Daniel Nisbet

Episode 15  |  February 23, 2018

Snapchat’s botched redesign

Earlier this year, Snapchat came out with a new redesigned app that had a rough reception by its user base.

This (unfortunately) isn't surprising. The internet as a whole tends to never react kindly to large redesigns. Usually it starts with a few angry comments, but if it gets bad enough, we get to watch a company backtrack to the previous design.

It's been the same vibe here, but I'm more interested in how Snapchat has responded. Rather than doing any sort of backtracking, they've been doubling down. As a result, it's been crazy watching the tutorials pop up for people to get the old app back on their phones.

People become attached to user interfaces. They grow major connections to apps like Snapchat. Taking that environment and turning it on its head is not a decision that should be made lightly. It takes work and you need to care for how people react to it.

Instagram did this a few years ago with their logo. However, the user interface didn't change to the same level Snapchat did. People were still frustrated, but ended up learning to love it as time went on.

Why was it different? The structure stayed the same. The flashy elements went away, but people could still use the app like before. As a result, there's not much noise about it anymore.

I don't think Snapchat did well taking the key elements and usage patterns into consideration. It's one thing to complain about a logo, but it's another when the way a service is used is turned upside down.

The new Snapchat is such a drastic change, it no longer even feels like the Snapchat of old. There's no bridge or commonality.

I was jarred when I opened the new app for the first time. I'm one of those people that embrace new design to some degree. I enjoy seeing what design teams are coming up with, particularly if they're basing these redesign choices off of user behavior or research into how people using their product.

It feels like the redesign here hasn't been so much about what users want, and more about what their investors want. It's a dangerous precedent for company like Snapchat. I understand that when we have free services like Facebook or Twitter, that they still need to make money. These are businesses they got to keep the lights on. They have staffed pants so forth.

But there's a tight rope that some of these companies need to walk, especially with younger CEOs who think they know what's best. Watching Evan Spiegel double down on the redesign put a sour taste in everybody's mouth. He made it clear this isn't going away for the foreseeable future.

Hearing that, I did the only sensible thing—I deleted my account.

It's one thing to stick up for something, especially if you know it's right. It's another thing to stick up for it and not listen to what users have to say.

It's going to be interesting to watch this play out in the next few months. I'm curious to see how many users Snapchat retains or if they end up taking a few steps back. I'm wondering if they'd even go back to the old design to stop the bleeding and get users back on the platform.