Lessons Learnt From Snapchat’s User Experience Fails

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Snapchat’s UX is poor. There, I said it.

Thanksfully I’m not alone: Many UX designers aren’t able to comprehend just how frustratingly poor SnapChat’s design and usability has been. Yet the app continues to have great success with younger generations. And whilst it’s an example of poor user design, there’s actually a lot of website owners can take away from Snapchats downfalls.

They’ve had a particularly tough time of late. In Feb 2018, Snapchat rolled out a brand new interface. The backlash from this recent redesign was more severe than anyone could have predicted, with online petitions calling for change and celebrities like Kylie Jenner supposedly sending the company’s stock plummeting with one Tweet.

Plus, a massive 83 percent of App Store reviews (1,941) for the update are negative with one or two stars. But underneath all the hype and outrage, there’s a story to tell. A story that has some handy lessons for anyone with an interest in user experience.

Sometimes you have to fail to succeed

Snapchat appeared to intentionally ignore proven, market-tested design rules and went off-piste. Granted it didn’t pay off. But it’s important to remember that as well as being a proven, research-backed field, user experience requires a certain amount of trial and error.

Design for your target audience

Some may argue their cryptic design was initially part of the appeal to teens, who were happy to try and figure things out to keep up with their friends. Their design may be odd and unconventional, but on some levels, it’s worked with their target audience.

Though any adult is likely to lose patience and give up after five within five minutes. Aside from their latest redesign disaster that is. The company even claims they’ve gone for this odd design on purpose. Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s CEO said ‘This is by design. We have made it very hard for parents to embarrass their children.’

What he means by this, is that because adults don’t get the app at all, and can’t figure it out, they can’t keep an eye on what their kids are posting or use it themselves. Maybe this is why young people love Snapchat so much because it makes them feel part on an ‘in’ group and gives them a sense of achievement.

If you’re UX is poor, that leaves you open to rival copycats

It seems that their odd design only got them so far. If you generate a lot of interest in your website initially through marketing and coming up with something exciting, that’s great. But, if your site is designed poorly, this will eventually come back to bite you. Awfully designed sites can only survive for so long. Take Snapchat’s stories for example, which have quickly been mimicked and adopted by Instagram, which has a more universally friendly design. So it’s not surprising that the app’s user numbers are flat lining.

Avoid ambiguous icons

People need to instantly know what an icon is for. But when you go to the home screen on Snapchat, the majority of the icons are hard to figure out. What do those three dots on the bottom right of the screen even mean? This is a key learning point, especially for social media sites and apps, because if users can’t understand what your buttons and icons do, they’ll soon give up and move on.

Always address user complaints

‘How many people have to hate an update for it to be reconsidered?.’ @chrissyteigen

One the biggest mistakes Snapchat have made is not taking action after years of frustration with its overall user experience. After being put under a lot of pressure to change their design after so many complaints and bad press, Snapchat eventually responded to public demand and they’ve made a few changes.

But it shouldn’t get to the point where your entire user base is raging with frustration for changes to be made. Be responsive and proactive, and if you’ve got a surge of similar complaints, it might be time to start fixing things. In response to the outrage, Snapchat has added new friends and discover screen tabs. Whether this will stop the issues and minimise complaints is another issue. Is it too late for Snapchat to gain user’s respect again? Only time will tell.

Test, test, test!

Before even considering going live with a website or app redesign, make sure you do some testing. See what a small pool of users think before you roll out the changes across the board. Let your target market use your site for a set period of time and see what they’ve got to say about the new functionality. To what extent Snapchat tested these changes we’ll never know. They just updated the design without really giving users a compelling reason to jump on board.

Your response to negative feedback is crucial

Snapchat didn’t exactly help themselves when they simply told angry users that they couldn’t revert back to the old design, and ‘updates as big as this one can take a little getting used to, but we hope the community will enjoy it once they settle in.’ Reacting in this way to user design criticisms will only fuel the fire and agitate your audience more. You want to keep people on board, so show them you’re working to help resolve their issues.

Key takeaways

Whilst you may come up with changes that you think users will love, you can never really gauge their reaction. Feedback from users needs to be taken into consideration and used in conjunction with research and testing. What will be really interesting is whether Snapchat recovers from this, especially with rising pressure from competitors like Instagram, Facebook, and the new kid on the blog, Vero.

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