Whatsapp And How It Works


In this report I will be looking at the UX design of WhatsApp and how it pertains to usability utilising Krug’s principles.

WhatsApp is an application that is used by 1 billion people in over 180 countries (WhatsApp.com, 2019) . This makes it an extremely popular mobile instant messaging application. It is based on the idea that you can message your contacts anywhere, anytime for absolutely no cost to you . All that is required is an internet connection and that whoever you want contact also has the application as well.

(WhatsApp.com, 2019) It has evolved over the years. initially being offered as an application in 2009 providing instant messaging at a time where texting and SMS was quite costly. From there it developed into allowing people to present multimedia and videos. Eventually following the route of PC applications like skype, they also offered VOIP (voice over internet protocol) and video teleconferencing. It revolutionised the way mobile messaging was conducted. (WhatsApp.com, 2019) Now WhatsApp is used by millions all over the world to improve their livelihood by providing a low cost messaging and calling application to millions.

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It allows the free flow of voice traffic without costing overheads that normal telco messaging and calling entails.

Part 1.1 Intended Users

WhatsApp has a very broad user base and there were multiple ways that this user base could be divided into. For example – Work/business Use vs personal Use, Group chatters vs single messengers and frequent vs infrequent users.

However, for this report I have chosen to divide users into 3 distinct categories:

  • Basic User
  • Moderate User
  • Advanced User

Basic User

The application requires that a basic user has some knowledge of how to operate a smart phone.

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WhatsApp makes it very simple for a smart phone user to download the application and begin using it straight away. It achieves this by piggy backing off the User Interface (UX) design for basic phone calling and texting of smartphones today.

The basic user can complete several functions and will generally use WhatsApp for the following. Calling or texting friends and family who use the application also. They may also use it for work purposes, participating in group chats etc. They can add contacts as required, and send multimedia if need be. These individuals will use WhatsApp on a rarely-occasional basis. (< 3 times a week)

The basic user will lack the need/ability to learn and complete relatively complex tasks such as changing “read receipts” settings , editing a contact’s photo, deleting chats, deleting their account without difficulty

Moderate User

The Moderate User will have the same reasons and abilities to complete all tasks as described in the basic user section. They will use WhatsApp on a regular basis (>3 times a week) . They have the ability to update their status, add contacts, create group chats and broadcast list, share multimedia and save, archive and delete chats. They may also be able to complete some of the more nuanced functions of WhatsApp e.g. quoting a message, changing “read receipts.” however they aren’t well versed in all the functions and may run into trouble when completing a task they have not done before.

Its is likely that most of the survey participants will fall into this category and will find that WhatsApp is an easy to use application

Advanced User

The advanced user will have the same reasons and abilities to complete all tasks as described in the basic and moderate user section. They will use WhatsApp on a frequent basis ( > once a day). They are well versed in most if not all functions of WhatsApp and have no issues completing simple or complex tasks.

Part 1.2

Expected Tasks

Some of the task that users are expected to complete are as follows:

Making a phone call

  • User should be expected to be able to access their phone list and make a phone call
  • Also, should be able to make a phone call to numbers not in their phone list

Sending a message

  • User should be able to create a new message
  • Create broadcast lists
  • Create group chats

Adding a contact

  • Should be able to add a new contact

Saving chats

  • Should be able to save, export back up chats, multimedia and videos that are sent on the application

Reviewing call information

  • Should be able to review caller information including duration time, relationship and edit settings relating to the individual

Updating status

  • User should be able to update their status like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook e.g. “my story” feature

Updating profile

  • Users should be able to update settings like privacy, read receipts, chat backup and other pertinent tasks using the settings menu and other windows

Changing a number/deleting account

  • User should be able to change their phone number’
  • Users should be able to delete their account

Part 1.3

WhatsApp ~ Krug’s Attributes for Usability (Rmit.instructure.com, 2019)

Useful – “Does it do something people need done?”

The application allows individuals to call or message other WhatsApp users within their contacts list. They can achieve this using just mobile data. With the relative low bandwidth required and relatively low cost of mobile data, it is significantly cheaper to use than normal calling or SMS. It allows individuals to stay connected throughout the world without the high costing of international calls and texts. It also introduces features like sharing of multimedia, documents and other items, read receipts, video calls etc.

Learnable – “Can people figure out how to use it?”

WhatsApp makes it very simple for a smart phone user to download the application and begin using it straight away. It achieves this by piggy backing off the User Interface (UX) design for basic phone calling and texting of smartphones today. When a User opens the application, they will find it attempts to maintain consistency with what they are already used to.

Memorable – “Do they have to relearn it each time they use it?”

