About a month ago, I took a gig to design the user experience of reddit. It’s a pretty exciting challenge! My first projects have been mostly on mobile, and they’ve been a blast. Check out our recently released AMA app on iTunes and Android and recently acquired Alien Blue iOS app.
The first step towards better user experience is better understanding of the users, so the quest begins with understanding redditors. And, there’s a lot of them: 6% of all online adults!1 Understanding so many people requires attacking the problem at multiple angles.
One of the most direct ways to learn about a large user population is through surveys. The benefit of surveys is that they can be deployed broadly and analyzed statistically. The main drawback is that they skew results towards the users who choose to complete them.
A few weeks ago, I released a test survey the subreddit2 called /r/samplesize, which is dedicated to posting and taking surveys for other redditors. I received 226 responses. Bearing in mind the enormous grain of salt that these results are comprised entirely of self-selecting users, here’s what I learned:
1. Twice as many men responded to the survey than women.
2. Most active users have been redditors for 1-3 years.
This isn’t too surprising considering the survey was given to a subreddit that only longer-term users would be aware of. However, given the site’s high bounce rate, it’s likely that reddit could improve at welcoming and retaining newer users. After all, if reddit can’t create core users at a rate at or above dropout (churn) rate, its population will gradually decline.
3. Reading favorite subreddits is redditors’ most valued activity.
I asked users to rank their activities on reddit from not very important to extremely important: here are the responses only for extremely important. As you can see, reading favorite subreddits was by far most commonly marked as extremely important. User’s front pages was the second most marked as extremely important, which isn’t surprising since 99.2% of survey respondents have accounts which they use to modify their front page.
4. Users primarily want reddit to entertain them. Their secondary expectation is for community.
Here, I asked “what do you expect of reddit?” with a freeform response. The tallies are per response rather than per user, such that if a user said she expected “community and humor,” I’d give one tally to community and another to humor.
Wanting reddit to be entertaining isn’t surprising: it’s the front page of the internet, after all. What’s particularly interesting is how often community and communication were cited as expectations. Discussion, particularly through comments, was the second most frequently cited expectation. What’s reflected in “free speech,” “openness,” and “local content” were mainly variations on the idea that reddit content is different primarily because of its community. Of these, about half of the responses mentioned the value of varied perspective – that reddit provided content and stories that users might otherwise not have found (or answers to questions they were afraid to ask).
5. What frustrates redditors most are other redditors.
For this freeform question, I simply asked redditors what frustrates them about reddit. The majority of responses could be summarized by concern that reddit is or is becoming dominated by negative viewpoints. Most common were concerns that homophobia, racism, and/or misogyny were unduly influencing the community. Second most common were concerns that reddit culture was becoming homogenized. Words such as “hivemind,” “groupthink,” and “in-jokes” appeared frequently. The most common frustration not related to the community was that the site itself was ugly and/or poorly designed.
It’s fascinating to get some insight into how these longterm users think about reddit and its future. The challenge from here will be to learn more about the people who may not self-select to take a survey: newer users, non-users, and the population of reddit overall. We’re planning user tests now to learn about newer redditors, and in-person interviews can help give more in-depth data on behavior. But we’ll continue using surveys too: here’s the next if you’d like to take one!