A mobile app to connect residents of a local community to one another through similar interests.
A product that makes it easier for members of a community with similar interests and hobbies to connect with each other, build bonds within the community and share resources with each other. This product will focus on using a user's geolocation and self-identified interests and hobbies to connect them with similar users within groups. The product will feature ways for users to chat with each other, share media content with each other, schedule meetups with each other, and a ‘community board’ with helpful information and tips related to that interest group and verified by the users. The app will also feature regular push notifications to prompt engagement from users and ensure that the groups remain active.
Social media has, over the past 5 years, grown to become a defining part of the lives of many of us - especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. While that has let us keep in touch with friends and family across the world, it has also led to people becoming less and less connected to their local communities where they live and work. A report by CNBC detailed that the rise of Facebook and similar social media apps have caused people to be more interested in their online lives than their regular lives.
User Pain Points
For people who want to have a connection to their local communities, or people who are new to a community and want to form connections with others who have similar interests, there is no clear product to help them do so. They would have to rely on searching for online groups or forums, or using social media apps, which can be a daunting process. More often than not, people on social media are already ingrained with their own groups or cliques, and may not even be interested in forming new relationships without a common interest between them.
This also makes it difficult for people in a local community to seek tips, advice and resources to help them within their local community. The New York times reported through the COVID-19 pandemic how applications like Nextdoor were more valuable to users looking for resources, or help within their local communities, and as we move into a world where people look for a sense of belonging to their local communities, or move to new places, it will become important to have a product that enables people to quickly find other who have similar interests within their local community, creating an easy way to meet up physically, share tips and resources, and achieve a greater sense of belonging to their local community.
Our preliminary user research focused on New Yorkers who owned dogs and this validated the problem of users who had a desire to connect with, and share tips and resources with others of the same interests in their local community (in this case dog owners). By creating a product that connects people who live within a local community based on their interest, this will foster closer relationships between them and as a result, help people be more connected to their local communities.
Choosing a Solution
To decide what product would best allow people to connect with each other locally, we wanted a solution that would have a few key features:
- The ability to get a user’s geo-location
- The ability to choose multiple interests
- The ability to create, join and interact with groups
- The ability to send private messages to another user
- The ability to save links, events and resources
These features will together allow a user to identify where they live, what their interests are and enable conversation with other users who fit the same location, interests and group criteria.
After we had garnered feedback, we had a choice to make regarding what an MVP will look like for us. We know that the scope of the solution would large and not feasible to ship through a traditional waterfall method, so instead we focused on making a stream-lined version of the solution (detailed below) using agile principles to enable us to build and ship faster, and learn from feedback to iterate the app as we add more features.
The solution that we landed on is a mobile app called Commune. Commune is a mobile app that lets users connect with others who have similar interests as them and live or work in the same community. At launch, these are the key features that will be available:
- Geolocation: During onboarding of a new user, Commune will ask for their location and use that dataq to put the user into a predetermined grouping of addresses and zip codes that will constitute their local community, or as it will be known in the app, their Commune.
- Selecting Interests: Commune will allow the user to choose interests from a predetermined list of interests in the MVP
- Matching users to groups: Commune will be able to use the interests selected to show groups that align with that interest within their commune. They are free to join groups during onboarding, or at any time through searching for a group in the app.
- Commenting and interactions: Users will be able to comment and interact with other posts within a group
We have received good feedback on the product so far with users appreciating the design of the product and its intent. Users also indicated that they would be willing to give the app a try if it were to be made available to them.
Building & Shipping Process
We were able to build an MVP in 5 weeks and for us as a team, it was a collaborative process. We do not plan to continue developing Commune further after the Co.Lab program, but we are proud of the work we’ve done working together. So much has been learned and we’ll each share those below.
Product Manager Learnings:
- Most crucial for me, I learnt how to work in a cross functional tech team to take and idea from concept to working product.
- I learnt how agile methodologies and practice helps keep a project on track
- New communications skills were also learnt as well, from the benefits of group check ins, on video or on chat, to how important one-on-one’s are for unblocking team members.
- I also learnt some new tools that helped me be more productive. Examples of them are: Jira, Notion, Figma, Miro, etc.
- Being able to work with a cross functional team
- Learned how to work with Agile Methodologies
- Being able to scope a project and prioritise tasks
- How to work with different sprints while keeping the design process
- React Native components and styling
- Integration with firebase and building out a non relational database/backend
- Working on a cross functional team
- Taking Figma files and translating them into screens, and using those to build out an App
- Agile methods and a takeaway of how to best organize projects/style a mobile app more efficiently.
- Importance of planning and scaling before building