Swappit! is a mobile application design project where I explored how photography can be collaborative. And the possibility to spark friendships between people.
This project was my first time designing digital products. It started in 2014, a four-week assignment where I teamed up with two classmates in our "User Interface Design" class.
Four years later, I decided to revisit it as a personal project, to see what positive difference I can bring to it.
In this case study, I mainly focused on the second phase, I worked as a UX designer on my own, and used the research data and analyzed user needs through creating user personas. Then I created the information architecture, wireframes to redesign the user flow of the app. After this, I designed the hi-fidelity prototype as the final product.
Back in 2014, smartphones were just beginning to become popular on college campuses, and students began taking photos with the built-in digital cameras in their smartphones. As a result, digital photography began to flourish in our social circles.
As a student of the design department, my team members and I have been trained to develop both our digital and traditional photography techniques since the first year of college. Through the course of three years, photography has become a medium that not only helps us perceive the world, but also capture precious memories.
We resonated with the issue that although digital photography has become easy to reach, we all think that a more interesting and irreplaceable part of photography is in traditional film photography. Therefore, we decided to design a product that can open up doors for people to experience the fun of film photography.
Comparison of traditional camera and digital camera
Film Swap & Double Exposure
Our design concept came from looking through the history of photography, we found an interesting activity that people in the past would do.
Before modern technology penetrated into our lives, people used to write letters to each other, moreover, they would send negative films to friends living in places far away. Using “double exposure”, a function that only film camera can achieve, to allow the other person to double expose their film, and send it back to the original owner.
Swapping film rolls created opportunities for people to collaborate through photography
The exchanged film resulting in a piece of collaborating photography work, through one another’s lens, they get the chance to see different parts of the world.
The original design didn’t live up to our expectation
The original product we made in 2014 was designed as a photo-sharing application with a function of "double-exposure", which as a result works more like a filter.
Users can select two of their own photos from the photo album in their own smartphones and allow them to overlay on each other, creating a mimic effect of "double-exposure"
This solution did not create a collaborative activity that can allow people to meet on the platform, thus, not responding much to our initial concept.
Upon opening the app:
> Unfamiliar with the effect
> Unfamiliar with the reason for doing it.
After four years, smartphones have brought a lot of influence on our lives. More and more products related to traditional photography, how can Swappit! Differentiate in an already mature and competitive market?
This time I decided to reflect back with the main reason why both analog or digital photography has become a constant hobby of mine over these years, and how it has started to shape my social circle, and given me a way to perceive the world I live in.
I broke the problem down into two key objectives, this time, the guiding "how might we" question is:
"How might photography
spark friendships between people?"
Create a platform where people in the photography community can meet and collaborate.
Film Camera Experience
Allow users to have a taste of how film camera photo-snapping experience.
I realized that the original design lacked the feedback from users before the design process, and this time, I focused on understanding how others feel about photography, do they think photography can become a way to meet people, and whether they would be interested in the activity of swapping photos with another person.
I interviewed six friends ranging from 20-35 in age, who regularly take photos and share their work on digital platforms.
What does "photography" mean to you?
From the key findings, I reconstructed the goal and user flow of Swappit!, making three key features that respond to the three key findings.
Combining the advantages of both digital and film cameras, the experience of swapping camera rolls with another user on the platform provides users a channel to share and collaborate, expanding their chance to interact.
Exploring design treatments
After loops of interviews with my target users and iterations, I tested different structures/user flows of the application, and created the wireframes.
After iterating through wireframes and structure, I made a final information architecture of the application. To make the experience simulate like swapping film in a film camera, I added: "Sea" and "Lab" to the design.
"double-exposure" to users
One of the pain points users had when using the original design was that they have never heard of or seen any double exposure photos.
To address this problem, I designed the "Photo Wall" and "Discover" page to allow users to scroll through others' collaborated work, and get a sneak peek of what "double exposure" can achieve.
Simulating film camera experience
At the beginning of this project, my previous teammates and I wanted to design this application to make it easier for people to experience the features of a "film camera".
In response to this concept, I added the "Camera" page where users can select the camera they want to use among a list of classic vintage film cameras. The result of the photo they took will differ from each camera.
Moreover, to make the simulation more comprehensive, I added a "Lab" page where photos are organized by "Developing", "Swapped", and "Gallery". Users can only see their photos after it’s been developed for a day.
Guiding users to swap their photos
The main activity on Swappit! is to allow users to create collaborative works by swapping their photos.
In our original design, we were afraid that users won't be interested in having their photos being overlapped by other users that they don't know.
So in this redesign, I added a "Sea" page where users can scroll through all the photos that are posted to be swapped, and select the ones that suit their style/design. After requesting to swap, the user can go on and snap a photo, wait for the other user to confirm for the double-exposure, then they can both wait for their collaboration be developed through the Lab page.
Since it's a self-oriented project, here's a feedback from one of my friends whom I interviewed as potential users.
"I feel excited about the story that how you came up with the concept of Swappit! I can feel your passion for photography, and as a freelance photographer, I too would love to test the app if it's ever built.."
----- Feedback from a friend / potential product user
This project has endured through two different phases, from three people's class project to a one-person’s side project, and I learned a lot through both of the phases.
Difficulties in redesigning
Since this is a topic I am passionate about, it’s very easy to approach it in a subjective way. Switching from a visual designer to a UX designer, I learned to see this project from the user’s perspective.
Feedback from users is important
I gained a lot of insights based on the suggestions through user interviews.
During the first phase, as the visual designer of the team, I had the opportunity to lead how a product should look like. From the typography, logo, color schemes, and the visual design of each page in the application, I realized the importance of a designer’s role, and that the output I created after each iteration can help the team to visualize what we have been discussing.
During the second phase where I worked on my own, at first I didn't dare to add new features into the design, I struggled through the journey whether to stay loyal to the original design or not. However, after conducting user research on my own, I gained a lot of motivations to create new features, based on the suggestions through user interviews, their suggestions have helped me validate my urge in revisiting this product design, and shed light to me through the design process.