Wizz App Creator on What it Takes to Go From Zero to 14M Downloads

By Zoe Ashbridge Zoe Ashbridge has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on September 5, 2023

If you haven’t heard of Wizz, it might be because you’re not part of the social media app’s core user base of 13 to 21-year-olds — or you’re not a parent of a child in that range. 

The app started in 2019 as an experimental venture for video game developer Voodoo, which caters to Wizz’s demographic (and beyond) through its 200+ mostly free mobile video games. Its games have been downloaded more than 6 billion times from the Apple App Store and Google Play and entertain over 150 million people per month.

But Wizz is an outlier in Voodoo’s portfolio of casual games…an outlier that has quietly made its way to the App Store’s top 10-15 social networking apps. It has more than 14 million downloads, 220k reviews, and a consistent 4.4-star ranking.

For anyone who’s ever developed an app, whether independently or for a major company, this is no small feat. So, how did they do it? 

I got in touch with Wizz’s co-founder and CTO, Gautier Gédoux, to ask precisely this question. 

According to Gédoux, there are seven overarching areas that have contributed to Wizz’s success: interface design, user experience, community, stickiness, discoverability, safety, and security. 

He shared some of the considerations his team has taken in each of these areas to create an app that users open again and again.

1. The Interface Has to be Appealing, User-Friendly, and Easily Compel Engagement

Wizz’s interface automatically feels familiar to users, thanks to common features such as chat and social media profiles. Rather than reinventing the wheel completely, Wizz analyzed the types of interfaces its users frequent and brought them together to create a unique and easy-to-use experience. It also made decisions about the types of features it didn’t want.

Wizz’s interface has often been compared to Tinder, thanks to the ability for users to swipe from person to person and connect with ones they like based on imagery and some initial biographical information. But Wizz is not a dating app.

Gédoux shared that, “A lot of people ask, ‘Is Wizz like Tinder?’ While it’s certainly a way to connect with like-minded people to form deeper connections and conversations, it’s not designed to pair people looking for romantic relationships. Instead, it’s a place to express yourself and connect with people who like what you have to say.” 

Also, unlike a dating app, people aren’t able to search for new connections nearby, nor are they automatically served new connections based on physical proximity. At its core, Wizz connects people based on common interests. Notably, it only connects people who are both live on the app at the same time to encourage immediate interactions rather than delayed responses characteristic of other social media or even dating platforms. 

2. Wizz Users Have to Have a Good Experience While Using the App

The larger promise behind Wizz is to help users “expand their worlds.” While the idea of being able to meet new people from all over the world isn’t far-fetched to today’s teens–in fact, it’s their normal–there’s still very much a thrill to the experience.

That thrill is exactly what Wizz has tapped into. 

Wizz users can instantly find connections with common interests, spark up spontaneous conversations, and share photos and video content. 

“Years ago, apps like MSN Messenger tried to create opportunities for people to connect worldwide, but the technology wasn’t quite there yet and connections felt random,” said Gédoux. “I think a big reason for this is that the app predated what is now a commonplace practice: helping people connect with each other, based on individual user  preferences.” 

Wizz’s more curated experience lends itself to deeper connections and gives users a glimpse into what life looks like in countries across the globe.

“Another critical priority for us is that users fundamentally feel good about themselves when they use the app. We made the decision to get rid of likes or any other form of rankings. We don’t want to be like Instagram where people have to hustle for likes. This has alleviated any pressure on users to judge themselves on how their content or thoughts are ‘performing.’ When users know that their every move is not being somehow quantified–they are more likely to be themselves and focus on making more meaningful connections,” added Gédoux.

3. Users Need to be Able to Quickly Find Their People and Communities

When Wizz originally launched, its first order of business was to achieve critical mass quickly. This wasn’t just a numbers game–they wanted to make sure their user base was diverse and representative of people of different backgrounds, races, and interests so that every user could “find their people.” 

“Using our community feature, users can easily find different groups to match their interests. Say you’re a gamer for instance. You can find others who are into things like Fortnite, manga, Roblox and so on. Or you can find those with similar hobbies, interests, and views on the world,” explained Gédoux.

