Matt Clifton

Tumblr Communities

Make space for Groups to be themselves and connect over What they love. 👋🏼


UX/UI at Tumblr.


Concept Work for Tumblr

We spent 12 weeks working closely with our users to define a strategic vision for the future of the platform. We met with company stakeholders and reviewed user testing and research to arrive at a core set of guiding principles:

  1. Help people find their community.
  2. Make joining the conversation easier.
  3. Transition people from passive to engaged.
  4. Evolve platform without alienating communities.
  5. Improve the creators experience.

We then translated those principles into tangible experiences. The result was a high level picture of how the next version of Tumblr could come to life.





Tumblr is a place where your interests and passions shape your experience. But, low retention rates show that many users aren’t feeling engaged.

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Our users found the dashboard experience on the existing Tumblr app was a confusing feed of disparate topics. We found that organizing content around interests provides a way for users to more actively interact with their communities. 


We turned hashtags into topics. This provided a more approachable way to group content, people, and conversations.


The "All" section of the dashboard is defined by the people and topics you follow.

Topics create discrete spaces for the user to explore new content.


Topics create discrete spaces for a user to explore new content.


First we removed the "likes." We felt that conversations were more meaningful than low-friction vanity metrics. We wanted to make valuable conversation more expressive, engaging, and immersive. We wanted every post to feel unique– containing imagery, video, and text as a single unit to be shared across the platform.


This update also has a secondary impact, making content off the platform more identifiable as Tumblr content.


We made it easy to expand your interests by interacting with related topics, users, and groups in an effort to keep users from being isolated and promote exploration. 




Tumblr users are multifaceted. A user’s account should be able to evolve with their ever-changing tastes. We created identities to let users separate work from play, politics from personal, or family from friends.


You can easily switch and create identities at any time.


Whenever you add topics, they are added to your selected identity with the option to change them at any time.


Searches surface relevant tags. Based on how relevant a topic is to your existing identity, we surface the option to create a new identity or add to another.




Groups are essentially forums that feel more like chats. These are places where you can chat with anyone interested in a topic publicly or just privately with your friends. Groups are places to talk with words, images, videos, drawing, and more.


Groups can be suggested based on topics you follow or in your search results.

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Comments on Tumblr frequently lead to conversations. We know that our users often take conversations from post comments into direct messages. But those conversations and connections you make can easily get lost. We looked at a way for comments to springboard into groups.


Tapping on a post goes to a detail view, with comments and reblog chains below.


Liking comments puts the most loved comments first in the thread.


Commenting on the main post or replying to a comment is easy.


When a conversation starts to build it’s easy to turn
it into a new group and keep the conversation going.


There are also opportunities to elevate comments within content on the dashboard–driving people to join the communities who talk about what they love the most.


Creator Tool

We looked at the Creator Tool only briefly but had a few high level ideas. Given the current tools for post creation on Tumblr are based on early 2000s blogging, we wanted to make users reconsider what it means to post on Tumblr. We created a full-screen post creation tool to seamlessly use text, photos, videos, or drawing.


The tool allowed users to play in a full-screen environment using primary colors from content media to fill the remainder of the screen. Users also have the option to cycle through recommended colors or choose their own.

Users could also search, find contextual suggestions, select their own content, or take a photo or video from their device camera. The tool would also pick which input mode makes the most sense for the context 



Prototype & Testing

I worked with a developer to create a native iOS prototype of our designs to test and validate our concepts with both Tumblr and non-Tumblr users.



It’s more organized, it makes sense. When you open an app and it’s in one news feed, so it’s hard to find certain things, but if it’s organized by topics it’s easier to find what you’re looking for.
— Adriana


I kinda like that because I feel like if I pick topics right away, I wouldn’t pick [that], but now that I’m seeing it I’m like, You know what? I care about that. Let me see some stuff about it.
— Elsie


I like it because you see some people, half their content will be their fandom and the other half will be their content, or like something else like that and you would have to look though the hashtags. It would show you fashion under this person’s blog. I feel like that would be easier to look through.
— Samia


I like it because you’re talking to people about the same thing that they are interested in and you’re interested in, so I like it.
— Ethan

On Group Creation

I really like the idea too, of the group in the public and private thing. You can decide if you wanna make something public, think about other people’s opinions. And you can make something private to see your close friends or just talk to random people online maybe. Just see what other people are thinking too.
— Brian


After the final round of testing we had some ideas to solve repeating issues.


We simplified the navigation even more–focusing users on adding to the. conversation. All the user’s stuff is now. easily accessible from the identity switcher.


It starts with a digest of all activity. And lets you use the same swing navigation you use on the main dashboard to navigate. 


Everything to do with you, your blog, and your communications are just a tap away.


Using this user profile also let us start to explore how to nicely encapsulate reblog chains: an essential part of Tumblr culture and conversation.


A quick idea for how pulling to refresh could work with these designs. Pulling down reveals instruction. Letting go while text is visible refreshes the dashboard.


Pulling down past the refresh ‘speed bump’ reveals the user’s area.



The work shown here was created in an effort to test our theories that Tumblr users and users who have never used the platform are interested in. a platform focused more intently on creating focused groups and one which allows you. to seamlessly switch from identity to identity. Overall, users enjoyed the unconventional gestures and patterns after playing with the app. Many even wished they could continue scrolling! The goal is to. implement these changes on the existing Tumblr platform by slowly iterating on the product as it is today.