An extensive new report from The Information this week highlights what went on behind the scenes at Snapchat during the creation of its controversial redesign. The report explains that Snap CEO Evan Spiegel went forward with the redesign despite rushed development and poor testing results…
Spiegel was first inspired to overhaul Snapchat’s design after a trip to China where Snapchat competitions run abound. Many of the apps in China aren’t chronological, but rather algorithmic. That’s where the tent pole ideas for Snapchat’s redesigns came from.
Spiegel then ordered engineers and designers to begin work on the redesign, separating friend and celebrity content. The Snap CEO gave a six-week turnaround time. According to today’s report, “many employees” worked more than 12-hour days, six days a week to meet the deadline – a deadline that was ultimately missed.
In November, however, Spiegel used Snap’s earnings call to announce the redesign, which wasn’t yet finished. This move took Snapchat employees by surprise as they had no indication an announcement was planned:
Very few at Snap, including top executives in design and engineering, had any forewarning that Mr. Spiegel was going to suddenly announce the work-in-progress redesign. Furthermore, his suggestion that the redesign was meant to attract new users surprised some people working on the project.
At the beginning of December, Snap started testing the app. Early results showed some engagement metrics improve, while many other dropped. One of the key metrics that fell was user engagement with stories.
Many Snap employees warned Spiegel of the effects the redesign could have, while others liked the general idea of the new design. He ended up delaying the release until the beginning of 2018.
Once the app had been delayed, there was a “deafening silence” and many engineers thought the redesign had been scrapped. In February, however, Spiegel pushed the redesign live for everyone despite metric concerns.
Once the redesign was live, user feedback immediately came back negative. Today’s report, however, says that didn’t phase Snap executives. Once celebrities Kylie Jenner and Chrissy Teigen began joining in, though, Snapchat began tweaking the design.
Personalities like Kylie Jenner and artists like Shonduras had built substantial followings. Because they were constantly adding new content to their Stories—more than regular users—under the old chronological arrangement they would likely always be near the top of people’s screen. In an algorithmic feed, however, they no longer had that advantage.
The picture that The Information’s report ultimately paints is one of a top-down redesign process, with Spiegel outlining what he wanted and not giving designers the time to create multiple options that could succeed at things like increasing engagement and attracting new users.
Snapchat just this month released a redesign of the redesign, and today’s report says many of those changes came from the design team, rather than Spiegel himself.
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