I discuss the growing frustrations of users who use Whatsapp and constantly receive forwards and don’t want to. I’ve designed a function that can help limit this better.
Duration: 2 weeks
Research, Problem statement, Six in-person interviews, Sketches, Mapping User flow, Wireframes, User Testing, Iteration
Tools: Paper sketches, Balsamiq
Getting more people to test prototype in limited timeline
The importance of friction in design and when it should and shouldn’t be used
WhatsApp is considered one of the most popular messaging apps that have made it easy for people to stay connected. However, it has recently gained a lot of criticism for spread of misinformation through their forward messaging feature, to the point where they’ve seen a rise in fake reports spread over the app, leading people dead (Source:Independent).
Alongside, it has gotten extremely frustrating for users in general, because each day along with incorrect information on politics, health and celebrities, they are constantly bombarded with jokes, memes, irrelevant forwards and more.
To WhatsApp’s credit, they attempted to limit the clutter and spread of misinformation, where users can now only share forwards with up to five chats, instead of twenty. However, here’s the thing:
Has the clutter experienced by a user really limited itself?
How can we make forward messages truly limit its reach? How can we help keep people safe?
I conducted in-person interviews with 6 people who have family, friends and clients all over and are avid WhatsApp users, and one thing that was commonly expressed was, “I wish I could simply disable forwards in the first place.”
*I’ve added screenshots of real conversations as part of my research, at the bottom of the study under Research appendix”
Users spent most of their time politely correcting friends and family that the news is fake, or requesting friends to reduce sending forwards or apologizing for hurting their sentiments.
I brainstormed ideas with a UX friend and we shortlisted the solutions down to introducing the option of disabling forwards. This empowers users where:
With this in effect, the only way a sender can share a forward with these users, would be to manually copy and paste the message, and this requires effort. This causes friction which is sometimes beneficial and required in design.
I discussed this possible solution with my friends and showed them an initial paper sketch. They liked where this was going, and I made a low fidelity wireframe using Balsamiq.
Screen 1: Admin to select the chat group → Screen 2: Click on the group heading → Screen 3: Go to group info and activate disable forwards → Screen 4: Forwards disabled.
This way when a sender wants to forward some messages, the app will indicate that forwards to that specific group have been disabled and they will not be able to forward messages to them. A sender’s journey will look like this:
Screen 1: Click on the chat → Screen 2: Select the forward action → Screen 3: Select the messages → Screen 4: Select the contacts you want to forward to. Here, the group will be greyed out and if the sender clicks on it, a notification will pop up on Screen 5, that forwards to this group have been disabled.
For individuals who don’t wish to receive forwards at all, they can opt out in three simple steps:
Go to their chat screen — Click on settings — Disable forwards.
Once again, here the sender will be notified that forwards to your chat have been disabled.
I am yet to test the reiterated version and work on it further.
By allowing users to opt for disabling forward messages, I believe this will discourage senders from mindlessly forwarding and eventually drastically reducing the spread of false and unnecessary information. Some other things to look into are:
Research Appendix on actual chats showing problems caused by forwards.
The sender wasn’t trying to be insensitive — they just didn’t realize as they were mindlessly forwarding to their contacts. Yes, an awkward and true story.
The hope is that the sender would be encouraged to think of what is worth sharing rather than mindless forwarding because it is so easy to do so at the moment. Case in point, the image below, a clear example of a user misusing the forward option.