Helping people find shared time to hang out with their friends

Mixed-Methods Research
Mobile App Design
Diary Studies

Mar - Jun 2022
10 weeks

Software Engineers: Rhett Owen, Ashley Chen, David Guo


Coming out of the pandemic, my team wanted to create an app that would facilitate in-person connection, authenticity, and shared physical spaces. dindin is a mobile app that helps people find shared time to hang out with their friends.

To develop dindin, we conducted a generative research study on the social interactions of college students, built iterative versions of the app, launched it on TestFlight, and ran a 10-day mixed-methods field study.

Generative Research

After a literature and competitive review, we wanted to learn more about how we could encourage collocated social interaction amongst college students and recent graduates. Specifically, we wanted to know:

How do students and recent grads socialize day to day, and how do they meet new people?

Diary Study

We conducted a three-day diary study with 8 diverse participants in order to answer this question. We asked participants to text us whenever they left the house, met a new person, or had a fun interaction. In follow-up interviews, we dove deeper into their diary study entries and how they feel about meeting new people.

Our synthesis led to the following themes:

  • Busy students prioritize spending time with existing friends because they have already dedicated time to those relationships and can see them progressing further.
  • College students have varying schedules, so it can be difficult to find shared time with friends — especially when coordinating with multiple people.
  • People react positively when other people initiate, but don’t want to “waste” their energy initiating if it won’t be reciprocated.

Paper Prototypes

Based on our research, we decided to make an app that would facilitate meetups between existing friends. I was responsible for defining the app’s layout and user flows. I sketched out initial wireframes, made 4 iterative paper prototypes, and tested them with 6 people.

Our original idea involved notifying whoever was free at a given time. Testing paper prototypes made us realize that students wanted to see WHO was free first.

Version 1 - Choose an activity, then notify whoever is free

Version 4 - See who is free now and when an entire group will be free later

Final Design

dindin syncs with your Google Calendar so you can see who’s free at any moment and find times when your whole group is free

We built an MVP of dindin in 2 weeks using React Native and Javascript, then we launched it on TestFlight. I was responsible for the visual design. In order to get the MVP out quickly, we used Bootstrap components and I designed the front-end directly in the codebase.

Part of the app preview I designed for Testflight

Calendar Page

Finding shared availability is what differentiates dindin from other messaging apps. The calendar page shows a filtered version of all the times a group is free.

Based on our user research and some personal judgement calls, it only includes times that are:

  • At least 1 hour longShorter hangouts are not worth the travel time, especially on a large college campus.
  • Between 9am and 11pmHangouts should happen during reasonable waking hours.
  • In the next 2 daysStudent schedules fill up last-minute with meetings and assignments. They prefer scheduling in-the-moment, when they know they have time to spare.

Example Flow

Let's say you wanted to schedule a hangout with the group Cool Peeps!

  • Click on the group
  • View the times when everyone will be free
  • Message the group with a propose time

Field Study

We ran a field study over the course of 10 days in order to understand:

Will groups actually use dindin to organize meetups? How?

Quantitative Analysis

We launched the app on TestFlight, tracked feature usage and user retention with Google Analytics, and then followed the natural flow of how people would use the app.

During the field study, dindin had 18 users and initiated two meetups.

We lost most users at the beginning of the funnel.

  • People had trouble getting their friends to join the app, so they did not have people to make plans with.
  • We launched dindin at the end of the school year, which meant that students were especially busy and hesitant to download a new social app.

We also saw a rapid decline in usage over the course of our study.

  • Our users had few friends on the app to begin with, and their calendar availabilities were not always indicative of their actual availability. Users lost faith in the scheduling functionality of dindin.

Qualitative Analysis

We also recruited 5 users for a 10-day diary study. They logged their experiences with dindin each day in a google form and then participated in follow-up interviews. I designed the diary study and led the qualitative analysis.

Key insights:

  • Knowing when a friend is free can trigger interaction by removing the barrier of initiating.
  • A social app like dindin is only useful if you have enough friends using the app.
  • Calendar availability is a rough approximation of when people would actually want to hang out.
“Normally I don't reach out to Dolly that much, but seeing that she was free today [...] I asked her and returned her tent.

I’ve been holding onto it for the past week — I just never got over the barrier of asking her if she wants it right now.

Moving Forward

Here are the ways that I would improve dindin:

  • Make finding shared availability more visible and accessible.The calendar function is what differentiates dindin from messaging apps, and it was popular among the people who found it. From the 4 users that pressed the calendar button, there were 17 total PressCalendar events.
  • Further reduce activation energy to schedule meetups. Clicking on a time slot should suggest it within the group chat and then give friends an easy call to action with yes/no RSVP buttons. Suggest meeting times to reduce inertia.
  • Encourage more accurate availability or rethink availability. Users should be able to manually block off times within the app in order to reflect personal preferences. Alternatively, we could have users state when they are free for social interactions instead uploading their calendar availability.
  • Implement an intentional growth strategy. In order for dindin to be useful, it requires users to have a strong network/group of friends who are on the app.


I learned a lot from developing dindin: getting to launch an app on TestFlight, track usage data, and run multiple diary studies — all in 10 weeks.

The app definitely didn't perform as well as I had hoped. In the future, I'll pay extra attention to timing and marketing when launching a social media app.

I also think we lost sight of dindin's value proposition while rushing to launch. We knew from our research that people would primarily use dindin for group scheduling, but the calendar functionality ended up hidden in a corner. In the future, I will pause and make sure research recommendations don't get lost in the final design.