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PicCollage Subscribers' Collaging Experience: Lifecycle, Mixed-Methods Research to Deepen Engagement and Usage


- Strategic, foundational research: June-Aug 2020 

- Iterative research: Sep-March 2021 (not included in this case study)

My Role

Planned & executed multi-phase research from scoping to implementation of 6 features

Research Method

Competitive analysis

Diary study

1-1 interview



UX lead

Data scientist

UX Designer




The team wanted to build new features to boost subscriber engagement, but there was little understanding about subscribers. Therefore, the research goal was to identify factors impacting subscriber engagement.


I conducted diary study to understand subscribers' use cases and pain points, followed by 1-1 interviews to delve into emerging themes. To inform feature prioritization, I conducted a survey to quantify the impact and severity of multiple items. 


Research findings uncovered (1) an underserved use case, and (2) major barriers to engagement for both highly & lowly engaged subscribers, all of which were translated into features on the roadmap


In 2 quarters, 6 features were launched and subscribers' monthly in-app engagement increased significantly. 

Project Background

What is PicCollage?

PicCollage​ is a photo-editing and collaging app with 14M monthly active customers worldwide. ​Subscribers who’ve purchased the subscription plan would have unlimited access to a variety of content (i.e. backgrounds, stickers, fonts, templates). 

Business Goal

PicCollage's subscription plan was launched in late 2018, and the company wanted to retain subscribers in the long term by adding new features to boost subscribers’ monthly in-app engagement.


However, the company had never done any foundational research about subscribers before. As a result, there was a lack of understanding the factors impacting subscriber engagement, making it difficult for the team to generate feature ideas that they feel confident about. Therefore, the UR function proposed to understand subscriber engagement to inspire new feature ideas.

3. Collaboration & timeline

Process & Collaboration

There were 3 main people working on this research project:

  • UX researcher (me!): I was responsible for planning and executing the research from scoping, to recruiting, execution, synthesis, and iterative research for feature launch. 

  • UX lead: responsible for coordinating different functions and resources

  • Data scientist: analyzed subscribers’ usage data to uncover interesting patterns for qualitative research to dig deeper into

  • There were also designers and PMs who represent their functions to provide input regularly.

This case study will focus on Discovery and Definition phases of the research lifecycle

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Proect background

Planning & scoping

Align on research priorities

After conducting stakeholder interviews, I found out that my stakeholder had different priorities. To align on research priorities:

  1. I invited stakeholders to attend a brain-writing workshop where they wrote down questions they had and the decisions they wanted to make.

  2. Next, I identified common themes in the responses and defined research questions.

Research question

​3 main topics emerged based on team's hypotheses, which informed the research questions.

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Research design for mixed-methods research

We decided to collaborate with a Data Scientist to understand subscribers more holistically. The data scientist conducted data clustering to explore if Higher engaged v.s lower engaged subscribers have different behavioral patterns, while I led qualitative research to understand if they have different goals and needs for content.

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This is a first-time collaboration, so we decided to take a parallel approach and sync weekly to compare results along the way. 

Diary study & 1-1 interview

5.Method selection for problem exploration

Recruiting criteria

  • Goal: our team wanted to get a broader understanding of subscribers’ drivers and barriers to creating collages.

  • Criteria: based on the information provided by the Data Scientist, I recruited 15 subscribers with a mixture of feature usage, use case, age, and subscription length.

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Diary study

I decided to use Messenger to communicate with participants because:

  1. Participants could finish a collage and directly share on their mobile devices without much hassle, which was beneficial for participants that weren’t tech-savvy

  2. It was also a tool that all of the them were already using, so I could reach them easily

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Demo only

1-1 Interview

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6. Presentation & stakeholder buy-in

Finding & Stakeholder buy-in

Initial hypotheses weren't supported by research

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Getting product team's buy-in to solve the major user problem

Although template’s low customizability was a major pain point for subscribers, this project wasn't prioritized because the Product team wasn't convinced about the severity. I later learned that the team leaned on quantitative data to make strategic decisions, so I proposed to conduct a survey to measure the size of the problem 


7. Method selection for feature prioritization

Survey design: Each project on the right was aiming to address a pain point that subscribers had using PicCollage.  In the survey, I asked the respondents if they have experienced each problem before, and rate the severity of it.

Outcome: We received 662 responses from subscribers, and I ranked the projects based on impact  and severity. 

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After the presentation, multiple PMs decided to prioritize this project over other items they originally planned to work on.

8. Impact


Product impact

  • Survey results informed feature prioritization and research findings were translated into 6 product features that were launched in the following 2 quarters

Business impact

  • Subscribers' monthly in-app engagement increased by 10+% 

Organization impact

  • UX Research expanded the number of functions we supported from 1 to 4 (expanded from Design to PM, Marketing, and Content Creation).

  • Led to further research in business and connection use case

  • Implemented an in-app mechanism for continuously collecting user feedback through online surveys.

9. Reflection


  • Diary study: there was 1 participant who wasn't engaged 3 days after starting the diary study, so we weren't able to get quality data despite putting a lot of effort in trying to engage her. Next time, I'll give participants the option to opt out and just participate in the interview. 

  • Stakeholder management: I've learned the importance of understanding the cause of the push-back on the research findings. If I've gained my stakeholders' trust, it will be even better that I could understand why they were making certain assumptions in the first place. 

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