Tapas - Monthly Binge feature

Adding a new "Monthly Binge" feature for the Tapas comic reading app that allows users to binge read select series each month for free
Tapas Monthly Binge feature mockups

Background

Tapas is a leading webtoon and web novel publishing platform that operates on a freemium business model. Webtoons, or digital vertical scrolling comics, are optimized to be read on smartphones in one long full color vertical strip. The first few episodes of a series are available for free while subsequent episodes are locked behind a set wait time or must be purchased with ink. Users can buy ink from the ink shop or earn ink through completing promotional offers.

Through research, I have found that a majority of users prefer free episodes that they can binge. Because subsequent episodes are locked and unlocked episodes are only available for a short time temporarily, this creates a barrier towards accumulating episodes for binge-reading.

How might we offer more episodes with a longer reading time limit that can satisfy both the business and the readers?
Mockups of the Debut or Die webnovel series on Tapas showing the wait until free time limit and locked chapters.

Introducing — The Monthly Binge feature

Striking a balance between business needs and user needs, what the Monthly Binge feature has to offer aims to satisfy both parties. The Monthly Binge feature is designed to provide three or more curated series each month that users can claim to unlock for a 30 days reading period.  All episodes of the unlocked series will be available for free during that time period for binge reading. After the 30 days is up, the series will revert back to normal.  

Under the assumption that Tapas will stay with their freemium business model, the Monthly Binge feature offers a longer unlocked time period in addition to making an entire series free to read for the month. Thus satisfying the users’ needs without having to change the platform’s core business model.

Close up image of the Monthly Binge feature mock up

My role

UX/UI Designer

Tools used

  • Google Suite
  • Figma & FigJam
  • Miro
  • Clip Studio Paint
  • Picrew
  • Calendly
  • Otter ai
  • Maze

Duration

4 weeks
June to July 2023

Research

Goals and objectives

  • To learn about users’ pain points and frustrations when using webtoon reading apps
  • To discover opportunities for improvement
  • To identify which parts or features of the platform users dislike and why

Competitive analysis

Key insights

  • All platforms operate either on a freemium and/or subscription based business model
  • Across all platforms, episodes that are unlocked for free are only available to read temporarily, which is a blocker to accumulating unlocked episodes for binge reading

User survey

Percentage of survey participants who read webtoons daily
Top apps used based on user survey

From the results, the majority of respondents use the Webtoons app, likely because many series are free to read and it’s the most “binge-read” friendly app for on-going titles. Users don’t have to pay to unlock each episode unless they want to read ahead of the weekly release schedule.

User interviews and survey free response questions

Key insights

1. Almost all participants prefer the free or subscription based model over the pay-per-episode business model, noting that it gets quite expensive for the avid reader, which indicates that users are budget conscious.

2. Tapas users are generally okay with the prices and enjoy the weekly free ink* and occasional sales. They like that Tapas has a lot of opportunities for users to earn free ink.
*ink is the currency used on Tapas to unlock episodes.

3. Almost all Webtoon users dislike Daily Pass and would prefer to have more frequent free episodes. As one participant also mentioned, this is a barrier to “binge”-ing a finished series.

4. Across Webtoon and Tapas users, both would prefer that unlocked episodes through Daily Pass* or WUF** are unlocked permanently instead of temporarily. A few participants noted that due to the time limit, it prevents them from accumulating episodes to binge later.
*Daily Pass episodes on Webtoon are only unlocked for 14 days
**WUF (wait until free) episodes on Tapas are only unlocked for 3 days

Define & Ideate

Revisiting the question:

How might we offer more episodes with a longer reading time limit that can satisfy both the business and the readers?

Persona — Kimberly

User persona image

The Monthly Binge feature is a great solution for Kimberly’s needs because:

  • It's perfect for binge reading when all episodes are unlocked for free for a much longer time
  • 30 days is ample time to binge or go at her own pace to read a series
  • No more waiting 3-24 hours in-between unlocking episodes
  • Saves money and time from unlocking episodes one by one
  • New selections for Monthly Binge each month lets her discover new series

Task flows

Task flows diagram

Design

Low-fidelity wireframes

Low fidelity wireframes

High-fidelity wireframes

High fidelity wireframes

Feature integration

The Monthly Binge feature was integrated within the Tapas app UI under the "Gifts" section. The "Gifts" section is where users can claim their weekly free fortune cookie and free episode tickets. Therefore, this would be the most appropriate section to categorize the Monthly Binge series feature under. In addition, once a series is unlocked, a 30 days countdown timer will appear beside each episode in consistency with the existing UI design.

