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Introducing the Recents Drawer for iOS

· by Chris Maddern

As part of our iOS 7 redesign release, we added some new features, made lots of changes and removed a few features that we weren't totally convinced about too.

One feature that we removed, was the 'Recents Friends Bar', which allowed users to pay some of their friends with one tap from the main feed.

User Feedback

We received a lot of feedback about removing this.

I really liked my "favorites" at the bottom. Now it seems I have to search for the few people I pay every day? Am I missing something? -Venmo User

Please bring back the recent recipient bar at the bottom of the screen. Most of my payments are to the same five people. another Venmo user

... and these were the nice ones.

It was clear that we hadn't made the best choice for all of our users, but we stood behind disliking the original 'recents bar'. It framed the main content from both the top and the bottom, making it feel trapped and closed.

When to listen?

Venmo's growing really quickly and there comes a point where almost any change you make will not seem like positive change for some users (just look at Facebook!) and some of that group will feel strongly enough to write to us, Facebook us, Tweet us, send us a postcard etc..

This is a great problem to have -- we not only have enough users that changes we make reach a diverse enough audience for them to have mixed feedback, but also users who care enough about the product to write to us to tell us their feedback. But it does beg the question -- what do you listen to?

We of-course read all feedback, but if we made every change that was requested or reverted every change that was complained about we'd simply be playing feature ping-pong every release so we need a good framework to figure out when to take action and when to let users 'get used to it'.

One signal is volume -- how many people are complaining? If 10% of our users write to us about a feature, that's probably a pretty good sign that we messed up. It's rarely that obvious and we're a product focussed company that's looking to bring an experience that we believe in to our users -- every aspect of the product is discussed and planned meticulously. We want to agree with any change we ship.

This is what we have come up with:

Is there are reasonable user story that has been made more difficult or broken by the change?

i.e. Is there something that you think is a reasonable way to use the App, which a user can now not do as easily as they could before?

Let's take the recents bar.

Volume: ~100 users had feedback

User Story: Users used to be able to pay the people they pay most frequently more quickly than users they pay less frequently.

That seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to want to do to us and we made it less easy. Okay, our bad.

Bring back the recents bar?

Unfortunately, this doesn't change the fact that we don't like the old recents bar. The knee-jerk reaction of bringing back the feature users had asked for would give us all of the downside of the change, with none of the upside that we were looking for by removing it -- a more elegant design.

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." -Henry Ford

Users don't always know what they want, but they do know the pain that they feel. Users wanted the recents bar back because they wanted the benefit it used to afford them -- paying the people they pay most frequently, easily.

So we began exploring ways to allow users to pay the people they pay more often, more simply, while not reducing from the simplicity of our new iOS 7 design.

We played with a lot of different designs, did user testing and got feedback:

.. before finally deciding on an extension to our side drawer model. Introducing the right side drawer..

We think that this is the perfect trade off between utility (your favorite friends are just a swipe away anywhere in the app), and simplicity; they're only there when you want them.

Check it out in Venmo 4.5.0 -- on the store now!