I just updated the Snapchat app on my phone and felt familiar upon seeing the Camera in a seemingly similar interface the first time I opened it. As I explored further, I realized that the pages to the left and right had received an unrecognizable facelift. I had to relearn how to use it.
As a Snapchat fan and active user, I found the new interface to be un-intuitive and this made me annoyed. I was not alone – 1.2 million people feel the same way – I guess we all find comfort in routines and dislike radical change.
But as a marketer, I wanted to know more. Was this redesign pivotal to Snapchat for some reason? Was it an attempt to provide a better experience for us? Or was this driven by brand advertising? Either way, the response has not been positive and has left Snapchat dealing with public criticism from celebrities and a tumbling stock value. Although the motive for the update remains speculative, there are 8 factors I find interesting about the redesign that that we can apply to our user experience and app development strategies:
Separate ‘Social’ From ‘Media’
Snapchat provided another interpretation of social media that we have not seen before – by splitting friends’ updates from branded/promotional content. The app has a clear focus on interpersonal relationships:
“Our service was really built on this idea of helping friends communicate, we chose friends.” – Snapchat CEO Spiegel
Opposite to the old version, where content from friends, celebrities, influencers, and publishers were all tangled together in one place.
In the redesign, Chats and Stories from friends are on the left side, and Media Stories from celebrities, brands, and the community are separated on the right side. If you understand how Snapchat set themselves apart as being a private messaging app, you would agree that this move by stays true to the brand image.
Tap Into Psychology (Feelings)
I still remember how the app amazed me at first. Once knowing that pictures would be gone after the recipient viewed them, I felt so relaxed sending pictures to my pals on Snapchat, even if I might look a little messy. In fact, this was part of the fun of it.
This “everything-happens-in-real-time-and-disappears” form of ephemerality taps into the majority’s fear about personal information being hacked or distributed elsewhere on the internet. And the tips from Snapchat made users consider ‘what does it feel like’ rather than ‘how does it look’ which was a new concept for this audience.
Focus On Mobile
In the mobile era, people have access to all sorts of digital content right in the palm of their hand, therefore everything needs to be optimized to suit that. The worldwide philosophy that ‘mobile is everything’ has been keenly reflected in the app design and features exclusively tailored for mobile, and often described as what happens in Snapchat, stays in Snapchat:
- Making the selfie camera the default screen to cater for the urge of capturing photos – we are the “me generation” after all.
- Easy access to texting, video call, and voice call without leaving the app.
- Option to save images and videos to the Memories tab (not your iPhone’s photo album), and all the content are searchable.
- School newspapers, custom stories, news and even TV shows are all provided in the app – all focusing on local content.
Data shows that there are 178 million active Snapchatters, and they open the app 25 times and spend 30 minutes every day on average.
(Source: Business Insider)
The rise of ad blockers is affecting text ads and display ads on search engines and websites, and meanwhile making video ads on social media channels like Facebook and Snapchat a viable alternative. However, advertising costs on Snapchat are too high for small businesses. Snapchat’s struggle was how to improve user engagement and offer more competitive advertising options for businesses:
So far, the app has been paving the way to mobile advertising with constant updates:
- Snapchat Ad Manager, a self-serve ads tool for creating maximum 10-second full-screen vertical video ads.
- Geofilters, location-based illustrations featuring brands or events for users to decorate selfies.
- Context Card: show business information (reviews, contact information, business hours, websites, etc.) based on locations.
- Snap Map: show other users’ locations and activities on a world map.
- Allowing hyperlinks in posts which is a big change – Instagram has yet to do this.
These features all have super user-friendly designs and are expected to generate in-app transactions, location-based advertising and online-to-offline sales, at least that’s what they were hoping.
Analytics Are A Must
In-app analytics tools have also been added to Snapchat’s new update – amid the latest controversial redesign after neglecting influencers’ demands for years and experiencing a painful audience growth in 2016. Now, the app has to make a move to catch up with Instagram in order to win back influencers by focusing on:
- A data-driven content strategy: metrics like story views, time spent viewing stories, and audience interests help creators produce the right content for their target audience.
- More sponsorship from brands: using metrics like audience demographics and daily unique story viewers help brands to understand and define potential opportunities doing advertising or partnership with influencers who has huge followers on the platform.
Other than creating an analytics tool, some changes on Snapchat like allowing people to store old videos and images to Memories seem smart and could be potential for remarketing opportunities in the future, but are they getting away from the original premise of the app? Does it matter?
Seize Video Power
Recognized as a video messaging app since it first started in 2011, Snapchat has proved to be a pioneer in the video category. Some great learnings from its success are:
- Make the video part of your design: the camera-centered design is quite a feature of Snapchat that generates millions of video clips on a daily basis.
- Distinguish yourself from the masses: you need a special value so people know when and why post to your channels. For example, Snapchat video is raw and authentic, while Instagram video is thoughtful and elaborate.
- Always optimized for mobile: ALWAYS!
- Be fun and creative with features: people love Snapchat AR Lenses, Geofilters, Bitmoji, etc, – so much so that the puppy dogs ears have become a part of our pop culture.
No matter how great your design or content is, the algorithm is queen. An algorithm-based feed is key to user engagement on social media by showing the content that users are interested in.
Snapchat is using a new “Best Friends algorithm” to show content on a friends-come-first order rather than a chronological order. Messages and videos from friends will be sorted by who you interact with most, not people who update the most. And content from the media like celebrities and publishers, and Snap Map in the Discover section will be sorted by your past viewing behaviour. Although it takes time for the updated algorithm to learn the user’s information, but the idea is saving users the trouble of scrolling and searching.
User feeds are packed with more content than ever, without a smart feed, Snapchat could face a stalled user growth. Finding the right way to serve the right content to the right person is an ongoing effort for all social media products.
Be Fun, But Creatively
(Image resource: AdAge)
People love to laugh and feel good about themselves, and Snapchat keeps adding new features to make sure that. Users can take goofy selfies, doodle on images, create custom Bitmojis, personalized ScanCode, AR Lens, Geofilters… all interactions and activities that fun in a creative way. And that’s why Millennials and Generation Z are crazy about the app!
So far, the app’s redesign seems unpopular among millennials, and the ongoing disses from celebrities have wiped out over 1.3 billion in Snap’s market value in a week. Losing profit is definitely not pleasing, but since the loss has already started in 2017, we hope the redesign could be a trade-off between profitability and user growth.
Are you still a loyal Snapchatter? Tell us on Twitter!