Role — Product Designer (with mentorship from Michelle Park)

Timeline — 4 weeks

Tools — Figma, Photoshop, Google Sheets

Deliverables — User Interviews,  Competitor Analysis,  Secondary Research∗,  Proto Personas∗,  Affinity Map,  User Flows,  Sketches∗,  Storyboards∗,  Low Fidelity Prototype,  High Fidelity Prototype,  Usability Testing (∗ Not shown in this case study)


Droves is an event-finding social app that helps people find things to do and make friends in person.

The business team has recently found that event RSVPs through the app are not converting to attendees. Their numbers show that on average only 20% of people who RSVP actually wind up at the event.

The company has also found that many of its users suffer from anxiety, which affects at least 40 million American adults. (ADAA)

Role — Product Designer (with mentorship from Michelle Park, & Nate Chen)

Timeline — 4 weeks

Tools — Figma, Figjam, Miro

Deliverables — Competitor Analysis, Interviews, SME Interview, Secondary Research, Personas, Storyboard, User Flows, Sketching, Paper Prototype, Wireframes, High Fidelity Mockups, Branding & Style Guide, UI Animations, Prototyping, User Testing, Edge Cases


Increase the conversion of RSVPs into actual event attendees.


The solution was the creation of a “Buddy Matching” feature to help users make friends before an event. The social pressure of being accountable to a buddy decreases the likelihood of RSVP no-shows.

This feature matches people attending the same event based on interests and user preferences.

Having someone to attend an event with that they already know and are accountable to encourages increased event attendance and facilitates friend-making.

This feature is especially beneficial to people who recently moved into an area or to those with social anxiety — as the buddy matching process reduces friction inherent in friend-making and event attendance.

Steps and outputs

Discovery & Synthesis

  • Competitor flow analysis
  • Interviews
  • SME Interview
  • Secondary Research
  • Affinity Map
  • Personas

Design & Validate

  • Storyboard
  • User Flows
  • Sketching
  • Paper prototype
  • Testing round 1
  • Mid-Fi prototype
  • Testing round 2
  • Branding
  • High-Fi prototype
  • Testing round 3
  • Final iterations

Discovery & Synthesis

To address the problem of RSVP no-shows research needed to uncover what motivates or prevents event attendance, how to mitigate day-of reluctance, and how to reduce social anxiety

Competitor Flow Analysis

Discovery & Synthesis

Competitor Flow Analysis

A major gap: beyond emails and notifications there was very little to keep users engaged or excited about upcoming events
Key takeaways
  • Meetup and Eventbrite make it very easy to find and RSVP to events. Meetup even has the user sign up for an event during the sign-up flow.
  • There are various ways to filter and sort through each of these apps making it easy to find relevant events.
  • Meetup has a UI element on the explore screen that allows the user to quickly search events near them that start soon, today, this week, this weekend, next week, and next weekend. This makes it easy for the user to find an upcoming event on a relevant date.
  • Messaging features are present on Meetup, Linkedin, and Facebook. These messaging features allow users to communicate with other event attendees.
Discovery & Synthesis

Interviews and Affinity Map

Interviews revealed that event attendance was impacted by four main factors - Social Pressure, Interest, Safety, and Anxiety

I used a soft qualifier to find people to participate in initial interviews since I was looking for anyone who had been to an event, RSVPd to an event, or been involved in planning events. It seemed reasonable to assume that the experience of attending an event was nearly universal and that a more thorough screener was unnecessary. It was important to the project to hear from regular people in their 20s and 30s about their experiences with events - good and bad.

From my interviews, I was able to gain insight into major event attendance pain points. On top of a wealth of life experience - three of my five participants reported experiencing social anxiety, and all participants had experienced moving to a new city on their own during their lives. These experiences allowed me deeper insight into two important user groups: people with anxiety, and people who recently moved to a new city.

Interview Insights

To make sense of everything I learned from interviews I utilized an affinity map to organize ideas and insights from my interviewees.

Key Interview Insights
  • Social pressure, peer pressure, and FOMO motivate event attendance
  • Friends get people to go even if they don’t want to
  • Friends make it easier to mingle/meet people
  • Knowing whether a venue is safe is extremely important especially for female interviewees. All female interviewees said that they are unlikely to go to an event alone or if the venue seems questionable.
Methods used by interviewees to overcome anxiety
  • Exposure
  • Practice
  • Social support
  • Being with someone you trust
Discovery & Synthesis

Subject Matter Expert Interview

Subject Matter Expert Interview

Both company materials and interviews pointed to social anxiety as a major source of no-show RSVPs; An expert was consulted about the psychology behind anxiety

I was able to speak with a professor who holds a Ph.D. in Social work. The objective of this interview was to learn more about social anxiety, how it affects people’s lives, and the kinds of interventions used to help people overcome the symptoms of their anxiety.

