I write about breaking news, content marketing and design trends.
A New York native, Kristina is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn with an appetite for adventure. When not in her home office, she’s likely to be found exploring a new hiking trail, searching for the best goat cheese omelet or scouring the web for the next best flight deal.
Snapchat has undergone several changes and redesigns since it was first launched in September 2011. Most of these changes include added features that made the selfie experience even more fun and engaging — geofilters, location sharing, lenses and even a 2017 year in review. Who didn’t want to send a silly, five-second photo of themselves to their friends? Especially when all evidence would disappear without a trace. But recent UX design changes have left Snapchat fans less than happy about their Snapchat experience.
In the last three months alone, Snapchat has made a plethora of changes that most users find confusing and, in all honesty, unnecessary.
One of these changes — the most recent — includes allowing users to share Snap stories on social media and on the web. Now that sounds like a great update! Except that the stories you can share are only the stories that can be found on Discover. This means that you have to be a publication, brand or monetized Snapchat account to get a shareable link to the Snap video. No, your personal stories are still only shareable on Snapchat — unless you download the video and send it that way. But where’s the fun in that?
The other change comes in the form of a new user interface that leaves much to be desired. Snapchat announced in November a completely redesigned Snapchat app experience. But it left the Snapchat interface jumbled and hard to follow. It went from simple and effective to overly advanced, complicated and futuristic. You know what they say — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Apparently, Snapchat missed that memo.
In the update, Snapchat Stories were moved. Instead of swiping left on the camera screen to find your friends stories, you have to swipe right. This takes you to a new and dynamic Friends page that can be jarring for old users. Especially because now all of your Snaps, Snap stories and messages are all on one screen. Snapchat UX designers might have thought they were making it easier to stay connected with your friends, but they just made it messier.
The whole interface looks disorganized and cluttered — things an app that’s used for sharing funny photos and videos should not be. Even sending Snaps got a facelift, the new send-to screen displaying your top eight friends first, with groups and Snap story options lining the top of the screen.
Another update included the ordering of Snap stories. Snapchat jumped on the Instagram and Facebook bandwagon by sorting stories based on who your closest friends were and how often you interacted with certain people. No more chronological order. So now, if you want to watch someone’s story that ISN’T one of your top friends, you have to go searching for it. Sounds like a waste of time, doesn’t it? Maybe not if you’ve got plenty of time to go searching through the app. But if you’re using it for quick updates and a good laugh, you’re out of luck.
But the numbers are rolling in, and not only does it sound like users are unhappy, the numbers seem to prove it. According to mobile analytics from Sensor Tower and provided to TechCrunch, 83 percent of the app store reviews show Snapchat with two stars or less. Nobody is all that happy with the update, and Snapchat isn’t seeing the overflow of new users like it had hoped.
Overall, Snapchat used this update to try and streamline the UX design of its app, but instead of putting smiles on peoples faces, it’s leaving them with a bad taste in their mouth. There is a complexity now to the interface that wasn’t there before. But this recent update isn’t the only one of its kind.
Snapchat has had a history of reinventing itself and trying to push boundaries. The idea for the Snapchat app itself was revolutionary — but is it getting ahead of itself with its latest changes?
Let’s look at the history of Snapchat and all the changes its UX and features have gone through. Then you can be the judge.
Snapchat launches in September 2011
One of the first apps of its kind, Snapchat launched as a social media platform for sharing photos and videos that would disappear after a few seconds. It didn’t have many competitors, though Instagram was popular at this time for photo sharing. The Snapchat app quickly gained traction, however. Not many knew it at the time, but Snapchat was about to explode as one of the most-used apps of all time.
Snapchat launches stories in October 2013
The first social media platform to introduce this feature, Snapchat launched Stories in October of 2013. By this time, Snapchat had successfully found its niche amidst social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But with this update, users were able to broadcast a story for all friends to see for a limited amount of time — they lasted longer than Snaps, and didn’t require you to send them individually. It was the Snapchat version of a Facebook or Twitter update, and people ate it up.
Snapchat launches geofilters in July 2014
With the addition of geofilters, users could now rep their individual locations. It was a fun and easy way to add pizazz and personality to Snaps and Snap Stories, and was a very successful tool. With these, you could add a simple location tag to your photos or videos, or it could be an elaborate filter. A location filter could be for a city, town or landmark.
Snapchat launches Discover in January 2015
Discover was Snapchat’s foray into paid advertisements. With Discover, brands could promote their content through their own Snap Stories. This has evolved from just ads, and now brands, influencers and organizations can host whole shows on the Discover page for everyone to see.
Sponsored geofilters launch in June 2015
The geofilters evolved in a year’s time. What started as Snapchat’s way of tagging locations turned into a way for brands and organizations to promote themselves. Brands and organizations could now sponsor a geofilter for a certain area or time frame. Everyday people could also buy geofilters for a specific event.
