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Short-Form Video Community

App Experience Design

Nowadays, short-form video community apps have been trending across different generations in China, especially the world-known app "TikTok". It fills up people's fragmented leisure time anywhere while commuting, waiting for friends or taking a break. 

Our client, one of the biggest China telecom companies, has launched its equivalent of TikTok in 2018, which catered to AGCN cultures (Japanese manga).

Challenges our client encountered...

  • As our client launched the product for a half year, the retention rate still remained low, although, they successfully drove high user traffic to this app. 

  • The client owned lots of intellectual property (IP) licenses from famous characters, such as Disney, TV show stars, Minions, Marvel and so on, subsequently they used all of these properties to the video stickers and filters. However, they wanted to explore how to monetise from IP licenses.    

  • The client would like us to coach and train their in-house product team and optimise the product design workflow.


None of us were familiar with ACGN cultures

What is ACGN culture? Why do people get addicted to watch short-form videos for a couple of hours? We got so many questions to ask ourselves before jumping into having in-depth user interview with our users. First thing first, we tried our best to immerse ourselves in the context via desktop research, trying out tons of ACGN and short-form video apps and had a coffee with our folks and friends who were into both of domains.

Top 3 leading short-video APPs in China

Talked to experts to understand domain knowlege

We also interviewed some experts who were specialized in related domains in order to quickly gain valuable insights and guidance for the project. Finding a domain expert wasn't an easy thing and was totally different from the way of recruiting product end users. Luckily, we finally reached out to experts by the network of our company veterans and managers.

What did our users say and behave?

What were the major research objectives?

  • to have understanding about video creators and consumers' behaviors, values, often-used tools, etc.

  • to explore if there was any nuance regarding users in terms of city size

  • to validate if the client's target user segment was the right fit

  • to validate the design concept in production and test usability

The story behind the scene...

Video creators were one user segment we wanted to recruit, however it wasn't easy for us to reach to these influencers in video community as they tended to be hard to find, more distant and misunderstand user interviews with TV interview shows. 😂 Hence, it struck me that we could approach them directly in TikTok and invite them to our interviews. The most challengeable task was how to have good icebreaking yet to well express our intention and convince them to have interviews with us. 

User data loading...

What insights we gained from research...


Our client's initial target user segment might not be the right fit because they didn't think the video content powerfully resonated with them. Instead, they expected a platform with vertical AGCN culture vibe and knowledge.


Video content operation mattered more than app feature per se to users in terms of success of short-form video community apps. In a word, ad-hoc content would keep users engaged in community. 


The definition of the platform owned intellectual properties could contain influencers not limited to existing intellectual property licenses as they could bring more traffic to the app, subsequently our client would be able to monetise. 

Our major user persona


Pivot product strategy based on research insights

We presented our four product strategy to ensure our client exploring all the business opportunities. Each strategy came along with business roadmap, including business goal, values to enterprise, values to users. According to the respective business phase and goal, we facilitated our client to ideate solutions with value proposition based on users' needs and pain points. On top of it, we also enable them to position user persona, which could be the most valuable to the enterprise. After four rounds of ideation, they voted the best product strategy considering market size, innovation and feasibility.

Got closer to tangible product opportunites

  • After settling down high-level product strategy, we looked into what product opportunities could empower the direction. By asking tons of HMW questions, we and the client together came out with many product and operation relevant ideas. 

  • Apart from product features, we explored what community vibe our client would like to build. What were the principles to guide the whole experience of creating and watching videos?

  • Last but not least, we also explored the client's preference and thoughts on the app's look and feel. 

  • In response to the product roadmap, we got our client vote their favourite ideas, vibe keywords and visual style based on product positioning, brand values, feasibility.

Ideation to Implementation

Design exploration for all the possibilities

In response to the project objectives, we picked up high-prioritised and fascinating generated ideas to work on, which provided both business and user values. Here were three core design goals:

  • Provide immersive video watching experience

  • Foster the high-engaged and good vibe in short-form video community

  • Reinforce the interaction and connection between users 

All above were meant to increase retention on the app.

Design goal 1: Provide immersive video watching experience

Old version

Revamp version

First thing first, we moved the app navigation bar from bottom to top so that the 'notch' of the full screen phones wouldn't block a portion of the video view. Secondly, we reduced less relevant information on videos, and subsequently pulled out video search, categories and leadership boards into slide-up and slide down pages. By doing so, we wanted to keep users focus on videos and enjoy browsing pleasure. 

Home page interaction indication

Design goal 2: Foster the high-engaged and good vibe in short-form video community

Looking back at the user interview, many users mentioned they felt less attractive to use a video community app with just a few users, which was really a major reason why users stopped using the app. Hence, we came out these design ideas below to address this problem.


  • Added up auto-scrolling comment on the bottom left corner as a 'real-time' comment to form a good vibe of accompany. 

  • Displayed the number - how many people used the same stickers, bgm (back ground music), topic hashtags and many more

Design goal 3: Reinforce the interaction and connection between users

An interesting insight from research - users were seeking a sense of belonging from the community when they used the short-form video apps. They cared about how others reacted to their videos or comments and if there was any person sharing the same hobbies or interests with them. Therefore, we wanted to reinforce the interaction and connection between app users, as in video creators and consumers. Here were our approaches:

  • Based on the existing following and follower mechanism, I refined it by three categories of identities - following, followers (fans) and friends (both follow each other).

  • How the refined relationship mechanism worked? I 'visualised' users' relationship and made it tangible. For instance, users would first see the new feeds from friends followed by others; they were able to see which friend had used the same sticker, bgm and topic hashtags to create videos to resonate with them.

Scalable Design

UX design system & guideline

Unlike most of agencies or consultancies which were notorious not to consider the client's scalability in terms of design, we aimed to help our client grow and coach their team with necessary tools and methodologies. With UX design system & guideline, the client didn't have to rely on us but scale their product design without our involvement in the future.

Achievement & Takeaways

  • The client gave positive feedback about our commitment to the whole project, research, product strategy, workshops, design artwork and deliverables. The revamped design was already deployed in production as of 2019. 

  • It was the first project I was involved in from research to design shipping - end-to-end research and design. As a UX designer, I was able to be the link between research and design, how to translate research language to tangible design language.

  • I worked closely with a fellow UX designer on all the interaction design, as in information architecture, user flow, use case, wireframe, PRD, etc. As an experienced UX designer, I mentored him by giving him advise on design exploration he had done, tech knowledge and relevant skill sets. 

© 2020 by CHIA