Client: Mirage

Duration: 5 months

Team: CEO, Developer, and myself

Role: Product Designer


User Research


User Persona

Competitive Analysis


User Flow




Project Summary

This case study delves into a UX design initiative aimed at refining the user experience of a specialized social media app designed for photographers. The primary focus is on enhancing usability, engagement, and overall user satisfaction within a community primarily composed of photography enthusiasts and professionals.

Project Highlights:

  • User-Centric Redesign:

    • The project aims for a comprehensive redesign that prioritizes the user. Iterative design processes are employed to create an interface aligned with the diverse needs and expectations of the photography community.
  • Collaborative Stakeholder Engagement:

    • The success of this UX design endeavor relies on a collaborative partnership between stakeholders and engineers. A shared vision ensures that the redesigned app aligns with both business objectives and user preferences.

Key Focus Areas:

  • Usability Enhancement:

    • Prioritizing intuitive navigation and feature accessibility to streamline the user journey, resulting in a more user-friendly and efficient app experience.
  • Engagement Optimization:

    • Tailoring features to encourage increased interaction, collaboration, and content sharing among photographers, fostering a vibrant and active community.
  • Satisfaction Metrics:

    • Utilizing user feedback, analytics, and satisfaction metrics to measure the impact of the redesign, ensuring that it resonates positively with the app’s user base.

This collaborative and user-centric approach aims to meet and exceed the expectations of photography enthusiasts and professionals, positioning the app as a go-to platform within the photography community.

Case Study

The Challenge

The overarching challenge for the app is to retain users beyond the onboarding stage by cultivating sustained engagement through beloved features. With the business model centered around a yearly subscription service, the key objective is to captivate the audience with functionalities tailored to the interests of photographers. By combining a user-centric mindset with a strategic subscription model, the app aims not only to retain users post-onboarding but to create a lasting connection by consistently delivering features that resonate with the passions and interests of photographers.

User Research 

In my research, I delved into the common pain points experienced by photographers, scouring article sites and forums like Quora. For self-taught photographers, the learning curve is often slow and challenging. Establishing meaningful connections or finding the right mentor can be a daunting task in the photography community. Quora forums highlighted the struggles many photographers face in translating their vision into an image and their aspirations to turn their passion into a side hustle.

To address these challenges, I embarked on brainstorming sessions, drawing inspiration from the feedback and experiences shared by photographers on Quora. Analyzing the features of three key competitors, I honed in on essential elements. The selected MVP features include a dashboard, contest, ranking, learning, camera specs, and forums, strategically designed to alleviate these common issues and enhance the overall user experience.


To refine user responses, I introduced a rewarding mechanism for their contributions. Features considered for implementation included forums, gamification, and video tutorials. The client opted for a phased approach in developing the MVP, with each feature being introduced incrementally to ensure completion within the designated timeframe. As the app evolves, the overarching objective is to incorporate all planned features.

To ascertain the feature with the highest appeal to photographers, I conducted surveys both online and in-person. Through several rounds of interviews, a consistent finding emerged: photographers are particularly drawn to the prospect of winning prizes for their work. This aligns seamlessly with the app’s rewarding mechanism, creating a cycle that incentivizes users to revisit the platform. Further research into the reward cycle highlighted that users also value acknowledgment for their achievements, reinforcing the user-centric design of the app.


Contest Reward


Video Tutorial


Forum Boards


In addition to contests, I inquired about users’ preferences regarding camera settings, location information, and chat features. Survey results indicated that while camera setting information is appreciated, it isn’t deemed highly necessary, falling into the category of a moderate priority based on user responses. Conversely, knowing the location of a photo emerged as significantly important to users. In in-person interviews, users expressed a desire to replicate original photos, elevating the importance of location details over camera settings. The challenge of replicating precise camera settings, often requiring the purchase of another DSLR camera, contrasts with the practicality of visiting the physical location. Building on this, another prominent feature users actively sought was a chat room, providing a platform for engaging conversations among photographers.


The primary challenge to address revolves around establishing user connections within the Hook Model framework. Research reveals a concerning trend, indicating that a significant 1 in 4 users tend to abandon the app after just one use. The fundamental aim of the Hooked Model is to instill habit-forming behavior through a sequence of triggers, actions, variable rewards, and continued user investment. The overarching problem lies in optimizing these components to create a compelling and habitual user experience that fosters sustained engagement and mitigates early app abandonment.


User feedback strongly emphasizes the appeal of contest rewards, with both survey data and in-person interviews indicating that users are more likely to continue using the app if they have the opportunity to win prizes and receive recognition for their contributions. In light of this, a user persona was meticulously crafted to articulate the goals and motivations of the individuals expected to engage with the application. Recognizing and understanding users, their motivations, and specific requirements are integral steps in the process of building a truly user-centric product that aligns seamlessly with the needs and aspirations of its intended audience.


Jonathan, a 26-year-old part-time freelance photographer, holds a degree in economics and currently works as a consultant in finance. Despite his primary role, he channels his passion for photography by freelancing on the side. His overarching goal is to enhance his photography skills while simultaneously expanding the exposure of his work.

