Snapchat knew its redesign could upset users - here’s why it did it anyway

'We’re willing to take that risk for what we believe are substantial long-term benefits to our business'

Aatif Sulleyman
Friday 09 February 2018 13:03 GMT
Snapchat release new version of the app for 2018

Snapchat knew its dramatically redesigned app could attract fierce criticism from its user base, but it had to make the changes regardless.

The new version of Snapchat is rolling out to users, many of whom are unhappy with the redesign and pleading with the company to reverse it.

However, Snapchat is almost certainly not going to bow to the pressure, as the alterations were made in order to help the company make money. In fact, it predicted exactly this might happen.

It announced the redesign in November, after reporting revenue and user growth well below Wall Street expectations.

“One thing that we have heard over the years is that Snapchat is difficult to understand or hard to use, and our team has been working on responding to this feedback,” Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said at the time.

“As a result, we are currently redesigning our application to make it easier to use. There is a strong likelihood that the redesign of our application will be disruptive to our business in the short term, and we don’t yet know how the behavior of our community will change when they begin to use our updated application.

“We’re willing to take that risk for what we believe are substantial long-term benefits to our business.”

As it turns out, the changes have not gone down well with Snapchat users. Searching “Snapchat update” on Twitter brings up hundreds of comments from fans, the overwhelming majority of which are negative.

Snapchat is aware of the criticism, and earlier this week, a spokesperson for the company said, “Updates as big as this one can take a little getting used to, but we hope the community will enjoy it once they settle in.”

The company has also called for users to give the update “a chance”, and says “it’s not possible” for them to revert to the previous version of Snapchat.

Spiegel said the thinking behind the changes was the separation of “the social from the media”.

In the new version of Snapchat, Stories, Snaps and messages from friends are grouped on the page to the left of the main camera screen, while Stories from publishers are grouped on the new Discover page, to the right of the camera screen.

“The personalized newsfeed revolutionized the way people share and consume content. But let’s be honest: this came at a huge cost to facts, our minds and the entire media industry,” Spiegel wrote in an op-ed for Axios in November.

“This is a challenging problem to solve because the obvious benefits that have driven the growth of social media – more friends! more likes! more free content! – are also the things that will undermine it in the long run.”

Snapchat believes that content from your friends and content from publications should not be mixed in with each other, as doing so has “ultimately undermined our relationships with our friends and our relationships with the media”.

The company this week revealed strong fourth-quarter financial results.

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