Houseparty X Epic Games: A Case Study.

Adam Saavedra
7 min readDec 23, 2020

Introduction

Houseparty, a social network site that specializes in video chatting, has recently been acquired by Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite, to launch a new integrated video communication system. Houseparty is putting their foot in the door of the gaming and streaming industry, hoping to be a competitor in the near future, how they might go about that is still up for debate.

Our team was tasked with brainstorming possible next steps for the optimistic social network while keeping in mind its users and the company's business goals.

My Role: Project Manager

Team: Austin Lee and Mackenzie Evangelista.

Duration: Two week sprint.

Usability Testing/User Interviews

The uniqueness of Houseparty comes from their ability to play a number of games with friends such as Karaoke, Uno, and Chips and Guac (no, not the delicious afternoon snack). This was a feature only 1 out of 10 other competitors had along with Houseparty.

  1. Icons only work if users are familiar with them. Houseparty greets you with a camera in your face and 10 icons with a wide range of interpretations from our interviewers.
  2. “Flavor of the month” is what the app was described as. From the games not being as fleshed out and how trendy the interface felt, users didn't see themselves using Houseparty Longer than a couple weeks.

3. In regards to the recent partnership with Epic Games, users said there was a reason they prefer voice chat. When users are in the an intense game being chased down by other players, there isn't much to distract that user, not even their friends videos on the side of the screen.

C&C Analysis

Lets take a look at other competitors from both video communication sites and streaming platforms.

Houseparty is in the middle when it comes to comparators and competitors with features. A look into its competitors like Bunch gave us some good insights into what we can incorporate into the Houseparty interface.

What I learned

Users are not being listened to.

Features and updates are added that were not asked for. Users did not like the idea of FPS games such as Fortnite having video communication compatibility, especially when competitors such as Discord have dominated the field.

So what now?

Persona

To understand the user even more, narrowing down who we design for is the next step. We decided to create a persona, Gamer Greg, you can meet him here.

Don't worry he doesn't bite.

Problem and Solution Statements

From here, an overarching singular issue to solve was born: the problem statement.

Greg needs a quick and simple way to have fun playing games while being with his friends remotely because he misses the ability to play these games in person.

So now that we have a statement explaining the problem, we will need some pointers on what we can do moving forward, thus, the How Might We statements are created.

How might we provide Greg a simple solution to socialize virtually so that Greg gets as close to the in-person party gaming experience as possible?

And

How might we incorporate Epic Games’ goals into the Houseparty app experience in a way that still makes sense to a user?

From these How Might We’s, we created a number of wide solution statements for us to work towards, and after some tweaking and a night to sleep on our options, we formulated this one below!

By expanding the House Party’s integrated communication system and incorporating it into epic games’ client and game store, We can create an intuitive App for Houseparty that allows users like Greg to enjoy both worlds of social gathering and exploring new games. This would be not only for a short period of time but can be used in a long term use as well.

Site Maps

Before planning out the new interface of Houseparty, it was important to understand the current interface and phases the users would go through in the app.

Here we have the site map before.

And after.

What we changed and why.

  • We simplified the main navigational icons into more separated and defined locations on the app. Limiting a users options when moving around the app is a great way to keep the user flows easy and straight forward.
  • We condensed pages together, the friends page now contains an inbox. Through comparative analysis, this fusion was uniform within many communication apps. Giving the app an even simpler look and feel.

Sketches and Wireframes

After collecting all our data, it was time for me and my group to go ahead and sketch out possible solutions, there were a number of ways we could go about it. The sketches below are what I came up with based off of all three versions of my teams sketches.

After putting my teams sketches into a singular digestible sketch, we tossed them into Figma as a mid fidelity wireframe.

Mid Fidelity Usability Tests.

After finishing wireframes and prototyping our first draft, we went ahead and wrote up the tasks for our group and recruited people to interview. The tasks that users were asked to do were the following:

  • When looking at the home page, what do you see? What actions can you take with the current interface? What do the Nav bar items mean to you?
  • Show us how you would invite a friend into your room.
  • Show us how to play “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” with your friend!

Some key insights

After interviewing users, asking them about their experience with our prototype. Here are some pointers to what we could do to improve the interface moving forward.

  • A friends section in the home page along with another friends tab on the navigation bar was redundant.
  • The home page could focus on new and featured games the user can play right now, especially if Houseparty is emphasizing their selves with games such as Fortnite.
  • Icons were confusing across the board. Many did not know what icons did what on the home page, was the phone icon to call friends? Or was that for audio only? Do we add friends with that plus sign or is it to add people to your room? Many users were confused.
  • Lastly, the camera section did not have a clear call to action, was it to check yourself before you were on a call? Or if this was where you could add people? Next steps were unclear.

For the next iteration of our prototype, there were some things my team and I wanted to focus on, making buttons more intuitive, creating an exciting and fun home page, and having user flows that engages with users and helps inform rather than confuse.

High Fidelity Prototype

After some tweaking, editing, and hard work, we have our High Fidelity Prototype below!

You can access our prototype here.

Next Steps

After finishing up some usability tests for our high fidelity prototype, we came up with some directions moving forward with this project.

  1. Continue Usability tests with more users, determining pain points and gathering different perspectives for the future of Houseparty.
  2. Taking a dip into game design and expanding the selection of games, creating new ones every month to keep users entertained.
  3. On top of Epic Games, acquiring more gaming platforms into the world of Houseparty.

Conclusion

Houseparty being acquired by Epic Games was a decision that threw me and my team for a loop. Looking for ways to incorporate two far-away worlds that had collided with no warning was a challenge. But I learned many valuable insights through-out this journey.

  1. Always listen to your users, hearing them out is the key to making sense of what feels like madness at the time.
  2. Trust the design process, the beginning always feels like a whirlwind of new and convoluted ideas being thrown out every second. This whirlwind is only natural and a sign that you are in the right direction.
  3. Working in a team is only better if you make it. I was fortunate enough to have a team who was easy to work with. And even then, we needed some moments of clarification. It was another layer of the design process many people gloss over as “more teammates, less work” but I believe this is only true if work is put into making solid goals and clear communication!

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