Snapchat’s UX Design Loses 3 Million Users

Snapchat has always been an interesting case study on unintuitive UX design. Its design is the king of “learned experiences” rather than intuitive UX. This is perfectly supported by its report of declining users after its recent interface redesign.

Over the last year, Snapchat reported it lost 3 million daily active users. CEO Evan Spiegel commented that this decline was largely a result of frustration with the redesign.

We saw a 2 percent decline in our Daily Active Users. This was primarily driven by a slightly lower frequency of use among our user base due to the disruption caused by our redesign.

It’s incredibly unusual that a CEO would so heavy-handedly criticize his own team’s design. I’m more used to spin such as – the new design has increased conversions with yadda yadda yadda

UX Redesign

So why has there been such pushback on Snap’s redesign?

Snapchat uses almost no standard UI elements. Certain gestures reveal other screens. And unlabeled buttons reveal certain interface elements like “Memories.” To be a Snapchat user, you have to play around with the app to find things you need. You have to memorize where certain elements are. Users have to learn the entire interface.

After a while of using the app, eventually these unintuitive experiences become invisible since the user has committed them to memory. But when a redesign comes through, it disrupts the user’s learned experience. Suddenly they have to relearn everything, and the unintuitive nature of the app becomes a pain again. For many users – about 3 million – this was too much of a task, and they instead chose to abandon Snapchat altogether.

No app should need a manual or how-to guide. Snapchat’s struggles with their UX should be a warning to any UX designer looking to redesign their interface. Does your app or website have design patterns your users have memorized? Would changing these elements upset existing users more than it might help? If so, you might be better off to roll out changes gradually or consider leaving the interface as is.