Snapchat may be worth $25 bn, but it's a UX designer's nightmare

November 1, 2016

This month there have been talks that the global giant Snapchat are in preparation for a flotation on the stock market. It has been predicted that if they go public, it could be revealed that the app is valued at $25 billion.

Snapchat have grown enormously since they launched in 2011, with their user base currently standing at 58.6 billion. Despite all of these statistics, as an office of app experts the Snapchat app breaks every rule in the book. For many of us, we haven't got a clue how the app actually works. So we thought we would put this to the test and give the app to a Snapchat first timer.

Here is their account of using Snapchat for the first time and how the app’s UX design goes against everything we have been taught.

New User's attempt at Snapchat

The initial login was self explanatory, but then we landed directly to the front facing camera, as opposed to a home page or feed we are familiar with. At this point we were already completely confused where to navigate to next. Already, all of our natural app instincts were out the window.

Hidden Icons

The camera screen contained a series of icons that were not familiar and not obviously tappable. We chose the trial and error approach, erratically tapping on everything. The golden rule of UX design is to make everything obvious to the user, nothing should be hidden. Icons should communicate their purpose clearly. Not knowing how something works is frustrating for any user and ultimately off putting. Even the tutorial video was not immediately obvious, but hidden in a separate icon.

Tricky Navigation

Navigation was particularly tricky, if it wasn’t hard enough figuring out how to get somewhere, getting back to where you once were seemed impossible. Good UX always focuses on creating a user journey that flows effortlessly without the user having to consciously think about the steps they are taking.

Cluttered Interface

In our blog on ‘Understanding the Key Principles of App Design to create the best UI possible’, our designers highlighted the importance of using space within app design. Snapchat often feels cluttered, nowhere more than when we first landed on the ‘Stories’ page. Text here feels unusually squashed and unclear. A cluttered interface is ultimately distracting, leaving ample space draws the eye to what’s important on the screen.

We must be wrong? 

So after all of this, have we missed the point entirely? Reading up about other people’s experience with Snapchat there seems to be the opinion that in fact it isn’t poor UX design, but a new language that makes the app so appealing to millennials. The fact that the older generation, well, just don’t get it is perhaps exactly what it is all about. Who can argue with a predicted value of $25 billion? However, Snapchat’s UX woes are important lessons when it comes to designing an app. Despite the app’s success, creating an accessible app that appeals to a wide user base requires following the basic rules of UX design. An app's UI should be intuitive, accessible and consistent.

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