These 3 changes to Whatsapp will do miracles for you!

You won’t believe the 2nd one! 😛

Whatsapp is possibly the top chat app in India with over 70 million users. But the experience leaves little to the user’s choice and goes more with forceful defaults.

For a lot of people in India, Facebook and Whatsapp are the rites of passage to onboard the internet. These are among the first few apps users with no or little exposure to computers learn to use on their smartphones. More often than not, these are the only two apps they ever use, apart from the phone app itself (Is that still a thing?!)

Whatsapp users belong to at least four groups — family, college friends, high-school friends, work friends. The more intense users also have the “Resident welfare association group”, or the “Little Doves parent-teachers” to attend to.

Lot of these groups strive on forwarding memes, videos, and random stuff from the interwebz. I did not check Whatsapp for one day and one of my groups had 1500 unread messages. The result? Clogged device memory, missed important messages and in general annoyance.

Now you’re thinking why one wouldn’t quit these high-activity groups, if they do not add any value. Because…

Whatsapp has default option for whether you want to download your media on data or wi-fi. By default, images are downloaded on cellular data and wi-fi; video, audio, and documents only on wi-fi. But these options are buried deep inside its navigation, and are hard to find. Your phone may have downloaded hundreds of images automatically, and you don’t know how to fix that.

Whatsapp stores all the media files on device. You can change your storage location, but again the options are deep.

First, why this is a problem — entry-level Android phones in India often come with ~16gb storage. Of that 16gb, the operating system uses over 40%, leaving you with roughly 9–10gb storage.

Which means those photos/videos/audio messages downloaded in #2 have already taken up a lot of space on your phone without your knowledge. Now, you have to go and delete them because the defaults assumed you wanted to store all that data on the phone.

The proposed solution tackles these three problems.

Make induction into groups a two-step process.

When a user is added instead of making her a participant right away, the app would present a screen where she would have to accept the invitation.

When the user is on this screen, she can see the following details:

  1. An overview of the Group’s activity over a period of time — the number of text, image, video, audio and document messages.
  2. Current list of participants

This information helps the user decide at a quick glance if she wants to accept the invitation.

Provide one or more options to activate Data saving and make it a default for groups

One more thing you will see on the group invite flow is the option Data saver. By default this is enabled. That means all the media files are downloaded only on wi-fi connection. Also, the media files will not be stored on the device storage.

Following is a concept we mocked up to give a better idea of how this could work.

Group invite screen that gives you some key information for decision-making. It also activates some features for saving data, and go easy on the device storage.

The Data Saver option can be modular and be part of the app’s settings. Also, both the options could be split into their own. Yet it is important to leverage them more, by bringing them upfront and providing emphatic defaults.

Whatsapp has been doing a decent job as a communication tool. Last year saw a huge spike in interest towards the chatting tools and how they can evolve into platforms. We are sure Whatsapp is already thinking in that direction. Its sister app, the Facebook messenger, is already doing that. For Whatsapp, some of the current features can be better attuned to the need of one of their largest user bases.

A proactive approach to the constraints and erring on the bandwidth and storage conservative side would make the life lot easier for the next billion users.

Looking to improve a complex product and drive the next generation of smartphone users? We love designing challenging products, and building content driven apps that reach out to millions. Write to: hello@uncommon.is

Disclaimer:

We are never done without one of these, are we? ;)

This article focuses more on the user experience than making the interface pristine and pixel-perfect. All the screens in this article are faithful reproductions of the original app. We do not propose a new visual language because you only need to search dribbble for that.

A week after this post was published, Whatsapp has released an update that takes care of some of the points made here —

Digital Product Designer | Open to selective opportunities | write to tejas@3sided.co.in

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