Tiktok’s path to success – from an interaction design perspective

When it comes to interesting interactive design applications, some think of niche apps with a unique sense of design and sometimes popular apps that can be seen everywhere in our daily life are, in contrast, rarely mentioned. But in fact, the reason for an app being recognized by most users on the market as a popular hit is inseparable from its unique and excellent interaction design.

Let’s take Tiktok/Douyin for an example. If you have ever used Tiktok, you would know that feeling when you thought you were only on Tiktok for five minutes but in fact, two hours had already passed. Thus, there is a popular saying in China that goes, “Five minutes for Douyin, two hours for the world.” According to the 2018 Douyin Research Report, the number of Douyin users is about 150 million. On average, every Chinese uses Douyin 13.5 days a month. In addition, Tiktok, the overseas version of Douyin, has also become one of the most downloaded apps in App Store as well as in the world. In the first quarter of 2018, it surpassed the download and usage data of world famous apps such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. The number of monthly active users exceeds 500 million. As far as interaction design is concerned, the success of Tiktok is not not predictable. Whether it is UI or UX, Tiktok has almost no shortcomings.

Compared with the common waterfall and table-like app UI layouts, Tiktok directly presents a distinctive auto-play and vertical full-screen layout to users. Although this vertical full-screen type is only a different way of visual content presentation, its intuitive, orderly and efficient feedback can, to a large extent, make users feel immersed, which can also make users addicted to the app. At the same time, this way of simulating a first-person perspective also greatly improves the user’s comfort and makes it feel more real for users when using the app. One of the golden rules for interface design from Shneiderman says, “reduce short-term memory load” and Tiktok has done a good job of that.Pareto’s law tells us that everything in the world can actually conform to the 80%/20% law, meaning many outcomes roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes. There is no need for designers to always meticulously pursue excellences and it is not necessary to provide users with lots of comprehensive information loading because designers should try to avoid problems such as excessive content and fatigue of browsing when facing numerous lists and layouts. Designers should try to find the most critical 20%, and use most of their energy on the core and most critical content, providing a shortcut of greater benefits for most users. Based on the above interactive design considerations and Shneiderman’s golden rule, Tiktok has successfully reduced the user’s acquisition cost without making the users to do any complicated thinking and choices; shortened the steps and distance of operation, and greatly improved the user’s using experience. Therefore, Tiktok’s interaction design has no obvious disadvantages. Its comprehensive consideration in interaction design has largely contributed to the success of Tiktok today.



  • Ben Shneiderman, Catherine Plaisant, et al. Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2016.
  • Data, Q. (2018, 12 7). 2018 Douyin Research Report released. Retrieved from Tencent Cloud: https://cloud.tencent.com/developer/article/1369825
  • (2020, 10 25). Pareto principle . Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle