20 comments

  • andreis .andreis ., over 3 years ago

    Snapchat succeed because of the concept behind the app. It offered freedom to make mistakes and have fun with your friends instead of wasting time on creating a perfect image of your life. UI, design and branding are secondary to its success.

    25 points
    • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, over 3 years ago

      spot on

      0 points
    • Josiah TullisJosiah Tullis, over 3 years ago

      It will be interesting to see what happens now that every other product is incorporating a similar "story" concept. Branding and design will become much more important, as they always do when a market becomes crowded.

      0 points
  • Andrew Simchik, over 3 years ago

    Snapchat's UI is horrible at being learnable for the new user but might be excellent at being efficient for the expert user. The app you use occasionally needs explicit affordances and a well-organized interface to remind you how it works. The app you use constantly, reflexively throughout the day, probably one-handed and while you're walking or bouncing around in the back of your Lyft (or limo) or dancing at a concert or club -- that app needs giant targets you can't help but hit with your thumb and navigation that's just swiping in a particular direction.

    Like any system designed for (non-life-threatening) repetitive tasks by a user who's dedicated to its operation, Snapchat's first use can be like falling into a giant salad spinner as long as its 100th use is like careening down a giant waterslide. So I'm voting for genius, even if the genius is partly accidental. The design could probably be improved, but the general principles would probably be the same.

    Disclaimer: I've tried it, it drove me insane (both in content and form), I deleted it. I will never be a dedicated Snapchat operator (as a member of Gen X I'm probably too old, for starters) and that's...okay.

    17 points
  • Ben Patterson, over 3 years ago

    The "Snapchat's UI is intentionally confusing" take is getting a little stale. It's not really that confusing. It just has the confidence to ask users to take a minute to figure out how it works. And really, it just takes a couple minutes. It's not a very complicated app.

    Snapchat's UI works well for them, so I think it's fair to say it has helped them succeed (so far). But it its certainly not the only factor in their success.

    What I think we can learn from it is that UX designers shouldn't be afraid of novel design patterns. Evidently, users are willing to learn how to use something new (in the right context), so we don't all need to be designing the same interactions.

    10 points
    • Trev MorrisTrev Morris, over 3 years ago

      It just has the confidence to ask users to take a minute to figure out how it works.

      This is something that a lot of designers aren't comfortable with.. we've developed a dedication to reducing time to navigate a system through improved usability and functionality. It is however interesting to take the ability to train a brain into using unnatural interactions to perform tasks; certainly creates and addiction beyond colours and sounds.

      3 points
      • Shawn BorskyShawn Borsky, over 3 years ago

        I think its worth noting that sometimes this doesn't have to do with just having confidence. As a designer, the potential to get tremendously punished for "asking" a user to take a minute figure something out is a very real possibility.

        SnapChat's UI is probably a confluence of luck,timing, mistakes, good design and escalating user investment. I don't think its necessarily bad design but I also don't think we should act like making something harder to learn is genius.

        1 point
    • Rhys MerrittRhys Merritt, over 3 years ago

      The last part of what you said really struck a cord with me. I really couldn't agree more. In a previous job of mine, I found myself arguing with a colleague a lot whenever I would create a mobile app interface that wasn't 100% explainable and usable with a 2 second glance... It frustrated me that this guy was always suggesting to only ever using an interface element that was tried and true beyond doubt - his words were "design is black and white - there is no grey area"... It annoyed the shit out of me.

      Of course, context is key as you said, and there is definitely a time and a place for these chances to be taken.

      0 points
    • Ian GoodeIan Goode, over 3 years ago

      The "Snapchat's UI is intentionally confusing" take is getting a little stale. It's not really that confusing. It just has the confidence to ask users to take a minute to figure out how it works. And really, it just takes a couple minutes. It's not a very complicated app.

      What's disappointing to me is when designers immediately dismiss it as 'horrible' as well. There's plenty in Snapchat's UI to suggest that it is fact not horrible. I don't use it very often but it's incredibly fluid to use one-handed while on the go, and it's insanely quick to share a moment, and the absence of any visual social media 'score' is really liberating and refreshing. Writing it off because it doesn't use a Tab Bar Controller is just lazy, in my opinion.

      0 points
  • Laurens SpangenbergLaurens Spangenberg, over 3 years ago

    I attended a design talk by the famed MUJI, a Japanese design oriented company, a few weeks ago. One interesting aspect the guy talked about was the idea about whether we're really coming to the point of self-domesticating ourselves by making everything as easy as possible. (Yes I believe most UIs should be intuitive, but bear with me.)

    He came to discuss the idea that there are three ways we get something done as humans. Tools that are extremely easy to use (fork and spoon,) having no tools (hands,) but also the middle ground (chopsticks.) He said that while chopsticks are extremely versatile and simple (which means it's easy to manufacture, eco-friendly, etc.) they, of course, require some training in order to be usable. But when you think of it, the merits of chopsticks outweight the time and effort it takes to train oneself.

    In correlation to Snapchat, of course I wouldn't recommend people to make every UI require training, which would be silly, although Snapchat's success does question the first model of tools from above.

    While the Snapchat UI breaks all the rules, it also adds something which always seems to be missing every single time Facebook attempted to clone it in the past, a sense of fun. Fun is a very interesting attribute, as it relates to humor and kind of honesty as well. The idea is that we're all posting awful potato pictures here but it's ok. The app feels almost like a (video) game in the way it requires so much swiping, the use of colors, and the hidden functionality among other things. Yes this requires some training, but the fact that it allows one to connect to a network which can show a completely different side of people makes this worth it.

    As Marshall McLuhan says, "the medium is the message." By influencing the way someone does something we can in some respects influence the message they were trying to convey. This "fun" factor in its UI, in addition to its unique medium of sending/receiving information, changes the way people perceive, use, and communicate trough this app.

    While Facebook's next attempt to clone this would most likely attempt to do everything UI designers would approve of: clean typography, a color palette consistent with the Facebook brand, clear hierarchy and navigation, etc, it would most likely forget one thing, audience.

    7 points
    • Jonathan YapJonathan Yap, over 3 years ago

      Was it Kenya Hara? He's one of the top guys that I really look up to.

      0 points
      • Laurens SpangenbergLaurens Spangenberg, over 3 years ago

        No, it was Masaaki Kanai, the president of Muji. However it was still an amazing talk. He was knowledgeable enough that I wouldn't think that adding Kenya Hara would have made much of a difference.

        I'm a big Kenya Hara fan too. Definitely on my list of the greatest designers.

        1 point
  • Thomas PalumboThomas Palumbo, over 3 years ago

    Snapchat is successful because they created something people want. If you create a product people truly want or need your UI can be lackluster but your product can still be succesful. Look at craigslist.

    3 points
  • Jonathan YapJonathan Yap, over 3 years ago

    I think people don't account for the virality of Snapchat itself. The 2 prong approach of confusing UI puts people off unintentionally (or intentionally) created an exclusivity around the app. e.g. keeping parent out

    It became a learnable experience where social factor kicks in, and people pulling others deeper into the Snapchat rabbit hole. I remember the first time I discover filters by accident, but I couldn't replicate it. So it became the good old approach of just asking your friend 'how did you do that face thingy?". I've asked many who echoed the same experience.

    Now design is a discipline that solves problem, like making things easier to use and understandable. What made it different for Snapchat, is the unaccounted variables that come together that made it happen, where the intention to create something new made it a problem in the UI in a for us who view this on a day-to-day work, but people always learn to workaround it because of the interest.

    You see that more in the developing market, where bad experience exist but people learn to work around it. It sometime becomes a skill/knowledge that is desirable amongst friends too.

    2 points
  • Joshua SortinoJoshua Sortino, over 3 years ago

    Companies don't succeed solely because their UI was good. The product proposition must be needed and useful or the product will fail. A great looking saddle is useless without a functioning horse. However, companies do fail because their UI was bad (a great horse is hard to ride without a working saddle).

    Snapchat built a product people needed. Whether the UI was "good" or not is debatable. However, they did solve certain problems like making it incredibly quick and easy to share content, which users needed (the first screen you see is the screen you use to capture the content you will share... nobody else did this as well as Snapchat before they existed).

    2 points
  • Rico T., over 3 years ago

    Snapchat succeed despite the interface and just because they have the right purpose and the right features.

    Look, nowadays we have a huge problem with social networks at all. We're so connected, so in a common place that the digital is the melting pot in the cloud. With that is hard to harmonize so many PoV, to share a single moral and to keep your privacy. Snapchat is "just" a tool trying to solve this problem ensuring secrecy, commitment and intimacy to those digital relationship.

    Sometimes we look to this and say out and loud that we cannot understand Snapchat success because they are just a nice-to-have tool with a messy UI, but actually Snapchat is an absurdly must-have for any digital natives. If we tear down their screens we'll find:

    • sharing first (we open the app with a camera screaming)
    • p2p instead of public posts (even the public sharing is ephemeral and friend-driven)
    • enjoyment (filters, easter eggs, stickers and so on)

    w/ that, the UI is more to empower these behaviors than just reducing friction between man and machine (I know, this is a lazy argument for a designer, but it is true-born). So, we continuously have the same lesson, folks.

    Vision (purpose) > Product (UI) > Business ($)

    Off-topic: all we are seeing now is Facebook copying all of these concepts in every single product, Facebook itself, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram... adding a 24h feed in every single app what they are doing is just giving a countdown to their posts, ensuring intimacy and closeness. Nevertheless I'm not seeing a single soul talking about their current Frankenstein UI and how these "new" features don't capture the real purpose of these networks.

    1 point
  • Jesse HeadJesse Head, over 3 years ago

    Nope, it succeeded because of it's value proposition.

    1 point
  • Frédéric AudetFrédéric Audet, over 3 years ago

    Snapchat UI is a maze.

    0 points
  • Sam SolomonSam Solomon, over 3 years ago

    I think we'll know the answer in a year.

    Facebook has copied Stories with a much more understandable UI. If Snapchat loses users to Instagram, the IPO is going to be Twitter all over again.

    0 points
  • Carmel DeAmicis, over 3 years ago

    We talked to a bunch of designers about how Snapchat's crazy interface led to a $28 billion IPO.

    Thanks to Ben Wilkins from Airbnb, Bobby Goodlatte from OpenVote, Sahiba Johar from Roku, Tara Mann from Basecamp and Josh Elman from Greylock for chiming in.

    Do you agree with them?

    0 points