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November 8, 2017

Snapchat risks a redesign to create a more user-friendly interface

by John_A

Snapchat is willing to risk potentially offending current users with a redesign hoping to attract more users. After disappointing third-quarter financial results that NASDAQ called a “train wreck” in Snap Inc.’s first year on the New York Stock Exchange, the company said on Tuesday, November 7, that it will be redesigning the app with a more user-friendly interface and a bigger focus on content. The upcoming redesign aims to bring more users to the platform, an effort that will work alongside the announcement that the company will soon start paying content creators with a monetization system for Stories. The news also comes alongside lower-than-expected profits due in part to unsold Spectacles.

“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,” Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel said during the company’s earnings conference call. “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.”

Snap isn’t providing details other than that the interface will be changing. The company says that, with the change, it is aiming to grow its user count by attracting a larger number older users, more Android users, and more users in other countries. The app’s current design relies heavily on word-free graphic icons and swipe actions, which makes it difficult for new users to find where all the features are located. The app is also still heavily used by younger generations — with 70 percent of people ages 13 to 34 using the app in the U.S., France, the U.K., and Australia.

For Android, the redesign will be from the ground up, Snap said. The company reported an all-time low crash rate for Android devices along with increasing app startup time by 20 percent. Those changes were a result of creating a device lab to test the application across multiple models since Snapchat was used on 60,000 different model variants for Android phones. The company is aiming to continue that growth.

The upcoming changes are in hopes of raising the user count. Snapchat grew from 153 million to 178 million in the last quarter, but that growth rate was less than the original predictions.

Along with focusing on increasing the user base, Snap Inc. will also drive efforts in content and augmented reality. Part of the redesign will focus on making it easier to discover new content, Spiegel said, from both content companies like ESPN and NBC as well as other Snapchat users. The company plans to use artificial intelligence to deliver personalized content, a change the company says won’t compromise the current nature of Snapchat content.

The company’s final focus for the upcoming year will make it possible for more users to create their own Snapchat Lenses. Lens Studio is already in testing with a select group of businesses and next year the platform will roll out to more users in order to “democratize Lens creation so that anyone anywhere can create and publish their own Lenses.”

Spiegel’s announcement of upcoming changes focused largely on software with no mention of hardware — that could be because Spectacles haven’t sold quite as well as the company had hoped. Snap Inc. has about $40 million in expenses related to unsold Spectacles.

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