/ Product Design

Redesign of Viral9: Secret behind making a content Viral Online


WittyFeed launched Viral9 on 2011 to help content publishers (influencers) monetize their reach by posting links to articles/videos from Viral9 to their social media page. The more number of people engaged with the post, more money influencer earns. Simple model.
Viral9 has over 90% of daily returning users with an average of 15.4-page visits per day per user.

Unless you’re living under a tomb, you sure are aware of the term “Social Media Influencers”. In this world of digital revolution, we are influenced and driven by the content we subconsciously consume on the internet. These special ‘unicorns’ of Social Media with massive followings can generate a range of emotions among their followers with just one post. Businesses around the world are using this new-age of marketing medium to take their products right in front of their audience, via the person they follow, admire or trust.

Viral9 has over 90% of daily returning users with an average of 15.4-page visits per day per user. Most users started using the app from early in the morning and used it till midnight sporadically.
That is a data-jargon for the fact that most users were the power-users of the website. They were on this platform day-in and day-out.


We used our own framework Pirates of the Product to perform a design sprint. We had to choose the appropriate track for the Viral9. As it was a complete redesign, and the previous design was not entirely user-centric, we chose to start from scratch following “Deadman’s Island” with the WittyFeed team.


“Deadman’s island is where most startups die”

Aptly named so, deadman’s island is where most startups die, because they fail to set a proper vision and user centric foundation for the product. That’s what deadman’s island is all about.
This would help us launch our product in the market and then find more insights about how to improve the product. But for this exercise, we had to focus on the first release.


Step 0: Set the Stage

It was important for me as a sprint master to understand the broader perspective before the sprint to make sure we had everything we need during the sprint. With an initial meeting with Mr Shashank, CTO of WittyFeed, I was able to get a broader perspective of the problem.
I met the team who was involved in the product to get more insights. We dug deep into the analytics and did a heuristic evaluation to further get our feet into the water. In this stage, we created a goal matrix that would be the main focus of the activity. Initial goal setting helped us stay focused on the problem.
We then planned for the week. Usually, a sprint may take about a week but this time we had only 4 days in our hands. Before we get started we laid foundations for User Research so that we have heat-maps, session recordings, user events, surveys and other user behavioural data for the Step-2. This preparation helps us focus on insights in the later stage, instead of worrying about infrastructural setups.



Step 1: Define the Story

Users are not attracted to best products and services, but to products that they can understand the fastest. Simplicity and clarity are the key factors of a successful product. The story of your product is just a way to make your core message and premise crystal clear for you and the users.
Hence we first start by defining the story for the product. It helps in making sure it has a problem-solution fit (means that your product solves a real problem that users really care about).


Step 2: Know your Users

As mentioned earlier, we had prepared for this step from prior. We had user behaviour data brewing for us, so that we can directly get on to analysing it in this step.
We conducted various qualitative and quantitative research to find more about the Viral9 users.


Web analytics helped us find cues of user behaviour and make a plausible hypothesis to improve the experience. One of the most highlighted insights we got from the activity were:

Dashboard in Campaign

Users were continuously toggling between Campaign and Dashboard page. Campaign page had links that they needed to post to get money, and Dashboard had the data of how it performed. Users were posting the link and going right to Dashboard to see the progress. Then again, go back to campaign to post more links or explore. For most users, it went up to 12–13 times. Which meant that, maybe, if they basic Dashboard summary in the Campaign page, they don’t have to toggle between two pages as frequently.

User Persona

Persona helps you empathise with the user and see the problems from their point of view. Once you have done your (user) research, Persona helps you collate your conclusions about user’s behaviour, goals, desires and challenges. We can align our product’s feature set, messaging and priority according to what we understand about the user.
In the case of Viral9, most users were fitting to a similar profile. So, to keep things easy, we created just one persona that we would focus on for the rest of the process.

Customer Engagement Matrix

Another extension to persona is Customer Engagement Matrix which is used mainly to see if the product keeps the user interested and engaged. It vastly helps in the messaging and creating proper sales funnel for your product.
This tells you what users might need or expect at each stage of the funnel.
For example: In Viral9, we found out that there are no value added experiences when the user comes first to the landing page. Also, triggers to keep them visiting again were missing. Which leads to missed opportunities.

360 Degree Lighting Talks

After the research phase, we had to share the research conclusion with the whole team to get them on the same page. This would further help them get a context during the brainstorming and journey mapping exercises.

Stakeholders Interviews

Viral9’s team was closely working with each user. They were solving their daily doubts and problem. Hence to proceed over to Requirement Gathering, we needed to understand their perspective and suggestions on improving the product. They uncovered a lot of issues user faced that we couldn’t find in our user research. Often they were available with the solutions of those problems as well.



Step 3: Journey of Emotions

Till now, we had a basic idea of the user journey, i.e. steps taken by users from start to the end. These users could be new or old. For the sake of this activity, we focused more on the new users. We wanted to make the onboarding frictionless for the user.
But to uncover what user felt on each step and find solutions to eradicate the pain points, we create a User Journey Map. In our User Research (above), while taking user interviews, we noted the emotions users felt during each step in a form of Empathy Map. This helped us lay down their whole journey and find the opportunities within it.

We found that there was a great friction and frustration in the onboarding phase. Most users who signed-up never ended up actually using Viral9 to its full potential. The reason being, that there were many manual approvals involved. We had a meeting with the engineering team and discussed the idea of using intelligent auto approvals to totally eliminate the manual intervention or to have it post-signup. In the case of unaccepted and explicit content, the moderator can always block the account after it has signed up. This was the biggest breakthrough in the process.

With all the manual intervention, the whole process seemed quite daunting for the users. This was a major concern. We started brainstorming about the alternate of every possible manual approval and interaction. We wanted to make the whole process as frictionless possible and introduce them to complex concepts like domain name and payment options only when they require it.

We made the whole process seem like any other app that they might use. Hence, to leverage user knowledge we went with a common Sign Up via FB, to take the minimal possible information we need and let them know if they are eligible, right away.


Step 4: Brainstorm and Prioritise

This the step where research is used to come up with a list of features (requirements). All the features are basically divided into 7 sections.

Every app has a user that could go from Onboarding to Referral. While brainstorming, when we add the requirements (features) in following sections, it helps not miss or ignore any step in the funnel. For example, we had given no attention to the Referral step in the Viral9 and hence introduced a trigger to refer app to your friends.

Prioritise the features with HINT Framework

Now we had a set of requirements (or features) that we thought could improve the product or help the business. Now the time was to prioritise these list of features to see where shall we put our focus the most. We used our own prioritisation framework HINT to prioritise the features.

Step 5: Prototype and Test
Finally, we had everything we needed to start prototyping for Viral9. We started with quick sketches of the main features of the screens individually. Then performed Zen-Voting to vote for the best ideas and structures. Then we sketched again to create a collated version of the best-voted ideas.
Sketching gave us a low-fidelity to get validation from the stakeholders about the flow and the idea. This helped us gain more insights about possible ways to design. Once the basic flow and structure was decided upon, we went on to create mid fidelity designs.