Everybody gossips. Scandalous or innocuous, the sharing of information about others and even ourselves is a leisure activity that probably predates knitting. But what if those who had access to the juiciest gossip could share it without revealing their own identities? Enter Murmur, an app that lets celebrities act as anonymous telltales.
Murmur evolved from a video-based dating platform by Playhouse Studios, a well-capitalized startup with first-rate engineering capabilities. A welcomed exercise in strategy, the tech company tasked Big Human with creating a new product concept that had the potential to elicit interest in the most exclusive social circles. While the app is pending launch, here's the role our team played in its creation.
Research & Strategy
Most of the time, clients come to Big Human with their ideas fleshed out, for the most part, and all they need is help with the execution. In this case, Playhouse Studios already had a product: DateNight, a video-based speed dating app that allows users and their friends to “vibe check” each other’s matches. The app was thoughtfully built out by Playhouse’s engineering team, but it wasn’t getting the traction they wanted. So with a pivot as imminent as Ross Geller shouting on a set of stairs, Playhouse asked Big Human for three new app ideas with viral potential — an area we have firsthand experience in. After conducting thorough market research, we came up with three distinct product concepts.
Research & Strategy
The first built on DateNight’s video-forward approach; it was a studio-produced reality TV show that let users pull back the curtain. They would tune in weekly, follow in-app participation cues, and vote during elimination rounds.
The second was a blind dating battle royale where users would compete against each other to find their perfect match. If users made it through three rounds of questions and prompts, the app would reveal their photos and allow the remaining participants to chat with each other.
Scrapping online dating altogether, the third option was a confessions-based app that leveraged a time-honored social pastime: gossiping. Every social app is about sharing, but this last direction would ensure users were private, creating a community where what you have to say weighs more than who you are.
After Playhouse Studios chose the third concept, they posed one more task: target celebrities and influencers, but keep their identities hidden. Famous figures often have public personas that need to be perfect, pristine, and occasionally performative. This new app would let those same figures share their truest thoughts and deepest secrets away from the scrutiny of the public eye. Only people with a certain number of followers would be allowed on the app, using their social media profiles to verify their information. Since secret identities spawn the spicy behavior we’ve all relished in, the app would, of course, stay anonymous.
And with a new app comes a new name. We thought about the buzz we wanted to generate and settled on the name Murmur — the hum hushed chatter tends to make.
Since Playhouse Studios wanted this project finished quickly, the Big Human team did daily design standups. We concentrated on rapid prototyping to give Playhouse a Minimum Viable Product to react to and give feedback on. We even had mockups for each of the three concepts listed above.
Naturally, an updated product warrants an updated look and feel. Apart from colors and typography, we almost completely deviated from DateNight’s original designs. We added a commenting feed and polling options along with little features like social media badges and voting. We then made room for elements that weren’t available in the original design, revamping its colorways and components. Murmur’s final design system and style guide are fairly comprehensive considering the app’s smaller size.
We needed a way to ensure the identities of public figures would stay private, so we constructed a naming system that was both unique and customizable. After a user verifies their identity and follower counts, they create acronyms based on their interests.
For example, an animal lover who’s new to the app and in an open relationship would have the tags AL, NEWB, and OR. The user can then rearrange these designators based on their preference. Murmur’s naming system gives users a pseudo-identity and unites people under common interests.
As of June 2023, Murmur is not yet live.