Jonathan actively seeks opportunities to connect with professional photographers, aspiring to immerse himself in their experiences and draw inspiration from diverse perspectives. In essence, his engagement with the photography app is motivated by a dual objective: personal skill development and establishing meaningful connections within the photography community.


Jonathan’s activities reflect a dynamic engagement with photography, with a particular affinity for nature and city photography during his outdoor pursuits, especially when hiking in the mountains. He consistently carries his Canon camera, capturing the beauty of the environment. Actively participating in photography club meetups and engaging with fellow photographers is another significant aspect of his routine. In addition to his photography skills, Jonathan has taught himself how to proficiently use photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop.

However, given his full-time role as a finance consultant, his availability for in-person club meetups is limited. Consequently, Jonathan is seeking a more convenient and flexible way to interact with photographers, share his work, and potentially win prizes—a platform that aligns with his passion for photography while accommodating the constraints of his busy schedule.


I proceeded to designing the main feed and it’s counterparts. This is to map out how each interaction will transition from page to page. I’ve organized the main features of the app through sections:  Home, Explore, Upload Photo, Notification, Contest and User Profile.


For convenience, users will continuously be logged in unless they logged out manually. Google login authentication was also implemented so that users can easily login with one click and don’t have to go through the hassle of verifying their account. 


In advancing the design phase, I systematically crafted the main feed and its corresponding elements, meticulously mapping out the flow of each interaction from page to page. The organization of the app’s primary features is thoughtfully structured into distinct sections: Home, Explore, Upload Photo, Notification, Contest, and User Profile. This strategic organization ensures a user-friendly and intuitive navigation experience, facilitating seamless transitions between functionalities. The design of these key sections is aimed at enhancing overall usability, providing users with a clear and engaging pathway through the Home, Explore, Upload Photo, Notification, Contest, and User Profile features.


The gamification system was divided further into three features: Contest, Winner and Votes. The subscription feature was placed in the private contests with bigger rewards. The open contests are free and intended to draw users to participate in the contest. Every month, a minimum of 10 contests will be published on the app. 


To brainstorm and conceptualize the design based on the gathered data, I utilized pen and paper to produce a sketch. This hand-drawn representation served as a creative exploration, allowing for the visualization of ideas and the initial layout of design elements. The sketching process was instrumental in translating conceptual insights into tangible design concepts, paving the way for further refinement and development in the subsequent stages of the design process.

To structure the information architecture, a low-fidelity wireframe was swiftly designed, providing a basic framework for the app’s layout. After receiving approval from the client on the low-fidelity wireframe, the project seamlessly transitioned to the development phase of the high-fidelity wireframe. This iterative process ensures that the foundational elements are in place and align with the client’s vision before progressing to the more detailed and refined aspects of the high-fidelity design.

Color Palatte

After conducting a comprehensive comparison between a light interface and a dark interface, the decision was made to adopt the dark interface for its ability to create an immersive experience, particularly well-suited for photography. Dark UIs inherently lend a stylish and dramatic feel to visual elements. Prioritizing accessibility, I interviewed several users to gather insights on their preferences regarding dark UIs. A significant majority of users expressed a preference for dark mode on other social media apps, citing its ability to reduce eye strain during prolonged usage. Notably, the images displayed on the app were sourced from Unsplash, ensuring they are permitted for commercial use, aligning with ethical and legal considerations.


In line with contemporary design trends, a thoughtful typography strategy was employed to achieve a cohesive aesthetic. Embracing a streamlined approach, two distinct font styles were carefully selected. Helvetica takes center stage for the main body text and headlines, offering a crisp and classic feel that contributes to a timeless and clean design. Introducing a touch of versatility, Quicksand was chosen for tutorials and contest announcements, providing a distinctive and engaging font style for these specific elements. This intentional use of fonts is designed to enhance readability and visual appeal, aligning seamlessly with current design preferences and ensuring a modern and engaging user experience.

Mockup Video

Acknowledging the absence of a home button on the iPhone X and recognizing the significance of intuitive navigation, many features were designed to be initiated by gestures and hand motion. In particular, for the voting section, users are allowed to swipe using hand gestures. During the usability testing trial, it became evident that users desired the option to interact with buttons. Consequently, both hand swipes and buttons were incorporated into the voting mechanism, ensuring a flexible and user-friendly interaction model that accommodates different preferences and enhances the overall usability of the app on devices like the iPhone X.


Focusing on refining the gamification system proved to be a challenging yet crucial experience. The app was strategically designed with the Hook model in mind, and the subsequent user analytics revealed a significant success rate, with 80% of users downloading the app in one attempt. In light of this, it became evident that implementing a reward mechanism during users’ activity was critical for sustaining engagement and ensuring the app’s continued success. This approach aligns with the foundational principles of the Hook model, emphasizing the importance of creating habit-forming behavior through triggers, actions, variable rewards, and continued user investment.

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