Snapchat recently launched a product redesign to the dismay of power users and relief of Snapchat newbs. Its original ephemeral messaging and scavenger hunt of a UX appealed to an exploratory young audience. The app’s overhaul is a classic case of a company losing sight of what’s most important: the core customer. Snapchat has prioritized its internal business goals of meeting Wall Street growth expectations over its current customers’ needs and desires.
But maybe that’s the point.
The company isn’t growing significantly with its core user base of teens and 20-somethings. As such, Snapchat seems to be treating this simplified UX as if it’s launching an entirely different product – all to chase a new audience. CEO Evan Spiegel has implied that he wants to make the experience easier and more intuitive for broader appeal. But, Snapchat will still flounder because:
- Snapchat still doesn’t know what it is. Is it a camera company? A messaging app? A social network? In my 2016 blog post, I argue that it’s a hybrid messaging app plus social network because consumers use the app for both 1:1 messaging and 1:broadcast via My Story. But it went off the rails when it tried to position itself as a camera company, further confusing its place in the social ecosystem.
- Consumers have more messaging app and social network options than ever. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Telegram, WeChat, LINE. Too many options means Snapchat has to work harder to prove its need. Its new user interface, which diminishes the prominence of friend content in favor of publisher content, is a risky move because consumers seek engagement with friends.
- Its Discover feature is still geared towards its existing young audience. Snapchat Discover launched in 2015 with major publishers to get news content in front of its young users. But, this content is heavy on celebrity gossip of varying legitimacy and NSFW photos. For Snapchat to survive, it needs advertiser dollars and many marketers will be wary of their brands appearing alongside questionable content.