The world's reference point for factual news
Empowering citizens to be journalists
founder and designer; user research, UI and UX, interaction design
In 2015 I co-founded Verbatm, a mobile-only citizen journalism platform.
Social media was changing the nature of journalism and news media. To build on the larger social movement for democratizing access to information, my team set out create a social network designed specifically for citizens to break and share news.
Social media was undermining traditional power structures that dictated which stories were reported and which perspectives were prioritized. Our product was a mobile-first, immersive and engaging user experience that allowed users to write long-form multimedia stories (before the days of Instagram and Snapshot stories).
I lead product from concept to launch. Over 18 months the product evolved from citizen journalism, to mobile blogging, to a platform for art-activism magazines. We targeted a market we knew best, the young, socially conscious, digitally native storyteller, and built the first Verbatm prototype on our college campus with the help of hundreds of student activists, organizers, writers and artists.
Our mission was to empower people to expressive themselves by creating and consuming immersive, interactive multimedia stories on their phones. Our team focused heavily on user research, UX problem solving, and mobile-first design. We were a Matter VC portfolio company.
Users sign in with Facebook or a phone number. I ran A/B tests on alternative user paths, such as requiring an account to browse vs. free browsing or email sign-in verus phone number, measuring and comparing conversion rates across the different tests.
The aesthetic of Verbatm account is inspired by early Tumblr. The top half of the screen is a cover photo with a username. I wanted the user to have complete creative control over the feel of the page which is why we offered a variety of fonts and colors and allowed any style of grid adjustment of the photo.
The tiles at the bottom are multipage stories. If a user taps the tile, the media expands into full screen, and swiping vertically on an expanded post will take the user through multiple pages of the story. Scrolling horizontally on the carousel reveals stories in reverse chronological order. Users can "like", "reshare" and "comment" on each post.
To create a post, a user uploads or captures media. Pinching the media circles together into a collection creates a multimedia experience. For example, as demonstrated to the right, pinching multiple photos together creates a slideshow. Each collection is a page in a story.
Each story can have innumerable pages.
Published stories are saved on the user profile. Each user also has the option of sharing their story on Facebook, Twitter or SMS.
Verbatm is both a publisher and a platform. Our team was thus presented with the "cold start problem", meaning how would we bring lots of people into a cold, empty room? The answer was to usher them inside in friendly groups. Our discover screen allowed users to invite friends from their Contacts or Facebook. We also conducted outreach initiatives across various Bay Area art collectives, non-profits and organizations.
IDEATING AND WIREFRAMING
Below is our landing screen. I optimized our website for app downloads.
For product promotion I designed stickers and flyers which we handed out at more than 25 local high schools in the Bay Area. Our brand words were vibrant, empowering and cool.
Verbatm was not gaining traction among our initial target audience: socially conscious young millennials. So we changed our target user from mass consumers to magazines. We made this decision based on data from our launch. The app's power users were artist collectives who wanted to tell stories about their work and their identities within their own ecosystem. As an artist myself I am passionate about bringing technology to this under-served market. Thus we pivoted into a niche market that derived most value from our product. Today Verbatm is a publisher and platform for art magazines looking to deliver more multimedia content to their audience, on mobile.
The product is currently a web platform optimized for mobile. On March 3, 2017 we published articles with six art activism magazines.