Image showing the monthly binge feature integration within existing UI

Usability test

Usability test research goals

  • Identify any usability issues in completing the task flows
  • Identify how users feel about the Monthly Binge feature
  • Identify if the Monthly Binge feature was integrated effectively within Tapas

Quantitative findings

An unmoderated usability test was conducted via maze. Participants were asked to complete two tasks and to rate the ease of completion on a scale of 1 (difficult) to 5 (easy). They were also asked open ended questions about what they thought about the feature overall.

Task 1 — Go to your inbox to unlock the series "Salvos"

Task 1 usability testing results

Task 2 — Read the first episode of "Salvos"

Task 2 usability testing results

The 60% misclick rate was unexpected and affected two participants. Upon closer inspection of the heat maps and clicks, the error can be attributed to unclear labeling of the episodes or unclear task instructions. Two participants clicked “Episode 1” instead of “Episode 0” which was technically considered the “first episode” on the app.

Heat map and clicks map from usability testing

Qualitative findings

Key insights

  • All participants provided positive feedback about the concept of a Monthly Binge feature and despite unfamiliarity with similar apps, they found the feature well-integrated
  • Two participants expressed that the "Read" button was unclear and looked inactive, suggesting the potential for a redesign despite this being the current button design on Tapas
  • One participant recommended exploring the option to preview upcoming series for the Monthly Binge feature, while another pointed out the possibility of creating specific notifications for the feature
  • While indications and countdowns are present on the series page, it might be easily overlooked if the participant was going through the usability test quickly

Prioritization matrix — MoSCoW

Prioritization matrix for changes to work on based on usability testing for next iterations

Issues identified from the usability test were categorized into a prioritization matrix using the MoSCoW method. This helped identify high priority quick fixes that are do-able within the limited scope of this project.

  • Update the CTA on the series info page and redesign the “Read” button for clarity.
  • Send notifications to the user - this will need an additional task flow and/or user flow in addition to creating more screens to illustrate the functionality, which will require more time and effort to execute.
  • Preview of next month’s titles - nice to have but not a priority at the moment. It’s something to explore later as an update to the feature.

Iterate

Update to the CTA button on the series info page

Before and after images showing an iteration to the CTA button

This button design follows the existing button design on Tapas that prompts the user to read the first episode of a series. Intuitively, this makes a lot more sense for a new user who is reading from the beginning

Proposed changes to the “Read” button

Image comparing the current and proposed design changes to the Read button

As two usability test participants have pointed out, the current “Read” button appears to be inactive and caused some confusion. A redesign can be beneficial in this case so that its purpose is more clear. Based on existing designs, I changed the color of the button so that it doesn’t appear to be inactive. Using Tapas’s brand golden-yellow color, the new “Read” button stands out more. Alternatively, the green “Read Now” text can also work and is consistent with their current style.

Note: These proposed changes are not reflected in the final prototype in consideration of adhering to Tapas’s current brand styles.

Final prototype

Animated gif of the Tapas Monthly Binge feature prototype.

Project takeaways and future considerations

Research

Regarding the user survey, it wasn’t until after I had finished collecting responses that I realized Tapas has its own community forum on their website. Had I known earlier, I would have also made a post there to gather more responses from Tapas users and to potentially recruit more interview participants. It was hard finding people to interview since this topic is a bit niche. While some survey participants expressed interest in an interview, unfortunately not everyone responded to my messages to arrange a time.

Prototype

Instead of only making one series unlockable in the prototype, I would like to include the other two series as well. Unlocking any one of the three available Monthly Binge series would count as successful completion of the task. By adding these screens it also adds more alternate paths in the usability test that participants can take. This can give better insights into the research findings and perhaps decrease the percentage of misclicks.

Task flows

I would like to design an additional task flow where the user can go to the Library tab to find their unlocked Monthly Binge series. They can then begin reading or continue where they last left off. This would add an additional task to the usability test and provide greater insight into the overall integration of the new feature. It would also involve designing a new icon that represents the feature while adhering to brand visuals.

Usability test

For future usability tests, I would revise it to word the tasks as scenarios. This would make the task instructions less direct and give the users more agency into completing the task. Doing so would provide deeper insight into the user’s mental models and what steps they would take to complete the tasks.

Final thoughts

Altogether, this was a very fun project for me because it involved an app that I personally use on a daily basis and it was on a topic that I’m very passionate about (webtoons). Working with the time constraint was the hardest part especially when I keep getting new ideas but I also had to prioritize what to do within the given time limit. If I had more time, I would expand on this project by adding the additional task flow described above and conducting another usability test for the new task.

Note: This project was completed prior to Tapas's major update on 09/05/2023, which includes a refreshed UI design. My prototype uses the older version.

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