There are a few ways of finding these communities, including Wizz’s native search function, which quickly routes users to established groups and conversations. A more unique way is through publicly posing a question to the larger user community and interacting with other users whose responses appeal to your sensibilities. This is what Wizz refers to as its “Pop” feature, which is a way of letting users interact with a lot of people at once and extending their communities.

4. Create Stickiness so That Users Will Keep Coming Back

Getting users to download the app is only step one. Wizz, like any other social media app, wants users to keep coming back. 

The way Gédoux explains it, getting users to keep returning is a function of a few things: “They need to be able to find and connect with ‘their people’ quickly. They need to feel like the app is a safe space for them to be themselves. For us, this means ensuring that they’re not encountering offensive content or people, and that the conversions they’re engaging in tend to trend positive.”

Users also like to see constant improvements and updates. “We’re constantly working to keep things fresh.”

5. It’s Important That They Are Easy to Discover in the App Stores and Via Other Social Networks

Getting found in app stores is part of the equation that’s heavily influenced by Wizz’s engineering team. According to the Mobile DevOps Assessment (MODAS) from Bitrise, app stores act as gatekeepers that stand between apps and their mobile users. And many mobile companies struggle to keep up with their requirements, such as the growing pressure to release app updates more frequently.

To maintain consistently high rankings in the App Store and Google Play, Wizz engineers prioritize keeping up with app development best practices, such as frequency of release cycles, addressing bugs quickly, responding to user feedback, and other technical considerations. 

It’s also very important for Wizz to be found organically on other social platforms, such as TikTok, where its current and future users can be found. Wizz makes it easy for users to download content they’ve created on their app so they can post it to their TikTok profiles. This not only increases visibility for Wizz but encourages new in-app connections for its users.

6. Make Sure That the Wizz App Is a Safe Space for Users to Express Themselves

Like many popular social media apps that cater to teens–think TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat–Wizz has had to ramp up its moderation efforts. 

Its primary focus is eliminating content and behaviors that are universally offensive or inappropriate, such as anything depicting or containing violence, hate speech, or sexually-oriented messages.

“Our goal is to remove this type of content before a user even sees it,” explains Gédoux.
“We use third party moderation partners such as Besedo and Sight Engine, whose advanced AI-based solutions enable the app to perform live checks for offending content.”

Wizz doesn’t only proactively ban offensive content, it bans the users responsible for posting it, too. Some of Wizz’s users even say that its banning policies are a little too aggressive.

According to one App Store commenter, “I have had to make multiple accounts that only last up to about 10 hours before I get banned/restricted for doing virtually nothing. Maybe loosen up on the rules a little bit because it seems like I’m getting banned for doing nothing.”

Gédoux believes that it’s important for Wizz to air on the side of caution when it comes to safety. “We also equip our users with the ability to flag content that they find offensive in case it falls outside of what our automated moderation takes down.”

 The constant challenge that Wizz and other social media apps are addressing is defining what’s universally offensive and what’s more subjective. 

“We are constantly working to become better at quickly addressing gray areas when we identify content that’s troubling to one person, but not to others,” said Gédoux. “What’s nice about our democratized approach is that users have complete control over who they engage with and let into their orbits. In the rare case that an offensive message is not automatically removed, users are encouraged to flag any content they find offensive or simply don’t like.”

7. Keep the Wizz App Network Secure by Ensuring That People Are Who They Say They Are

Because we cater to teens, it’s very important that we pair users with others in their direct age group. We’ve defined this as people one year younger or older than the user. So, a 15-year-old, for instance, can only interact with people between 14 and 16 years old.

To verify that users are, in fact, the age they say they are, we’ve integrated Yoti, a facial age estimation technology that accurately estimates a person’s age based on a selfie. We then enforce this first layer of age verification with another technology, Sumsub, which verifies identification through other data points.

The technology has been trained to estimate age by looking at facial features in an image and comparing it to patterns across millions of images. That way, it can determine whether or not ‘this pattern is what 15-year olds usually look like.’

If people claim that the system has made a mistake while verifying their age, we manually review their selfies.

All of this is how the Wizz app is expanding the worlds of more than 14 million users in a safe and secure environment.

By Zoe Ashbridge Zoe Ashbridge has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Zoe Ashbridge is a contributor at Grit Daily. She's spent the last ten years working in and writing about technology, digital marketing, SEO, ecommerce and entrepreneurship.

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