4 min read

Snapchat Redesign: Case Study

Snapchat, a multimedia messaging application, quickly became popular due to its USP – AR powered camera filters that weren’t being offered by any other app at the time. Young adults in the age group of 13 to 21, increasing started using Snapchat as their exclusive messaging app.

However, a recent redesign proved to be extremely unsuccessful. The redesign altered the design, which changed the UX of the entire application. Users were extremely irritated by this change in the UX and even expressed their frustration online. Over 1.2 million users signed a petition on Change.org, an online platform to garner support, asking Snapchat.inc to rollback the design changes and go back to the old design. 

The primary complaint highlighted in the petition was that the new update was extremely confusing for users. It also stated that the redesign made many features difficult to use, and that a lot of the new features were useless. May users were so annoyed that they stated that they would be leaving the platform for good and used their social media platform to express their frustration. 

Kylie Jenner, a mega celebrity with over 24 million followers, too shared her disappointment over the User Experience update on Twitter. This resulted in a loss of over 1.3 billion dollars off Snapchat’s share price, as all her followers agreed with her. 

So what went so horribly wrong? Why did Snapchat lose out on its most loyal followers? Let’s understand the new features that Snapchat introduced in its redesign and why it wasn’t received well by users of the application.

The Redesign

Snapchat wanted desperately to carve a niche space for itself and differentiate itself from other social media giants like Facebook and Instagram. When Facebook also implemented the idea of “Stories” and extended it to Instagram, an idea that initially belonged only to Snapchat, the app was left with no choice but to attempt a full fledged redesign. 

Their idea was to separate the “social” aspect from the “media”. This seemed like a novel idea at the time, however it created a lot of confusion amongst users, because they did not know where to go in terms of navigation. They were unable to find their friend’s stories, because these were embedded within the social tab itself. The social tab was previously a log of sent and received Snaps in the original version. In later versions, they combined user’s friends stories with those of celebrities, ad plugins and content pieces under the “Discover” button. This created a major disconnect, as users did not want to see their friends stories along with stories by celebrities or paid content. 

A lesson we can takeaway from Snapchat’s redesign is that more features is not necessarily a good thing. Sometimes more features can result in a lot more confusion for users. Something Snapchat could’ve done instead was treat Stories as a separate feature rather than combining it with other features, since Stories was the reason why Snapchat had such a large user base in the first place. Due to the disappointing redesign, a lot of users moved to Instagram and Facebook that have a dedicated Story feature. It is no surprise that the Stories feature on these platforms is being used way more widely than Snapchat.

Here are some other features that were introduced as a part of the redesign;

  1. Stories and incoming chats on the same page

The redesign compressed Stories and Incoming chats on a single page called FRIENDS. New incoming snapchats are placed on top, but the stories and conversations look almost similar and are no longer in serial order. It uses a predetermined algorithm to show Stories from friends that the app decide would be most meaningful and important to you or the ones it thinks you care most about.

2. Sending a message is extremely complicated

The new layout as part of the updated UX is extremely clumsy and confusing, which makes it extremely difficult for users to find their friends and connect with them by sending them a direct message. Earlier it was a lot easier to have a simple list of friends and send them a message.

3. Cannot replay stories

In the new redesign, stories vanish after watching them once. It is difficult for users to rewatch stories. To find them again, users need to swipe up and search for a specific friends name to rewatch their stories again. Previously the story was available on the Stories page until it’s expiry. The new redesign made the process of rewatching someone’s story unnecessarily complicated.

4. Discover page replaced with featured and sponsored content

Earlier users could easily swipe left to find Stories. However the entire page was now dedicated to features celebrity stories and sponsored content. This was done to make Snapchat a more advertiser – friendly application and generate a lot more revenue for the app. However this did not pan out the way it was intended and in fact had an opposite effect. Users started ignoring this entire page altogether since it was only filled with advertisements.

Takeaways from the Snapchat Redesign

The major reason for the failure of Snapchat’s design was that the application did not take into account their users needs. In an attempt to be more advertiser friendly, they failed to implement features that would actually be useful for their users. Thus the newly increased features were not appealing to users at all. The company failed to find the right balance between their user and business goal, adversely affecting their brand image and losing a majority of their users in the process.

Secondly, before implementing such a major change, Snapchat should have beta tested the features. This would have helped them understand what works and what doesn’t so that they could make improvements and then gradually implemented the revamped features. Instead they just took their users by surprise thus garnering such adverse reactions and backlash that had such a major affect on its brand image.

In conclusion, any app needs to gradually introduce new features and not implement such major changes without due thought and gathering insights.

Siddhant Gandotra