Why Does Snapchat’s New Redesign Suck?

Snapchat was always viewed as a little too hard to use. Now it’s just plain annoying.

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Every now and then companies roll out new “features” for their social media apps and swarm you with their “now you can do this” spiel. More often than not, those spiels and redesigns emphasize keywords like “Discover” or “Explore”, which translates to: Spend more time using our app so we have more opportunities to throw advertising at you and make more money.

Most of the time, that goal is reached through incremental changes, but Snapchat opted to be less subtle, probably because it continues to be mediocre in terms of growth. That’s the core problem with this redesign: it’s a pretty significant change and it’s blatantly obvious what Snap’s intent was.

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The most glaring change is the content tab, formerly called “Stories” and now “Discover.” In days past, the yet-to-be-viewed stories of all the people you follow would show up on a list at the top of the Stories tab and once you viewed them, they would be moved to a second list at the bottom of the tab. Now, all those stories show up as big portraits, making the tab significantly longer than it was, meaning it’ll take you significantly more time to watch the same number of stories than it would compared to previous builds.

One other “feature” you may have noticed: stories don’t disappear from the list anymore. Instead, after you watch them, they just stay there, with a small button that allows you to re-watch it. You may have also noticed that a bunch of accounts you don’t actually follow are now showing up on your feed. Some of them even auto-play. (Is there anything in the world more annoying than auto-play video?) And most significantly, outside of the “Friends” tab, the ability to queue up multiple stories at once and watch them all consecutively, and quickly, no longer exists. That was one of the best features of Snapchat!

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So to recap: you’ll be spending more time on the “Discover” tab and there isn’t a way to speed up the viewing process. This really shouldn’t be a surprise. Social media companies like to emphasize the “Discover” or “Explore” tabs because it’s a more acceptable location to place advertising or sponsored content, compared to your main feed, which turns people off unless it’s done completely seamlessly. “Improving the user experience” will always come second to “Connecting advertisers to our audience.”

App redesigns have a tendency to annoy people, but this one seems to have hit new levels, with users going as far as signing a Change.org petition to get rid of the redesign. I’ve had the update for about a month now, and I am happy to report that I am using Snapchat less than I did more, just because I don’t like the way it works now. I can’t really say that I’ve missed it much. It remains to be seen if Snapchat will cave to user outcry, but my best guess is an update to the redesign that tones back certain elements that’ll be re-implemented later.

Take this as a reminder that social media apps are companies. At the end of the day, financial profitability and growth are still the most important thing. They may tell you their redesigns or new features were implemented to enhance the “user experience”, but you can bet that they did something to put you just a little bit closer to advertisers. There’s an old saying particularly relevant here that we best keep in mind: “If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product.”

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I strive towards a career that ends up leaving me somewhere between Howard Beck and Howard Beale.

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