Common behaviors of people with social anxiety

  • Avoidant behavior because of fear of rejection
  • Unease & nervousness
  • Rumination

Types of interventions

  • "Tell me everything that can go wrong" and unpack it as illogical
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - attack irrational thoughts, patterns, behaviors
  • Jungian Psychology - process negative events

Behavioral techniques 

  • Reinforcements to desensitize “you get a reward”
  • “Operant conditioning”
  • Exposure therapy
  • Group therapy - role-play, practice, and get feedback
  • Practice social skills
  • Mindfulness helps reduce anxiety
  • Peer model - pair people with similar experiences so they can overcome anxiety, trauma, or other challenges
SME Interview Key Finding

The 'peer model' pairs people with similar experiences so they can overcome anxiety, trauma, or other challenges

Discovery & Synthesis

The Buddy Hypothesis

Having a friend to attend an event with will encourage greater attendance and help users overcome social anxiety.

Social proof & social pressure are important motivators

  • ‘If others are going to an event it must be worth going to.’
    Competitors leverage social proof to encourage people to attend events.
    (Source: PsychologyNotes)
  • Others, especially friends, apply social pressure to people to get individuals to attend meetups and events even when they are not planning.
  • Chat features in Meetup, Facebook, and LinkedIn allow event attendees to become more comfortable with each other and get excited about an event.
  • Interviewees noted that they are much more likely to attend an event with someone than alone.

Overcoming social anxiety

  • Exposure & Practicing - such as being in a chat helps people with anxiety feel more comfortable with the people who will be attending an event.
  • Social support and being with someone you trust - If an attendee with anxiety has someone to support them who is also going to an event they are more likely to attend and to enjoy the event.
  • Peer model - An intervention for social anxiety in Psychology is to pair people who suffer from social anxiety together. They are then, through their shared experiences, able to help each other overcome many of their symptoms.
Discovery & Synthesis

Secondary Research

If users were going to be paired with buddies to encourage event attendance — research needed to be done on existing apps, how they manage friend-making, and how users feel about them.

To build a buddy matching solution for the event attendance problem I needed to do another round of research into Apps that center around making friends. The BFF feature on bumble is a prime example of a friend-making feature in a popular app so I spent time analyzing the flow of bumble’s friend-making process and reading articles about people’s experiences with the service. I also briefly reviewed several other apps that are supposed to help users make friends.

Key Secondary Research Insights

  • In 2021 avg. time spent on Bumble BFF grew 44% for women and 83% for men (Source: WSJ)

Friendship chemistry

  • 5 factors of friendship chemistry: Reciprocal candor, mutual interest, personableness, similarity, and physical attraction.
  • Participants with agreeable, open, and conscientious personalities more commonly report experiencing friendship chemistry
  • Creating a unique bio for making friends is hard

Friend-making app pain points

  • Creep & flirt factors - apps need to stop unwanted advances
  • Friendship apps limit which genders users can befriend
  • Breaking the ice is hard
  • Some profiles are too shallow
  • Conversations can become stagnant
  • What if matches don’t respond
Discovery & Synthesis



Based on research findings, Droves' personas represent four major user archetypes: Anxious, Safety Conscious, New in Town, and Seeking Friendship

Research showed that there were four major archetypes of Droves' personas - people who are socially anxious, safety conscious, new to an area, and trying to make friends.

While there is a lot of overlap between archetypes and their goals, the needs of each persona varied in distinct ways. For example, Hannah wants to make new friends but, as interviewees reported, women have safety concerns that impact event attendance which a solution would need to address.

View full personas

Design & Validate

Research showed that features like an incentive system or more notifications did not address the deeper issue at play; Evidence supported the creation of a buddy matching feature. The next challenge was figuring out how it would work and testing buddy matching’s viability.
Design & Validate


Storyboarding clarified Drove's context of use and helped in visualizing and empathizing with the steps users would need to take

The storyboard helped me to figure out what my user's journey was going to look like in a holistic sense. It allowed me to visualize the context of use, and better understand how an event finding and friendship making app fits into the lives of my personas and helps them achieve their goals of finding things to do and making friends. I was also able to better visualize the emotional impact of the journey from being home alone to having a friend to go to an event with.

