Hubrick Community Desktop Screen

The Social Experiment

Introduction

Hubrick was an all-in-one social network and media platform. Its goal was to offer users a combination of interest-based communities, media consumption, gamified rewards and e-commerce, all in the same place.

I worked at Hubrick for a little over five months, having been hired to design its core social features, focusing on interest-based Communities (a mix of Reddit and Facebook groups) and the Conversations modules (chat).

At the time I joined, the company didn't run user interviews, usability test or gather any structured feedback from users, relying almost entirely on feedback that a handful of beta testers would proactively send, and on internal management's vision and personal preferences.

Hubrick Conversations on Desktop. The mixed chat/comment system was available as a sidebar

Redesign the design process

At the time I joined, Hubrick had already existed – unreleased – for almost 3 years. Its product development process presented several shortcomings:

  • the team did not rely on any kind of UX research, and did no prototype or usability testing with real users
  • designers mostly worked directly on high-fidelity mockups, with no ideation or sketching steps before that
  • a substantial part of product direction decisions were made directly at the visual design stage
  • once a feature was developed and released to the beta community, it wasn't tied to objectives or KPIs and would often immediately start being redesigned again

Seeing this, I aligned with the newly arrived Head of Design and we started working together to make critical changes to the design process.

We implemented new ways of working such as regular design reviews, pair designing between senior and junior designers, close collaboration with newly-hired Product Managers to define roadmaps and priorities, and kickstarted an initiative to bring UX research into the company.

Design mocks for Community cover, newsfeed and members list on mobile
Design mocks for Conversation, a mixed chat/comments feature on mobile

Introducing UX Research

I established a plan to run a series of combined user interviews + usability tests around the work-in-progress mobile app. The whole design team came together to build an InVision prototype with over 100 screens that was tested by 10 different users over two rounds of testing.

The tests were conducted in a meeting room converted into a usability lab, with the possibility for developers and other team members to follow the tests live or via recordings.The results of these tests defined the priorities for what was developed in the following period, until the company had to shut down due to financial difficulties.

Sketches from a team ideation session, a new practice that had never been used before at Hubrick
A different sketch from the same session. Gathering around early ideas likes sketches and discussing them before proceeding was not done before at Hubrick.

Our makeshift usability testing lab, waiting for testers to arrive. A relatively cheap scanner camera focuses on the user's hand movements, while the computer on the desk remotely records the mobile screen and conversation audio.