November 15, 2021 Read 5 Min

5 Ways TikTok Demonstrates Great User Experience Design

How did TikTok emerge to be one of the world’s best performing social media apps? Let’s talk usability, optimization, and accessibility in UX.

TikTok user experience

As of 2021, TikTok has garnered over a billion monthly active users globally. The app has undeniably seen a massive and steady rise in popularity since its merger with in 2018 and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic that incited a surge in downloads in 2020. Why has it been doing so well? Top-tier user experience has a lot to do with it.

User-centered design applies to all verticals in the world of digital. E-commerce platforms stress on conversion-friendly design that helps businesses sell; finance systems highlight security and assurance that build trust in users; and media apps revolve heavily around content discovery and playback optimization. 

But TikTok isn’t just a media app. On the scale between social apps and media apps, unlike WhatsApp that leans towards the former and YouTube that leans towards the latter, TikTok is a pretty equal mix between the two. With that being said, maintaining its success isn’t just about nailing content discovery and playback, but also designing an engaging and intuitive hub for sharing and collaboration. And so far, it’s been hitting the nail on the head.

Here are 5 ways TikTok checks all the boxes in good user experience design.

1. Usability that Encourages Sharing and Collaboration 

The best way to encourage interaction between users is by making it easy. Interactions are as straightforward as they can be on TikTok, which is a great demonstration of usable design. Shortcuts are clear and direct — whether a user wants to stitch or duet a video, use a sound, or share a video — what you see is what you tap. 

Let’s take sounds for an example. If a user wants to view or use a sound from another user’s video, they can simply tap the title of the sound. After doing so, they will be able to favorite the sound, use the sound, see the original video, visit the creator of the sound, as well as view all public videos that use the sound. This straightforward user flow makes it incredibly easy for users to discover one another, collaborate, and co-create content. 

Tiktok app creator, gorillatime00, “More Passion, More Energy” sound screen.

Aside from the abundance in unique, co-created content, another thing that helps with TikTok’s user acquisition is how easy it is to download and share videos. By default (unless actively disabled by the creator), videos can easily be saved with a creator’s watermark by simply tapping the ‘Save video’ button under the ‘Share to’ tab. By encouraging content to be reposted across different social media platforms, TikTok achieves two things in one fell swoop. Better acquisition rates, and better visibility for creators.

2. Unique Tools that Foster Creative Freedom

Creativity knows no bounds, and TikTok believes that. User-generated content is the selling point of this app, and their portfolio of unique video tools and creative effects are what keeps the pot boiling. On a single app, creators have access to a huge library of video editing tools, digital learning tools, and easy-to-use creative effects that stimulate creative storytelling.

Tiktok creative tools: editing tools and creative effects
Tiktok’s editing tools and creative effects.

The best part about these tools is that they can be used by anyone, anywhere. Users don’t need to be on a high-end device in order to use seemingly complex effects on their videos. As of November 2021, Tik Tok is compatible with Android devices running 4.1 OS version or better, and iPhones running iOS 9.3 or later. This covers most devices used globally today.

3. An Algorithm that Personalizes and Champions Discoverability 

TikTok’s algorithm helps both users and creators with a For You Page that is tailored to each one’s preferences. As the algorithm continuously picks up on user behaviors — including watch time, sharing activity, as well as frequented hashtags, keywords, and sounds — it generates personalized data that curates and delivers relevant content onto each user’s feed, creating an engaging and customized digital space for all. 

On the commercial side of things, this focus on personalization also creates an advantageous platform for artists, creators, and businesses large and small. With a smart algorithm that’s constantly learning, creators and businesses have an easier time getting discovered by new audiences and customers that may love their content — be it through live sessions, short videos, or ads. A whole new means of social media marketing has emerged on this app, and businesses are quickly catching on.

4. Ads that Blend In With Content

Speaking of social media marketing, according to Kantar’s Media Reactions Report in 2021, TikTok ranked #1 for ad equity. In this report, ads on TikTok scored higher on ad receptivity against other platforms studied. What is it that they’ve done so right? TikTok teaches us one golden rule about ads. If ad revenue is indispensable to your mobile strategy, the very least you could do is optimize them and keep them unobtrusive. 

Unlike many to this day, ads on TikTok blend in with feed content by matching formats. Posts and ads share the same aspect ratio, same positioning of main UI elements, and same interactive layout. And that includes the way users “close” ads — by swiping up like they would on regular posts. This non-intrusive experience benefits both parties involved: Advertisements on the app are much less of a disruption to the user’s browsing activity, and advertisers have much more lucrative opportunities to generate engagement and leads from their ads.

5. Accessible and Localized Content that Includes and Resonates

To create an inclusive space for all, TikTok has invested in accessibility in a handful of areas including auto captions, text-to-speech, and photosensitivity features. These accessibility features are nothing but positive. Not only do they allow users with disabilities to enjoy more content, they improve the experience for the able bodied as well.

Tiktok’s accessibility features: Auto captions, sensitive content, and localization.
  • Auto captions automatically generate subtitles for videos that contain speech, allowing viewers with hearing-impairment to read content. Creators can enable and edit captions in their editor to display the automatically transcribed text on their videos. 
  • The text-to-speech feature converts text to voice, including visually impaired users and creating a more sensationally immersive viewing experience. In the editor, creators can enable text-to-speech by simply tapping on the texts they’ve added on videos and selecting “Text-to-speech”.
  • The photosensitivity feature allows users to skip photosensitive content, which can be harmful for people with epilepsy. Users can choose to hide all photosensitive videos with the “Remove photosensitive videos” toggle in their Content & Activity settings.

Accessibility also includes localization, which is a box that the app ticks as well. As of 2021, TikTok is available in 154 countries and 75 different languages. And translation isn’t all that it is — the app also tailors tools, filters, and trends to local audiences. This widespread localization work shows their dedication to resonate with and include huge user pools across the globe. And so far? It’s popping off.

What Makes You Tik? Tok to Us About It

Snappymob is a web and app development agency that provides end-to-end design and development services for clients within and beyond Malaysia. We understand the importance of quality and detail in user experience design, and we believe it shows in our work.

Thinking about starting a mobile strategy that engages, inspires, and makes an impact? Pick our brain on your next big idea!

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