Meetup: Conceptual Rebrand and Case Study

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Meetup is a tool used to have people with shared interests come together in person. With such a broad audience, the typical user may be hard to pin down, but the brand’s value is apparent. What was created in 2002 to create a sense of community in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks was bought by WeWork in 2018 and given quite the rebrand.

Meetup is an extremely useful tool, but the rebranding didn’t go far enough, and the usability of the site can use a rehaul. This is not official, but conceptual, as I will look into what could be done to perhaps make Meetup more UX-friendly.

Meetup’s mission continued under WeWork, but it retains two pain points. First, and this is more cosmetic, is the logo branding itself. What was once represented by a name tag — which certainly makes sense for a group that brings together strangers — was replaced by a red blob featuring an “M” in the negative space.

Second, the navigation to their website is not the most intuitive. The usability of the site as a whole went under a re-do, but it is now probably harder to use than it was a decade ago. What really got me to create something myself was Meetup Experiences, a new option catered to exploring “out-of-your-ordinary activities, handpicked for your city.”

With over 35 million users worldwide, I did research into the UX and UI of Meetup and what could be done to conceptually improve the brand.

Meetup’s goal is to connect people with similar interests. It’s pretty simple, but from a target audience perspective, that’s way too vague to really pin down any actual demographics.

The one constant in all this is that each of these people is looking to find a friend through a common hobby. That in itself doesn’t give an age or interest, per se, but it tells me about the type of person. Meetup wants a person who is passionate, open-minded, somewhat tech-savvy, and willing to accept a little bit of anxiety if it benefits him or her. There’s also the people who form the groups themselves. These are the types of people who know how to network, for personal or business reasons. I used all this data to conduct the following survey to get an idea of what random people believed Meetup was about. The survey I ran below tells a story of what words people associated with Meetup:

A Study in Scarlet… er… Red

Meetup’s original logo

To be perfectly transparent, I love Meetup’s first logo. The name tag with felt tip marker completely resonated with me and told me the story of what Meetup was about. I recalled times from my life where I had to wear a similar name tag in a room full of strangers — both the anxiety that it brought, but also the potential to experience something new. Red, here, is a good choice. It’s a color of action, which is essential to combat the anxiety of meeting strangers. The red, black, and white combination is pretty unique in terms of social media, which is dominated by the blues of Facebook and Twitter. Only YouTube shared a similar palette, but it does something completely different.

Under the 2018 rebrand, most of what I liked was taken away, while things that made sense, like that color palette, were altered slightly for the worse. In order to appeal to a more millennial audience bright colored scenes were also added to topics, but altogether, everything lacks any sort of visual identity.

Meetup’s 2016 ‘swarm’ rebrand

By getting rid of the name tag and felt tip marker logo, Meetup went in a completely different direction visually, I think for the worse. The new logo is supposed to represent a swarm of dots that combine and form a huge red blob. The red and white makes it look more like a murder mystery to be solved.

The logo rebrand would have been a good opportunity to completely re-do colors in general. While red is a great color for creating a sense of urgency and a call to action, without the name tag branding, it doesn’t give me any sort of sense of community. Onto the research.

Looking for a Color that Speaks Community (plus a tad of Anxiety)

What I loved about the nametag logo was that it told the story of exactly what Meetup was about if I had never heard of it. The swarm logo does not, but keeping with the idea of the swarm, I figured I may be able to find another logo that did.

I immediately thought about the idea of a beehive. It speaks to community, but it didn’t really give me anxiety (unless you’re afraid of insects or whatever). That’s when I had an idea to tie the two — the community of the beehive with the anxiety of meeting strangers — together. I ran a survey of colors.

Hotter colors definitely tend to bring more anxiety

Red, the color of alarms, and yellow, the color of the middle traffic light, ended up being the winners in the small survey I ran. This was enough for me to start figuring out a way to give Meetup an identity that was pretty much identical, just from a logo.

Some early concepts

Using a yellow bee logo made a lot of sense because it combined the anxious feeling of meeting new people with the ‘swarm’ idea that Meetup is trying to achieve. Meetup is about finding YOUR hive.

Another cool thing formed as I was brainstorming some logo ideas. The bee-wing ended up resembling a location pin found on a mobile device. As Meetup is all about meeting in a specific location, the location pin ended up being a fantastic addition to some of these early concepts.

The color palette I settled on

To compliment that yellow, I wanted a color that made sense for the pin, which usually is identified with a sort of salmon color. To give the logo a more playful feeling, I strayed slightly from this color (as I didn’t want any remnants of the initial red color), and went with a fuchsia, to keep a warm color that would fit any call-to-action buttons I may need. Here’s what I came up with.

My Conceptual Logo for Meetup

One thing to note about this logo. I wanted to stray away from having a hexagonal logo to represent a hive (although I will use as a secondary logo or for a Favicon). The reason for this is that Bumble is another brand that uses this imagery. While I like the hexagon as a secondary logo, the logo above looked like a better actual branding idea in my opinion. See Bumble’s logo compared with my concept below.