WhatsApp is very simple to use. A lot of the functions that are offered are consistent with functions of everyday smart phone users. For example, Users already know what the symbol for create new is. It is the + sign super imposed on whatever icon it represents i.e. new contact, new call. Or the pencil symbol representing write new or edit i.e. new status, new message, edit name. These common symbols are used across a plethora of applications such as Facebook, Phonebook, Instagram and Snapchat. This makes WhatsApp consistent and universal ensuring quick and easy operation for the regular phone user.

Efficient – “Does it do it with reasonable amount of time and effort?”

It is very easy to sign up to WhatsApp. All that’s required is a phone number and username, from there the user can easily import their contacts list in the initial setup. It will then populate the contacts who have the application and prompt them to invite the contacts that do not have it. As explained previously, one can begin operating WhatsApp as if they were making calls and messages normally. They are also able to change settings like notifications in the same fashion as normal calling and texting. That consistency allows for efficient use. As with the most pertinent tasks of the application, the buttons are in visible convenient locations e.g. making a call, sending a message, sending a video, creating a group chat. less pertinent/common tasks are much harder and tedious to complete, for example, making calls to someone not in one’s contact list or changing “read receipts” setting. However, the creators in this instance appear to have prioritised the ease of accessing some setting over others.

Desirable – “Do people want it?”

WhatsApp is a free to use alternative to calling and texting. What makes it desirable is that all that is required is an internet connection. Also, users do not have to deal with the influx of advertisements. This would typically be seen in free applications as a source of revenue raising. It also provides automatic end to end encryption for secure calls and text adding a privacy and security element to it. The user also can be notified when that changes. Due to its high popularity and large number of users, it is likely that most of one’s contacts would be using it. As a result, it is attractive to take advantage of the benefits of WhatsApp in order to contact friends, family and colleagues.

Delightful – “Is using it enjoyable, or even fun”

WhatsApp’s User interface tries to maintain consistency with current layouts of phonebook applications on smartphones. It makes tasks that users don’t want to think about, not have to think about them. While tasks that users will complete rarely are tedious or unable to be completed easily, the core objectives and tasks are presented in a swift easy to use manner that makes it enjoyable. Its is likely that user will spend most of their time completing those functions. The application also fosters creativety in how the user can customise their profile picture, status, contact’s details etc.


Survey report

I conducted a survey to ascertain individual users’ attitudes towards WhatsApp’s usability. A copy of the survey and spreadsheet can be found at these 2 links:

I achieved this by asking a series of questions that were based on tasks expected of a user. I asked the user to determine whether the user found it easy, hard or unable to complete those tasks.


I asked a series of questions on functions that a user would be expected to complete and obliged respondents to decide on 1 of 4 key options:

  • Easy/effortless to complete
  • Simple but tedious
  • Hard to complete
  • I don’t know how to do that

Other findings

“Changing read receipts”

This was to test how easy users found it going into setting and changing things around. About 70.6 % of people found it tedious or didn’t know how to do it.

“Changing phone number”

Note: 47.1% didn’t know how to do this, this could be due to WhatsApp not advertising such a function and of course users not regularly needing to change phone number.

“Deleting your account”

Unsurprisingly, half the people did not know how to complete this task 52.9% whilst the rest found it tedious or effortless

“Updating your status”

This question was to see if participants were aware and able to update their status bar, this implies photos and title card for one’s profile. Most 59% said that they were able to do this. The rest found it simple but tedious 12% or did not know how to do it at all 29%. This feature is not unlike the “my story” feature seen in applications like Snapchat and Facebook. It is unsurprising that most people would be able to accomplish this.

“Calling someone not in your contacts”

About 41% said that it would be effortless whilst about 46% either didn’t know how to do it or would find it hard to complete. This split in understanding of the functionality of WhatsApp might suggest a need for a more effective way to complete the task. For example, as it stands, you would need to click the new message icon in the chats window and select create contact. After the contact is created you would then need to go back into the calls window to initiate a call with that contact. A much simpler way would be to introduce a keypad in the main menu where the user can just dial the number. Or, have a create contact icon in the calls window in addition to the chats window

Most users found WhatsApp to be easy or very easy to use.


WhatsApp is a very good application that allows users to complete simple tasks like making phone calls and instant messaging for business or personal use. The interface is catered to the most common tasks performed by the user and focuses mainly on providing the best user experience in that regard. It does this well. However, this has led to much less common tasks taking less priority on the usability scale and this survey has identified as much. Whilst the act of making phone calls may be as simple as it gets for smart phone users, the more nuanced task that WhatsApp features have proven to be a little more difficult to master. Overall WhatsApp meets the criteria for a great UX design with some minor breakdowns with the less common tasks as identified in this report.


  1. Rmit.instructure.com. (2019). Week 1: Introduction To Usability. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Jan. 2019].
  2. WhatsApp.com. (2019). WhatsApp. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Jan. 2019].

Cite this page

Whatsapp And How It Works. (2019, Nov 30). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/whatsapp-and-how-it-works-essay

Whatsapp And How It Works

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