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Case Study: Swarm

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Design Context


Pick an app that you use already, and identify a process, flow or feature you think could be improved upon and add real user value to show your user experience skills. It should be an app which also needs a redesign, and redesign at least one screen to show your interface design skills.

It’s important that you document your whole process from analyzing the existing version, to working through flows and/or wireframes, to a beautiful UI solution. Work as you normally would to solve a problem and present that solution to us.

  1. Research

I thumbed through the following articles to prime myself of Swarm’s business and design context history before getting started

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Article 1: How we designed Foursquare Swarm 5.0

Article 2: Say hello to the new Swarm 5.0

Article 3: Foursquare Eyes Amazon Alexa Partnership As Its Tech Is Quietly Built Into Snapchat and Apple Maps


To gain a more intimate perspective, I combed through some App store comments and asked a couple friends for their thoughts on the app:


From the research… I made some assumptions, defined the scope, and evaluated the current state of the app




The average user has 6 friends. There are two types of user journeys on swarm:
1. Those that have a more personal relationship with the app and use it for lifelogging purposes.
2. Those that use it socially, to track where their friends are traveling/eating. Of course, journeys are interchangeable.

Defining the Scope

A feature that provides local recommendations based off past check-ins.

The first release of the feature will be embedded into the current design of the app, vs a design that requires restructuring of the app’s information architecture. Think a mvp or beta release. If the impressions exceeds a certain threshold, restructuring of the app to achieve a better user experience can be further examined.

Current State of the App




Interaction Design(s)

Conclusion & Takeaways

I had a lot of fun with this exercise! Swarm is an app I’ve been using consistently for about a year now. I’ve always had casual conversations with my friends re: why they used the app/what value it added to their lives.

These conversations validated and echoed some of the sentiments that Swarm has posted on their own blogposts. When framing the design feature and solution to this exercise, I wanted to make sure to maintain the integrity of the app and respect the internal decisions that Swarm has already made as a team.

Another sentiment that drove my decision making and design process was a realization I made while researching the current state of the app:

in the current state of the app, there is a disconnect between the trove of data and actions users can take from their generated content

Technology has inundated us with so much data that it can be overwhelming to apply this information offline. I wanted to build a feature that would bridge this on and offline behavior.

I decided on creating a personalized user experience of a recommendation engine that provides suggestions on where to go based off users’ past check-ins.

“It’s too similar to Yelp.” one might argue, but the edge that Swarm has is personalization. I think it’s incredible that Swarm managed to leverage a 6 second habit (the act of checking-in) to build a global location database. I wanted to leverage that trigger, inspire the user’s offline behavior, and ultimately accrue more check-ins to maintain and grow the database.

While Yelp provides localized suggestions, this feature would answer to personalization && localization.

When the app recognizes that a user is in Argentina (assuming the user has left the “always allow location access” on), the feature provides a curated list of “Coffee Shops” for the user to browse through. On default, the list can be sorted by “Rating” with other options as “Near Me,” “That my friends have checked into,” “Most Check-Ins,” etc.

Another part of the feature that I illustrated was the idea of editing the categories of the curated list. As the default suggests, if my top visited places are:

1. Metro Stations
2. Chinese Restaurants
3. Coffee Shops
4. Offices
5. Parks

But Argentina may not have metro stations, or the user is not interested in seeing results from this category, they can edit the pie chart and [x] out whichever categories that are not currently applicable.

Had I more resources or time, I would want to pick Dennis Crowley and Greg Dougherty’s brain; discover more on the relationship between Foursquare and Swarm. My understanding is, the check-in feature originated within Foursquare, but the company decided to make Swarm a standalone app. I had a lot of questions and some concerns about the redundancy of the two experiences but I made sound decisions based off my thought processes outlined.



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 🎉 😊