Muting, a new feature concept by Strava

A Strava (striver?) product manager was sitting around at home, checking the metrics and noticed a worrying trend. A small, but growing fraction of users were setting their activities to private.

This is bad.

When you set a strava activity to private you hide it from all other users.

Your friends can’t leave comments and it doesn’t show up anywhere else either, not on clubs, public challenges or segment leaderboards – the fiercely fought over strips of road that make Strava unique, and extra sticky.

The less they show up, the less value they give and receive from the platform. Less time using the product means less money.

After speaking to users, the product manager starts to understand what’s happening.

Certain activities don’t belong in the feed. Users felt like they were cluttering’ or spamming’ the feed with a quick warmup, a grocery store walk or a short commute.

A problem is defined: As a user, I want to track an activity (and still compete for challenges, leaderboards etc) but don’t want to clutter the feed with it.

A team is assembled, and they look to the designer for an elegant solution.

Concepts, not features

Concepts are an important way to think of the glue holding together well designed software.

Daniel Jackson thinks this is one of the main things good designers should be thinking about.

Hashtags are a concept. Tweets are a concept. Hosting a space is a concept.

Without concepts, we would have trouble using and understanding software like twitter, quickbooks, uber and the macOS finder.

Every concept needs to have a purpose (why it exists) and an operational principle (how it works).

Here’s an example.

Concept: Trash

Purpose: Allow undo of deletions

Operational principle: If you delete a file, it moves to a special folder; you can restore from there, but emptying it removes contents for good (and makes space on disk).

Mute it!

At the whiteboard, the designer pitches better privacy controls. Maybe you could set an activity to private, but still show up on leaderboards?” It starts to get confusing. Current privacy controls are only you, followers or everyone.’ Are we proposing a fourth option that is not on newsfeed’? The concept of privacy starts get overloaded. It’s trying to do too many things, and becomes harder to learn, use and understand.

How about silent activities? Just like you set your ringer to silent, or turn on do not disturb mode’ when you sit down at the cinema, Strava could silence’ an activity. Or…

Concept: Mute an activity

Purpose Don’t publish on Home or Club feeds

Operational principle: If you mute an activity, you prevent it from appearing on your followers feeds. It will still be public; viewable on your profile and will still count toward leaderboards.

If muting works as intended, Strava should see less private activities, since we assume that a % of private activities shouldn’t really be private’ anyway. They might also see more recorded activities in general, because now users can happily record their trip to the shops, without anxiety about polluting the feed.

Check out the press release, and see what you think.

October 21, 2021