Humans communicate in complex ways. One can assume that more is better when it comes to describing this imparting of information via image, text or gesture. It is in this context that almost all of our social media platforms cramp up posts, links, images and videos with higher density and greater speed, with the hope of improving communication between you and those many hundred friends. But they are missing a key point about human cognition. Most of the pleasurable human experiences take place when they are short in duration and quick in execution, as compared to the long-term actions. The look you get from a friend when in trouble, or the spontaneous jokes that just happen at the moment. Snapchat has achieved startling success thanks to its brilliant User Experience (UX) strategy of designing for this simple yet under-noticed feature of human cognition.
We are in that age of technology where our every small activity is tracked, traced and dumped in a cloud. Services like Facebook and Google are spending millions of dollars and equally worth of time to find our tastes, liking and monitor our interests on the internet. We are forced to think twice about how and what we do on the web or else face the consequences. Snapchat stands out in this context as it embraces the fleeting nature of human cognition. The messages referred to as ‘snaps’ disappear immediately without leaving a trace after being viewed and requires much less deliberation as compared to posting anything on Email, Twitter or Facebook.
(a) Login page screenshot Snapchat presents a unique User Interface on iOS and Android platforms, and the usability quotient is quite high. The home screen presents no persuasive copy or even the name of the product. Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, co-founders of Snapchat have followed a straight to the point approach as compared to other applications. Snapchat, whose user base runs in the gamut of 13-24 years is clearly a young platform and the juvenile design of pastel colors is there to make the users feel more comfortable. A range of colors are used to signify the status of a snap, which makes the user interface more appealing and blending towards numerous moods of human nature.
The minimal sign up form has just three fields ‘ Email, password and date of birth after which you get to choose a unique username for yourself and verify your phone number depicting an understanding towards cautiousness of human psychology to the information transfer. Snapchat provides clean meaningful information texts at key locations to re-assure you about the services and functions of the application thus focusing on easy and quick understanding. The application looks up the phone book to find existing friends already on the platform. Alternatively you can look up for any user using their unique username.
Snapchat being an application which can be used by anyone and everyone, it still gives a customized interface giving a personal touch to the UX. You can choose who to share your moments with, which is different as compared to other applications where you broadcast to the world. The camera is instantly activated when you open the application which makes it considerably easy to snap a picture on the go. You don’t even need to dig through the menu to take a video. Simply hold the click button to start recording a video. The confidence to use it freely is also gained by reassurance texts stating ‘no spamming’, ‘information safety’ placed at key locations. The main interface is divided into four sections which are easy to navigate using swipe interaction from right-to-left or left-to-right. The animations are smooth and subtle. With its ease of understanding and use, Snapchat has also blended different features which can be discovered after making it a timely friend, thus appealing to people who like to explore. This might be one of the overlooked reasons as to why young users like to play around with the application.
(b) User flow diagram
Snapchat’s animation has a wonderful blend of beauty, imagination and humour to it especially when you refresh feed. The dancing ‘Chillah’ (a ghost cartoon) amuses you while you wait for the feed to refresh. The application provides a doodling tool to draw any kind of shape on any image or video before sending it. You can also add text on top of your image or use filters to add effects that improvise the snap. Another important attribute of the application is that the user gets notified whenever a friend saves a screenshot of their snaps, although the action cannot be reported or undone.
‘My Story,’ a Snapchat feature introduced in October 2013, was crucial in transforming the simple photo messenger application into a storytelling platform. Now users can create a storyboard of up to 360 seconds of photo or video, which is visible for 24 hours. This introduced the demand for high-level content creation for brands, celebrities and individuals as an opportunity to engage your followers. Snapchat has introduced similar such features from time to time, the latest being ‘Snapcash’, available only in the USA at this moment. Snapcash is initiated from within a chat window, with two different ways to send money. The easiest way is to type the dollar symbol and an amount in the chat, which turns the send message button into a green dollar sign. You can also send money using the app’s ‘swipe-to-send’ feature by typing three dollar sign in the chat window.
Every application has loop holes and even Snapchat had its own exit paths to the privacy and data security arrangements. The application made a lot of news for wrong reasons in 2014 when its hundreds of thousands of pictures and videos taken by the users were intercepted by hackers and posted online, which lead to lot of accusations and criticism. Despite all these allegations what remains true is that the UX of Snapchat is one of its kind and focuses primarily on an important aspect of the human cognition. Snapchat is now the third most popular social app among the millennials, trailing only Instagram and Facebook. Its features and usability make Snapchat a pleasurable experience.
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