these were private meetings on brand new Reddit products.
“WALK THE WALL”
In seek of more feedback from designers, I showcased the explorations by pinning large printouts of the various explorations on the walls of our “Design Clubhouse” room.
Apologies again — photos weren’t allowed to be taken.
COLLABORATING WITH ENGINEERS
Furthermore, I frequently met, both casually and through meetings, with engineers on the team to discuss development constraints. We were met with many engineering constraints — which included: (1) A drag-and-drop option to rearrange pins, (2) Increasing the pinning limit, (3) Showcasing comments, and (3) Having to retain the original pinning and unpinning interactions (via each post’s overflow menu). However, these are currently in the product plans for the future.
Hi-Fidelity Unit Mocks
FINAL SHOWCASE UNIT MOCKS
Showcase Units for Each Post Type on Reddit
FINAL HI-FIDELITY MOCKS
The New User Profile Showcase
Profile Showcase Education Unit (Empty State)
Profile Showcase with Three Pinned Posts
And, for reference, here was the original profiles design.
Hopefully, the future of Reddit’s user profiles will include drag-and-drop rearrangement of showcase units and the ability to pin comments to the showcase. Above are just some examples of designs I’ve explored.
Note that all the content in the prototype belongs to u/Shitty_Watercolour — one of Reddit’s most famous content creators.
Redlining + Handoff
REDLINING + HANDOFF
At Reddit, our redlining is done (almost quite literally) by hand.
And some time in-between creating the specs and the official engineering hand-off, I made sure to meet with the PM and engineers to demonstrate the working prototype and the necessary design interactions and functionality.
LEARNINGS + REFLECTIONS
Beware, this is a lengthy one as this was actually my first project at Reddit.
The project was already in the pipeline before I joined, but all I was told when it was first assigned to me was simply and quite literally — “Redesign the Reddit user profile for content creators!” At the beginning — there was no spec and no real direction. However, thanks to the guidance of and constant feedback from a Lead Designer on the team as well as mentorship from the Head of Design, I was able to utilize my design process in a start-up setting to truly bring this project to life (or shipment). In addition, working on this project was the first time I got to experience true design critiques, with stakeholders and all in the room, and “bug bashes” (once the designs were developed) with engineers for QA.
We ran into a lot of engineering troubles as constraints came to light nearing the end of the project, requiring quick fixes and sacrifices to be made in order for development to be complete. However, things worked out in the end. Since this project was launched, much of these constraints have been lifted. For example — you can now pin multiple showcase units to your profile (“Overview view”)! Hopefully the drag-and-drop feature will be next in line for production.
There are many things that could’ve expedited the design and development of this project, but ultimately, things happen that are out your control. At the end of the day, I’m incredibly proud of the results and I hope Reddit continues to iterate on their user profiles experience.