Snapchat, Hulu, Technology, User Experience

By Brandon Keller

How many times has an online app’s update frustrated you and made you question if figuring out the new layout is worth your time? Facebook was the first modern social media tool I used starting in 2008, and I remember about half a dozen times when I couldn’t stand to open my feed because of the unfamiliar jumble of information. Ten years later, even the trendiest of social media apps release updates that drive users absolutely crazy. Snapchat’s redesign might be one of the worst application updates in recent history.

It’s safe to say that an update is unpopular (to say the least) if your Twitter feed is full of celebrities who loathe the newest version of Snapchat eternally.

According to Variety, the new update makes Snapchat “cluttered and makes it more difficult to share messages with their friends.” The update is bad enough that over a million people have signed a petition to convince the company to change back to the better version. Another article from Variety reported that Snapchat’s CEO, Evan Spiegel, said “we are excited about what we are seeing so far.” Excited? Really?

Social media apps are supposed to be intuitive in order to give users a reason to use one platform over another. Therefore, how could Snapchat’s CEO truthfully assert that his company feels positive about user-feedback for the updates?

Perhaps Evan Spiegel is just trying to save face in front of the investors. Regardless, user experience should be the number one priority of tech companies, especially ones like Snapchat that exist on peoples’ phones and at their fingertips. Without happy users, the company won’t exist. With these updates, Snapchat failed to provide a user-friendly product because the app stopped being easy and pleasing to use.

User experience should be Evan’s chief concern as CEO, but the discord of his comments in regards to public reaction says otherwise. The temp on The Office, Ryan Howard, confidently proclaimed that “The first lesson of Silicon Valley, actually, is that you only think about the user, the experience. You actually don’t think about the money. Ever.” While certain elements of that quote are highly incorrect, Ryan represents all of us who just want a good app that’s easy and enjoyable to use.

I am currently enrolled in a course called Technical Communication for the University of San Francisco’s Master of Arts in Professional Communication program. From one month of this course, I already have a pretty clear idea of what tech companies should do in order to offer products that are intuitive, user-friendly, and accessible to a wide range of audiences. They need to do thorough research and consider every possible reaction to the product.

Another example of poor user experience that I recently encountered was the new version of the television streaming service, Hulu. Just like Netflix, Hulu requires a monthly subscription. Therefore, I expect an enjoyable experience as a paying customer. Hulu used to have a simple and slightly bland layout, but it was functional. Now, the current version is eye-catching and has visually appealing layouts and color templates. However, compared to Netflix, Hulu makes it incredibly difficult to quickly navigate through content sections. During most evenings when I open Hulu in order to watch Seinfeld or something like that, I find myself going back to Netflix right away due to the severe difference in usability.

As a graduate student who is taking both strategic and technical communication courses, I understand that tech products need to have a certain element that makes them worthy of my time. I’m also definitely not the only person who thinks that it’s ridiculous for big-name companies like Snapchat and Hulu to offer disappointing updates to once beloved online applications. Tech companies like Snapchat should spend more time listening to users and less time listening to their board of investors.

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