Design & Validate

User Flows

A major challenge for the information architecture was figuring out the order and minimum number of steps required to find an event, RSVP, make a buddy, and finally start a conversation

User flows were essential for understanding the screens and actions/inputs that would be required to get my users from the homepage of the app, to RSVPing to an event, to a conversation with a new buddy.

This step was especially important in starting to uncover some of the critical difficulties and edge cases that would need to be solved to help users achieve their goal of making friends.

A big challenge was figuring out what steps making friends in an app would entail, especially since one of the key personas suffers from social anxiety. The buddy making process would have to make special considerations regarding pain points uncovered during research, most importantly those that trigger users' anxiety such as starting a conversation with a stranger.

Design & Validate


Since Droves integrates event finding and friend making features, a big challenge during sketching was to determine how best to communicate what users could do in the app and how to do it.

Even though I had a road map for the event finding and Friend making flow the specific details of the screens I'd need were still unclear.

I had already decided to remove several steps that are present in dating/friendship finding apps such as swiping, and that users were not going to get a choice of who they would be matched with beyond setting up some parameters in the account creation process. I had also decided that beyond picking which event to go to, the only choices users would have to make would be which icebreaker to send and which buddy match they would message first.

The challenge was to figure out how to get users from RSVPing to speaking with their matches in such a way that they would understand what was happening. In my initial sketches, I came up with a few screens that would bring users into buddy matching and present them with a loading animation before turning into a screen that presented their two new buddy matches. This screen allowed users to see their buddies' profiles, see the icebreaker their buddies sent, and send a message.

Design & Validate

Paper Prototype, Testing, & Redesigns

Communicating that users were going to be matched with new friends was especially tricky and ultimately led to iterations on the friend making flow

After sketching, I created a paper prototype in Figma to find out how people responded to the buddy matching process and app on a conceptual level as proof of concept, and to test the preliminary UI & flow.

Testing revealed that people were receptive to the app and were able to complete the tasks they were given. Several test participants were also initial interviewees. I felt it was important to test this design with people I had interviewed because I would be able to gauge whether the prototype addressed their event attendance related pain points.

However, even though participants were very receptive to Droves, there was confusion during the icebreaker selection and buddy matching process. Participants felt it was unclear what the buddy-making process entailed, whether they would be answering the icebreaker they chose, that they were matched with two buddies, and felt a little lost when leaving the initial meet your new buddies screen.

Redesigns would have to address this confusion and attempt to better explain what the icebreakers were for, clarify that users would be matched with two buddies, and visually orient users in the transitions between steps/screens.

During redesigns, changes were made to the copy emphasizing buddy making and the explainer text was clarified. To maintain visual consistency I also added avatar bubbles to the buddy making and chat screens. Big changes to the chat screen kept both matches in view once a chat was started in hopes that users would understand that they were indeed matched with two people and that they should message both people.

Design & Validate

Mid-Fidelity Wireframes, Testing, & Redesigns

Mid-fidelity testing revealed that changes were on the right path. However, there was still some confusion during the buddy making flow which needed to be ironed out

After creating a mid-fidelity prototype in Figma with changes based on the first round of testing, it was time to see if the changes to the design had eliminated the friction and confusion that participants experienced in the paper prototype tests. While testing showed that friction had been reduced substantially it was clear that there was still work to be done.

Changes that needed to be made
  • Adjust the copy on the icebreaker screen. The word “Ask” instead of “Send” could clarify that the user is not answering their own icebreaker.
  • Adjusting the copy through the app to use the words “Match with Buddies” instead of “Make Buddies” since match implies the act of matching while make is unclear and could just mean that you might make buddies when you go to the event. 
  • Clarify that Buddies RSVPed to the same event as you did and that your preferences affect who you get matched with.
  • Clarify that both matches are your new buddies, that you aren’t picking one, and that you can message both of them.
Design & Validate

The 'Transforming Card' Redesign

Utilizing a transforming card in the buddy making flow was the key to alleviating participants confusion and for keeping users oriented during buddy matching

A theme in the confusion and friction of test participants was that they felt there was too much going on in the buddy matching process. There were three different screens that users had to pass through with unique elements before being taken to the Messages tab. I wondered if there was a way to make an element that is consistent through all of these screens while conveying that the user was being matched with buddies, and then allowing them to message matches. After some brainstorming, I realized that it might be possible to use the event messages card from the messages tab to show the entire process.

Design & Validate



The friendly orange primary color, playful mascot, and easily legible typeface reinforce Droves' mission to help people make new friends and find things to do

For the high fidelity designs of Droves, I put together a lightweight branding and style-guide as a reference to determine the typography, primary color, logo, and sample UI elements.