Snapchat eliminates an old feature, allowing people to watch Snaps and Snap Stories without holding down a finger in July 2015
This was a major update in the Snapchat UX design because it allowed people to reach content with a simple click. It made the process of watching Snaps much easier because you didn’t have to worry about removing your finger and losing the Snap forever.
Snapchat launches Lenses in September 2015
Lenses used AI technology to map a users face and add an effect to it. Some of these effects included swapping faces, adding animal ears or snouts, making your facial features bigger or smaller, and adding animations to a photo or video. Brands could now promote their content using this feature as well, and it has grown to include an ever-evolving selection of lens choices.
Snapchat announces auto-advancement in March 2016
Before, you had to click on every individual story you wanted to watch. With this update, stories would queue up and automatically play once a previously story has finished. This made getting all your friends’ updates quick and easy — with little work required.
Snapchat adds a function where users can add stickers to their Snaps in May 2016
Stickers were a fun and flirty way to add some personality to Snaps. Of course, people could change their faces and be silly, but with stickers, they could add Bitmojis, cute little emojis and fun pictures that elevated Snapchat UX design.
Snapchat launches memories in July 2016
Memories is a feature that allows users to look back on photos and videos they had shared on the app. All a user has to do is save a Snap or a Snap Story and it’ll be saved to Memories where you can look back on them, edit them and add them to new stories. In addition, this updated allowed for the sharing of photos from your phone’s camera roll.
Snapchat releases Snapchat Spectacles in November 2016
Snapchat left the app with its newest release in November of 2016. The company released their Snapchat Spectacles, which was a way for people to take photos and video right as their eyes were seeing it. It was an innovative use of AI technology, but the Spectacles inevitably failed, losing the company almost $40 million.
Snapchat launches the Snap Map in June 2017
An exciting and somewhat unexpected new update, Snapchat launched the Snap Map in June of 2017. With this map, users could see their own individual Bitmojis on a map. They could also find friends and other users on Snapchat. Anytime a user opened the app, their location would be updated.
There was some initial backlash to this update, however, with fears of being found due to Snapchat causing panic. There was a solution to this, though — users could go into their settings and choose whether they wanted to be on the map for all to see, if they just wanted their friends to see them, if they just wanted certain people seeing them or if they wanted to be off the map entirely.
Snapchat launches UX redesign to make the app more user-friendly in November 2017
Snapchat announced this redesign in November 2017, and it has since been made available to most users. This redesign has been the cause of much uproar and backlash. The UX is confusing for many, and unfamiliar for all. It essentially divided the Snapchat app experience into two parts. On the left, you have your friends, their Snap Stories and conversations. On the right is the Discover page, where Snapchat isolates brands, publications and influencers. It was designed to make things easier, but the jury is still out on whether it will end up being successful in the long run.
Snapchat will allow public sharing of Snap Stories from the Discover page on the web in January 2018
This is Snapchat’s most recent update. In it, users can now get shareable links to Snapchat stories found on the Discover page. This means that stories from major publications, brands and influencers will now be shareable on Facebook, Twitter and on a web platform. These videos will be able to live outside of the app for 30 days.
Snapchat has undergone a long history of changes and redesigns -- and, for the most part, they’ve been extremely successful. Discover paved the way for advertisements that weren’t exhausting for users. Geofilters gave users a fun way to show of their locations, and the Snap Map also helped further this goal. Lenses allowed even more silliness by letting people take videos with a dancing hot dog and assume the face of a panda bear. From the beginning, Snapchat was paving the way for the future of the social media experience.
But it seems Snapchat’s growth has come to a halt. In the last few quarters of 2017, the number of Snapchat users was falling, and the number of viewed videos was declining as well. They needed something to get in touch with an audience that wasn’t just millennials — and their solution was a redesigned UX that would simplify the experience to other groups by dividing the app into two parts — friends and brands. For those new to the app, this might have come off as a modern and innovative way to redesign an app that hadn’t gone through too many changes in the way it looks. But the switch didn’t make many long-time users happy.
The future of Snapchat is still up in the air — what changes will they continue to make and what will happen to the future of funding with dwindling numbers? The questions continue to permeate the technical landscape. And there’s no doubt Snapchat will continue making changes that’ll make waves.
You can’t get it right all the time — plus, if brands DID always hit the mark, we wouldn’t write all these in-depth articles, would we? So, naturally, every company screws up and makes a change or introduces a product that doesn’t really work. When it comes to Snapchat, their lack of listening to users not only halted their revenue, but it also stunted their UX experience and, ultimately, brand loyalty. Eventually, if Snap doesn't get back to making their user experience actually about the user -- not what the company thinks is cool and futuristic -- other social networks will overpower them. Luckily, Snapchat has time to remind us why we all loved them in the first place. All it takes is one more update...