If you have found Snapchat hard to use you’re not alone. In fact, difficulty of use has been a leading complaint from Snapchat users. And the complaint isn’t unfounded. Snap had to include a manual for using Snapchat in its IPO filing, a strong indicator that it’s not the most user-friendly app among social media platforms. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel addressed these complaints when he announced Snapchat’s biggest redesign, which is rolling out to users in the coming weeks.
An Easier to Use Snapchat is Coming
Stagnant user growth and missed Wall Street expectations for its third-quarter earnings could be the reason behind the Snapchat redesign. The company added just 4.5 million new users during the quarter, compared to expectations of 8 million. The company’s ad rates also took a nosedive, down 60 percent year-over-year.
In an earnings letter to Snap investors, Spiegel revealed that Snapchat is currently redesigning their application to make it more accessible and easier to use. This redesign is far bigger than some minor user-experience tweaks, and, instead, includes a significant overhaul of its app. The newly redesigned, easier-to-use Snapchat is coming, and soon.
Spiegel’s statement admitted that this redesign could be disruptive to their businesses in the short term, and they don’t yet fully know how the behavior of the Snapchat community will change when they begin to use the updated application. But Spiegel and his team believe that the substantial long-term benefits to their business will far outweigh any short-term setbacks, and this redesign is a risk that they are willing to take.
Drastic changes to the Snapchat user experience, while making the platform easier to use for some users, could also undercut Snap’s cool factor for others; specifically, for those who have taken the time to learn every corner of the app and master its tricks. There are no on-screen instructions, and filters and effects are accessed through a range of different swipes that users have to commit to memory. The entire user experience is likely going to change. And the change is expected to affect the Stories feed, too.
Spiegel says that Snap is exploring new ways of surfacing the app’s content “in a personalized and more relevant way, while still maintaining the exploratory nature of our service.” However, as part of the redesign, Snap is “developing a new solution that provides each of our 178 million daily active users with their own Stories experience, leveraging the tremendous benefits of machine learning without compromising the editorial integrity of the Stories platform that we have worked so hard to build.” Does that mean algorithmic sections that vary user to user could be part of the redesign plans? Snap seems to be looking to create personalized content service that addresses some of the shortcomings of feed-based social networks like Facebook or Twitter.
Spiegel has a history of being critical of Facebook and has deliberately pitched Snapchat as a tool for primarily communicating with close friends. Though another reported update in the redesign is for Snapchat to offer ways for people like Internet celebrities to monetize their videos.
While Snapchat could be adopting some sort of Facebook-like feed for showing content, the planned redesign will still open to the camera. Instead of separating message threads between friends to the left of the camera from their shared “Stories” to the right of the camera, the redesign will show all friend-based communication, including Stories, to the left of the camera.
To the right of the camera will be all crowdsourced videos from users around events like sports games, which is what Snapchat calls “Our Stories.” Users will also find content produced by Snapchat’s publishing partners like NBC and BuzzFeed in this section, as well as Stories from verified celebrities. This latest move seems to be aimed at further separating interactions between friends and public figures.
Snapchat is expected to use algorithms to personalize the potential endless feed of videos to the right of the camera. It is unclear how the changes will affect Snap’s more than 70 media partners that produce exclusive videos for the app’s current Discover section.
Snapchat hopes to make it easier to discover the vast quantity of content on the platform that goes undiscovered or unseen every day. Snap also promised improvements to its streaming architecture for Stories playback, which it believes should help growth in emerging markets where high-speed wireless connectivity isn’t prevalent.
Snap now reaches 70 percent of the 13- to 34-year-old population in developed world markets like the US, France, UK, and Australia. And, not that long ago the app’s inscrutability to many adults was viewed as an asset. But as Snapchat looks to fend off competition for Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook, now seems the time to make the app easier to use. The main goal of the redesign seems to be to make it easier to use, particularly for people using Android phones, those older than 34, and people outside the US and Western Europe. There is also hope that the redesign will extend Snapchat’s appeal beyond the realm of teens and twenty-somethings. Possibly, separate from the redesign, it appears that Snapchat is building a new version of their Android application. This new version is being built from the ground up and will launch in select markets before rolling out widely.
Marketers will have to wait to see how users will react to the news that Snapchat’s biggest redesign is rolling out in the coming weeks. With short-lived content marketing on the rise, Snapchat and Instagram Stories have become a major component of a business’ marketing strategy. Changes to Snapchat’s user demographics could change how marketers create content for the platform.
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