The story

Verbatm (2015-2017) was founded with the aim of building the world's first platform for multimedia, immersive story-telling that served the nuanced needs of a Black Lives Matter. In 2015, social media was changing the nature of journalism and news media. Social media was undermining traditional power structures that dictated which stories were reported and which perspectives were prioritized.

 

Designing Verbatm was a monumental challenge. There were technological, social, political, and cultural factors to identify, weigh, and synthesize into a product and user experience. I worked with a variety of stakeholders, such as activists, journalists, everyday citizens, students, prosecutors, and the police. This ambitious goal, however, deterred neither myself nor the team I was leading from meeting the moment. We launched Verbatm in 2015 and grew our user base to hundreds of story-tellers, each reporting from the streets and documenting protests, rallies, workshops, and events centered around justice for Black and Brown lives impacted by police brutality.

My role

Founder and Design Director. 

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 versus 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. 
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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. 
Our team faced 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.
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In the end

Verbatm was not gaining traction among our initial target audience, socially conscious millennials. We noticed, however, that our app's power users were art collectives who wanted to share their published work with a wide, online audience. As an artist myself, I understood first-hand the desire for a trustworthy social media platform that prioritized art work. Thus we pivoted into the niche market of building for small, art-based media business.