Designing a Better Native Experience

Designing a Better Native Experience


Several business needs came together to kickstart the project for an overhauled “Start Screen” in our native apps. We wanted to make the app revolve around personal discovery, and knew that our award-winning Matchmaker algorithms needed to be better utilized. What resulted was an app that was finely-tuned for our users, averaging 4.8 Stars in the App store and increasing conversion by over 28%.

4.8/5 Stars | 31K Reviews


Our initial step towards overhauling the Start screen was a mini-sprint. The team gathered our research and set about narrowing down possible solutions that could help make event discovery more personalized.

As a side note, there are a few key things to know about Goldstar’s users. First, they tend to be female (70%), and they skew slightly older (30-65). I liken them to Pinterest’s audience in most cases. They aren’t always the most tech-savvy, and for that reason we need to be very straightforward in our UI decisions.

Initial directions to explore

We arrived at four possible approaches (of the A, B, C, D, and E above, one was determined to not be feasible). Because our team works collaboratively using an Open Design methodology, a different designer (and myself) each took one direction to explore individually. When we returned the next day, each designer walked the team through their version, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the approach they had worked on. I wrote about this process in more detail here.

Narrowing It Down

an example exploration

Above you can see an example of one designer’s exploration. We were able to move very quickly because our component libraries are extremely robust. Within two days we were down to two variations that had potential.

Early Validation

At this stage, we quickly built out some clickable prototypes in InVision. One of the possible solutions removed the tab bar, which had existed in every version of our app since its inception. We needed to know early if our audience could handle it.

We began bringing actual Goldstar members into our office to user-test our prototypes. Over the course of the next two weeks, user after user confirmed that, yes, they could handle the change. In fact, it actually became easier for them when they no longer had to keep track of where they were within the app. The idea of navigation melted away and they were simply “exploring” (which is exactly what we wanted them to do!).

Some early wireframes

Planning for Content without a Tab Bar

Removing the navigation came with its own set of challenges. Making a user’s exploration seem effortless actually takes a lot of effort!

making sense of some complex z-index issues

We spent a lot of time getting the IA right. It’s a little unusual to still be tinkering with it at this stage, but again, with no tab bar there were some difficult obstacles to overcome. Even as we moved into high-fidelity prototypes, we were still making adjustments to the flow of the app.

Hi-fidelity for prototyping

Again, we brought in users to test the app—this time in high fidelity. We also ran larger-scale unmoderated tests to get a full sense of how a new user might encounter our app.

Concepting Motion

As we started to finalize the UX of the project, we moved our attention to an equally important detail: motion. We realized that animation would be key to helping a user understand how to orient themselves within our app. As you can see below, the way we move users from screen to screen gives them a clear and distinct understanding of “how did I get here?”

App Release & Continuous Integration

Once we knew what we wanted to release, we had one final wrinkle to overcome. At Goldstar, we release code continuously, meaning we ship small updates all day long. It’s not uncommon for us to update the site or apps five or six times a day. It’s a great way to build an amazing product, but it also means we need to be able to deconstruct a design into smaller, shippable segments (which, of course, all need to be able to function on their own).

In late February 2020, the final version of the app made its way to the app store. The results were excellent: improvements in every category that we were tracking, including a 28% improvement in purchase conversion. It was an amazing project completed using a collaborative, iterative process with a super-talented team. I’m really proud to have been a part of it.

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