With a user interface that has long been a source of contention, it seems Snapchat's heavily touted redesign will likely be coming too late to do the company much good, although there is some skepticism as to how much it would have helped the company anyways.
Guest post by Zach Fuller of Midia
Having promised a ‘whole new Snapchat’, it appears the app’s mooted re-design is not the revolution Evan Spiegel proposed during his company’s Q3 earnings call.
The company’s founder stated that: “While blurring the lines between professional content creators and your friends has been an interesting Internet experiment, it has also produced some strange side-effects (like fake news) and made us feel like we have to perform for our friends rather than just express ourselves.”
The re-design, which has been pushed to a small percentage of the apps user base, has thus endeavoured to further distinguish Snapchat’s disparate features: messaging, stories and news discovery. Whilst the assumption is that separation will lead to an improved experience, facilitating an increase in the time users spend on the app as well the likelihood of a crossover to professional content, this is optimistic. However, as Facebook has discovered, this is not how most consumers are using social media. Instead, content is pushed through discovery functions, often meaning the user does not have to search out for content, as remains the case with Google and, going further back, television.
Whilst this is potentially a move into BuzzFeed/Vice territory, where instead of the interruption advertising model previously utilised between content discovery and friends’ snap stories, users go directly to the content. It is a risky move. Snapchat would need to host compelling content that would incentivise users to spend time away from their friend’s creations.
Snapchat’s design has long been a source of contention, with complaints over its plethora of hidden features and less intuitive design compared to its social rivals. Spiegel clearly wanted to create a mobile-centric and millennial-first product, but Instagram has managed to cajole this group while simultaneously making inroads to older demographics.
Spiegel’s track record indicates he’s clearly talented when it comes to product design, exemplified by the fact that Facebook and Instagram have ostensibly mimicked much of his company’s ideas. Elaborating on a tech product through playful revisions is suitable, if not vital, for a young, scrappy start-up. Indeed, this is how Snapchat’s most popular features (stories, filters) came to fruition. Yet Snapchat (or rather Snap Inc.) is now in a very different position as a public entity. With shareholders, professional corporate structure and the increased influence of Tencent, it means the ‘move fast and break things’ approach will likely no longer be viable.