Bumble’s hive logo versus the secondary M favicon logo for Meetup

Truth be told — the original reason I wanted to rebrand Meetup was that I’ve always had a hard time figuring out the site, especially on a desktop. I don’t use it too frequently, but when I do, trying to find interesting events or fun groups, I end up unsatisfied, believing that I didn’t do a good enough job looking through the groups Meetup was presenting to me. I broke up this process into a few sections:

Keep it simple

Researching the Site / Potential Pain Points / and so on…

In the desktop version especially, it didn’t seem like the pages fit together. Take a look at the images below:

This is Meetup’s main page. Notice the red/white/black branding (this will be important late). All events are added in list form, prioritizing if you are part of particular groups. I just find this visually hard to find events, unless something was happening in the next few hours.
This next view is from the same page, except after clicking on the ‘GROUPS’ button. Any group that I may have joined (or based on proximity) is added here, meaning it could get a bit hard to find anything if that number exceeded, oh, anything above twenty. What about those who try adding as many new groups as possible for a buffet style experience of creating new experiences? Not ideal.
When the input box from above is pressed, the user receives options in the form of different topics. This is mainly what I would use to find groups, but I don’t like that this list of categories is hidden inside an input with no signs points to it.
When you click all groups, you get this list of colorful boxes. This is a cool idea for branding, but it really strays from the white/red/black theme from every single earlier image. This may as well be a different website.
Speaking of an extremely different website, this is Meetup Experiences (from the top nav bar in the first few pictures). This looks like it has nothing to do with Meetup at all, and from this page, I have no idea what makes it special. Clicking on the purple (why purple??) button doesn’t give any indication of what Meetup Experiences is. I imagine it’s paid classes in your city, but I don’t understand why it needed to be separate from the main red/white/black page.

Alright. So there are a lot of pages that seem to have different identities and not fit Meetup’s brand. It’s a bit all over the place. Let’s draw up a sitemap and see how this looks:

I highlighted the ‘Topics’ section in red because it bothered me. I have a hard time finding different types of NEW events because the topics section is nested under the footer. The ‘Events’ doesn’t suffice because it ends up being a long convoluted list since I made the mistake of joining too many similar groups (leaving groups also tends to be rather difficult). For the life of me, I cannot even find how to get to that colorful ‘Categories’ page from the screenshot above (unless Meetup saw how distracting it was and got rid of it.

Regardless, I had a goal in mind. Take the many sites (such as the strange ‘Experiences’ page that doesn’t fit at all) and make them look like they all belong to Meetup. Simple as that.

Ideation Phase / What is the User looking for?

A couple example personae

Jacob Newman, 23 years old, new in town
Just moved to town for a new job after graduating from a small collegetown. It would be great to join a sports league to stay in shape, but also meet some people in a similar age.

Tricia Taylor, 32 years old, IT, works remotely
Tricia is an IT professional who works for a company in Europe. Since she has no coworkers closeby, she would love to meet try out some new hobbies, but is pretty introverted. She needs a service like Meetup to help her find new events for things she finds interesting (tech, book clubs, movies).

Let me reiterate the goal of Meetup — find your hive, your tribe, your people. It’s for people who just moved to town, or for those who want to pursue a new hobby but are having trouble where to start. The event searching aspect needs to be as straightforward as possible.

When I think of how Facebook utilizes its events feature, it makes a lot of sense. There’s a description of the event, then a list of people who are definitely attending, possibly attending, and definitely not attending. Each event has its own page as well. Easy concept.

an example Facebook event

Check out the example of a Facebook event. Notice how how my friends are highlighted as compared with the other 117 that are going and the 693 that are interested (but not necessarily going). I also love the related events — they may not be tomorrow, but they are similar events.

Meetup has something like this, but let’s compared the whitespace.

Zoomed out, but look at all that space that can contain more info!

I zoomed out a bit, just to give the full effect. No related events. Just a details section that may or may not be properly filled in. This particular event was pretty descriptive.

Beneath that, there is another problem. Instead of the three types of people attending, there’s only ‘Attendees,’ meaning even if you’re just remotely interested, you might as well join the event. This is bad. It encourages flaking.

Meetup users can comment on events, but it really lacks the social interaction that Facebook would have. Since the majority of questions that end up in the comment section end up being questions about the event, a chat feature may change that. Remember, these are strangers filled with anxiety. They want the organizers to help them with what may seem like dumb questions.

The idea is simple. Keep it as a simple place to find new events and new people.

Wireframes

The site could have additional features, but I focused three basic sections in the wireframe.

First, the Explore section. This can be expanded to particular topics, but the gist of it was for the user to find new events he or she may be interested in. Keep it simple.

Next, the My Groups section. I was inspired by Google’s Calendar application, since it’s such a simple intuitive way to see what events are coming up. The different groups would be distinguishable by different colors.

Lastly, a Messages section. I wanted the realtime chat experience.

Implement the Design

Let’s see what we’ve come up with..

The Home / Explore screen
The My Groups section (based off of Google calendar)
The Messages section

The gif below is a small demonstration of the app build on InVision Studio. There’s plenty more that can be done with Meetup, but this is a step in the right direction. There are fewer options and allow the site to stick to what it was meant for — meeting new people and discovering new hobbies.

That’s all! I hope you enjoyed this exercise. See more of my work on Behance.

A small prototype built in InVision Studio

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