Snapchat’s UX Problems

Snapchat has become a social media staple for a very wide market of people. The app’s dead simple base concept – send a picture to a friend that disappears after a pre-determined amount of time – caught the attention of a large user base quickly after its debut in 2011. Since then, the functionality of the app has expanded to become a full social media platform, now boasting features like Stories (posts that appear to everyone following you, like with Facebook or Instagram, but disappear after 24 hours), weird AR filters that transform your face and surroundings in a picture, or simple text chatting. However, despite Snapchat’s huge following, their user experience has been consistently lacking. For such a popular app, it’s often difficult to navigate at best, and impossible to use at worst.

The first and most glaring error in Snapchat’s user interface is the lack of intuitive controls. Opening the app takes users straight to a camera screen with a few icons scattered around, but little indication of what each icon does, or any kind of guide on where to navigate. The design of the icons themselves does frutratingly little in the way of telling users about their function. Seasoned users know that swiping in certain directions on this camera screen will take you to different parts of the app, but aside from a fairly barebones onboarding popup, new users are given no lessons on navigating the Snapchat app, and even as a daily user, it’s very easy to accidentally open up pages and random features accidentally on this screen. Even just simple labels for to indicate where to find different features and sections would go a long way in making Snapchat more user friendly.

Updates of the app tend to come by unannounced and include massive changes to the user experience without any kind of alert to the change. Early last year, Snapchat moved the Stories page from the left side of the camera screen to the right, adding them to the the Discover page, a feed of celebrity and corporate sponsored posts. The change seemed small, but disrupted user flow greatly and prompted a lot of frustration from Snapchat’s user base – not to mention that it became virtually pointless after another later update placed Stories back in their original location in addition to the new one. In Snapchat’s early days, the app only had two screens – the camera screen and a list of sent/received snaps. It seems like all of Snapchat’s UI updates since then have attempted to keep that basic format without regard to user flow or intuiveness.

Snapchat’s poorly designed user experience has been discussed many times (x, x, x, x). Some have theorized that the bad design is intentional, to keep Snapchat’s accessibility exclusive to younger, hipper demographics – thereby nixing the possibility for a Snapchat equivalent of the annoying Facebook mom. But when even popular celebrity users of the app have begun to abandon it due to the difficulty of its use, it seems like it’s time for Snapchat to reevaluate the efficacy and usability of their interface and introduce something new.


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