Orange was chosen because of its positive associations of energy, vitality, cheer, excitement, adventure, warmth, and good health. (

The typeface, Inter was chosen for its easy readability in UIs and its character. Inter is versatile enough to fit into all of the title, body, and button roles required for an app UI while having a playful-yet-serious quality which provides a good contrast to the cute, rounded, Toucan-Puffin mascot without being overshadowed or overwhelmed.

The name Droves was chosen because it conjures and image of large numbers of people flocking to events, which is further reinforced by the mascot a combination of a Toucan and a Puffin, two very social species of birds that flock together in groups and form lasting bonds between individuals.

Design & Validate

UI Animations


UI Animations played a major role in increasing delight, engagement, and most importantly — in keeping users oriented through the buddy making process

UI animations do triple duty in droves. They serve as tools to keep users oriented through the various flows, display system status to let users know that the system is processing their requests, and finally to reinforce Droves' branding.

The animation of the 'transforming card' is especially important. The transformations indicate to the user that the app is working on matching them with a buddy. In effect, the card is telling users a story as it warps and unfolds, building excitement about the new friends they are going to make.

Design & Validate

High Fidelity: Testing & Redesigns

With the new 'transforming card' design and changes to copy, final user tests found that confusion and friction present in previous tests had been mitigated

The final step in the process was to see whether all of the testing, iteration, research, and ideation paid off. With the addition of imagery, color, and a slew of animations the High-Fidelity prototype of Droves was ready to test.

Final User Test Results

  • Participants were delighted by the app. They found the UI intuitive and the overall design pleasant.
  • All participants expressed that they liked the animations and that they found the Droves Toucans to be charming or very cute.
  • All participants were able to figure out that the app was going to match them with buddies who were also going to the same event. The confusion that was present in the previous round of testing had been resolved.
The new ‘transforming event card’ prevented confusion about the buddy-making process that was present in previous tests.

Keeping buddy matching and chatting confined to the same UI element kept users oriented within the app. This change made matching more aligned with the “Recognition rather than Recall” heuristic.

Key copy changes

  • Changed “send” to “ask” on the icebreaker screen. This cleared up confusion about what would happen with the icebreakers.
  • Changed much of the buddy-making copy to say “Match” with buddies instead of “Make” buddies.
    These helped participants understand that there would be a matching process and they were more prepared for it when they reached the buddy matching screen.



Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Recognition rather than recall

Even if a UI element seems self-explanatory, requiring users to learn several new UI elements in quick succession like in the original buddy matching flow is overwhelming. The change to the transforming card kept users oriented in the flow and allowed them the time to understand the function of the card which reduced cognitive load substantially.

Small changes to copy can have major effects

Changing “send” to “ask” on the icebreaker screen, and “make” to “match” in reference to the buddy matching flow had a major effect on test participants. Participants went from being confused about who buddies were and how icebreakers worked to understanding that there would be a matching process and that they would be asking their new buddies the icebreaker they chose instead of answering it themselves. This underscored how big of a difference a single word can make in the User Experience.

Presenting users with fewer choices reduces cognitive load

Somewhat counterintuitively - giving users less control over the selection of icebreakers and buddy matching was a good thing. In user testing participants commented on how it was nice that there weren’t many icebreakers to choose from and that they got to pick their icebreaker before being matched with their buddies. They expressed feelings that picking beforehand stopped them from overthinking their decision and reduced the stress of matching with new people.


Next Steps

Next Steps

To design and test
  • Onboarding
  • Account creation
  • Settings menu with account preferences
  • Flow for event organizers to make an event and to
    pick/create their 4-5 Icebreakers

Accounting for edge cases
‘Bonus Buddy’ 

When total RSVPs leave an event with an extra person they will be matched as a bonus buddy with an avid Droves user.

No attendees meet your preferences

Ask if users would expand outside of their account buddy preferences for this event

Low number of event RSVPs

When an event is under a certain number of RSVPs users will not be matched with buddies until the total number of RSVPs increases. When a certain number of RSVPs are reached, users will match their first buddy. When the number increases again they will be matched with their second buddy.

Buddy hasn't responded in 24 hours

If a buddy doesn’t respond in 24 hours they will appear inactive to their match until they respond.

Depending on the length of inactivity a user may be matched with a bonus buddy to compensate for their inactive match.

Future Features
  • Custom chat groups for buddies and friends of buddies
  • Integration with rideshare and parking services
  • Video and Voice Chat features

Work with me

Send an email, connect on Linkedin, or fill out the form.
Always ready to talk design!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.