If you’ve ever surfed the net for for a club, or a group, or party of like-minded denizens united by a common cause, you’ve likely stumbled upon Meetup. The social network, founded in 2001, has facilitated countless meetings of folks united by both geography and common interests — topics like books, politics, movies, pets, and more than 250,000 others. And it’s done so incredibly successfully — as of September of this year, the service counted more than 27 million members among its ranks, up from roughly 22 million a year ago in August. But on Wednesday, it’s turning a new page.
Today, Meetup is launching an entirely redesigned mobile experience for Android and iOS. That’s no exaggeration — it’s been rewritten from scratch. “We threw out the old code base and started fresh,” Fiona Spruill, vice president of product at Meetup. “We thought it was time for a refresh.”
That certainly appears to be the case. The new Meetup app, which at first blush looks a bit like Apple Music, organizes Meetups in horizontal, scrollable carousels by category. You browse categories by scrolling downward or upward, and create a new Meetup by hovering over an omnipresent “+” icon in the top-right corner with your index finger. Tapping on a Meetup brings you to an event screen that contains, as you might expect, date and time details, a location, information about the host, and a list of users attending.
Also prominently visible: Meetup’s new logo. Taking the place of the network’s longtime signature, a red-and-black name tag, is Meetup’s name in playful script. “On the design and brand side, we felt it was time for a refresh,” said Spruill. “We wanted to go with something that’s more modern, bolder, fun, and more beautiful.”
Conversations about a redesign began a year ago, in 2015. “The Meetup experience on the app needed a lot of improving,” she said. “We wanted new users — more engaged users — and more successful meetups. We thought we could to a lot better.”
The Meetup team began by visualizing the steps which typical Meetup users take in organizing a meeting — the so-called “journey” — on a poster board wall at Meetup’s New York City offices. Once they’d identified common pain points — the relative difficulty of RSVPing for meetings, for instance, and the challenge of finding nearby meetings — the team recruited local users, inviting them to test prototypes. “We wanted to get feedback from organizers and users,” Spruill said.
Then came the design phase. Meetup recruited New York City-based Sagmeister & Walsh, the design firm behind the psychedelic commercials for Indian mango juice brand Frooti, to give the Meetup app a new look that didn’t sacrifice function for form. The result, Spruill said, was an app that “gives you access to new worlds.”
Much has been improved upon. On the web, searching for Meetups could be an arduous process: you enter a city or postal code, tag the topic (or topics) about which you want to meet, and Meetup suggests meetings accordingly. The new Meetup app, by contrast, lets you browse nearby Meetups, trending Meetups, and Meetups that are happening soon. And meeting recommendations, or groups that Meetup thinks you might enjoy based on expressed interests and Meetups you’ve previously attended, have been improved.
The new features will eventually make it to the web eventually, Spruill said, but Meetup’s strategy is mobile first. That’s thanks to the platform’s growth on smartphones: over 55 percent of Meetup group joins happen on mobile, Spruill said, up 30 percent from a year ago. “In the past, we’ve introduced new features on the web first, and mobile second,” she said. “It’s a change for us.”
The redesign gets at the core of Meetup’s mission, said Spruill: providing a platform that makes it easier for people to connect with others in their community. “We heard loud and clear from our members that they wanted to be able to do more amazing things on Meetup,” Spruill said. “We want them to use meetup to do the kinds of things in life they haven’t been able to do before.”
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