It’s not new that Snapchat’s usability isn’t the best. They even had to include ten black and white diagrams in their IPO filing just to help potential investors (i.e. olds) understand it.
Most websites and apps that came along in the early days of the internet had terrible experiences. They had cluttered home pages and distracting color palettes. So how did Snapchat eventually prevail?
With more than 500+ million downloads on the Google Play Store alone and over 160 million active users each day, Snapchat has caught the attention of its users with its complicated user experience that includes:
However, Snapchat’s user experience is not bad. It’s actually an incredibly smart design. Their challenging user experience is what keeps them relevant to their primary target audience: teenagers and millennials. Here’s how they nail it:
Snapchat understood its users’ psychology and made certain features challenging to access intuitively. A very simple, yet ingenious, example is the Streaks Count in Snapchat. As you send more messages and snaps to your friends, you’ll earn new stickers for “best friends”, badges, and higher points to give some value to your friendships.
There is also a built-in trophy rewarding system. After reaching a specific milestone, you will get a trophy – a small badge that you can display on your profile. It basically shows how active you are inside the app and how much time you spent in it; a certain status symbol in the Snapchat world that apparently creates a sense of superiority among users.
Everything is designed to engage users to interact with the interface more and stay in app for a longer period of time. This wonderful gamification strategy has been working successfully for Snapchat.
To gamify a product, the goal is to get your user into the game and keep them playing: acquisition and retention. Let’s look at the most popular ones:
In early 2018, Snapchat rolled out a major redesign. The resulting layout confused users and made access to features difficult. Snapchat’s target audience were teenagers, initially, so the company decided to focus on the mass market, and it was willing to sacrifice some of its cool points to reach that market.
Ultimately, this choice paid off in the end. Even teenagers find Snapchat’s user interface challenging, but it becomes a game for them as a means of being cool and fitting in with their peers.
Every time a new feature is added to Snapchat, thousands of people ask each other how it works. Each time, that chit-chat raises awareness of Snapchat.
They have resorted to not adopt universal icons. Most elements have no labels and even the screen where users discover new content is slightly intimidating.
They created a more complex UX, but did so at the cost of sacrificing their cool factor. Their competitors are already implementing the feature on a larger scale. Yet the app’s mammoth success suggests that these UX decisions weren’t negatively affecting the platform.
In today’s time when a user is presented with complicated user experience, they don’t give the app a second chance. Here’s what differentiates Snapchat from other apps with bad UX:
Snapchat swapped perfectionism for experimentation. From the sharing feature to its interactive filters, Snapchat engages the users as soon as they open the app with it’s unique and innovative design.
For instance, what happens when you install the app for the first time and open it? It swallows you immediately. After you launch it, it will open up and display your front camera. If you touch the screen, the special effects menu will open in the lower portion of your screen.
When it comes to Netflix, it gets most things right from a user experience perspective but there is still a small feature that has left its users torn: the infamous auto-playing of previews.
Netflix decided to autoplay the previews when a user hovers over the thumbnail. This feature annoyed many users and countless articles, tweets, blog posts were written about it where users complained about how annoying the autoplay feature was. But 4 years after the feature was introduced, it’s still here with Netflix only recently deciding to allow users in 2020 to opt-out manually if they really don’t want it.
The hottest companies in the tech world challenged UX rules for a reason: they knew what their target audiences wanted. And that's what design is all about! Want to learn more about design? Book a session with our mentors today.
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