Saturday, March 18, 2017

Usability Issues with Snapchat

by Gurpinder Kaur


Snapchat is a multimedia messaging mobile application created by Evan Speigel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown in September, 2011 and developed by Snap Inc. The primary function of Snapchat is to send timed pictures or short videos which are called “Snaps” to a specific or multiple contacts or add a story which is meant for all the contact list and is visible to the contacts for 24 hours. “Snaps” as the pictures or videos are shown for the specified time to the contacts i.e. from 1 to 10 seconds depending upon the time set by the user posting the Snap. After 24 hours, the snap is deleted from the device as well from the Snapchat server. Apart from this, many other features are supported in this application such as applying filters, drawing sketches, adding texts etc.
Snapchat is a widely accepted application with 100 million downloads, but still it has some usability issues, which I present in this post. This application mainly attracts users in a particular age group due to some of the issues related to its usability These need to be fixed for the better user experience. Nielsen's Usability Principles were used to evaluate the application. This blog presents a few issues along with the proposed solutions.
Problem Areas
Issue: The Camera page. 

The camera feature is where all the story creation is happening. This is the page which connects to all the other pages of Snapchat. Every way you swipe will take you to a different page. There is too much interaction between camera and all the other pages increasing users’ memory load. This makes screen very sensitive when users are interacting with the camera. There is no visual evidence of navigating back and forth from the screens once the person enters the functionality.s shown in figure below, if the user swipes left, it will redirect to story sharing page where we can find our stories, article browsing, public stories etc. On swiping right, the user can go to chat page where we can find the list of our friends. Swiping in other two directions will leave the user on profile page or saved snaps page. To get back to the camera page a person has to swipe in opposite direction which the user does by himself without any clue from the application. Navigation is tedious with poor feedback of the consequences.

Proposed Solution: In order to make it more user friendly, there should be buttons or arrows in every direction that can guide or give a user an idea about which screen is he landing in, if he/she goes in a particular direction. The user should not have to recall instead he can just recognize after noticing the arrows or buttons thus minimizing the memory load on the user.

Issue: Layout of story sharing page is not consistent and is busy and cluttered.

The layout of storing sharing page was intended to provide users information on the latest and most updated context. While it looks visually nice, it does not provide balanced consistency, it also brings in too much information to the user at once. This gallery layout is good for photographic browsing but using this layout as an article browse increases clutter. The information on story sharing page seems to be all over the place. It’s organized within specific categories but laid out in different shapes. In Snapchat, when we open the story sharing page, as shown below, the users can view their story on the top of the page followed by the other stories posted by other friends differentiated by very light margin. The article browsing is displayed on the same page which makes the page too cluttered and different shapes often leaves user confused.

Proposed Solution: For navigation to be clearer and concise, it would be good practice to come up with a well-balanced browsing layout that matches the listing as the user is scrolling through the context. Instead of gallery layout with various different shapes, stick with one shape like a square to keep consistency. Lay two shapes for each row so that when the user scrolls through the articles it’ll be easier for them not to get overwhelmed by so much information.

Issue: Ambiguous icons do not have clear predictability.

Aside from the tutorial in the beginning, the users (mainly new ones) are not able to predict the functionality of the ambiguous. The icons do not define the clear purpose of the action unless user himself can associate each icon with a particular function based on previous experience or by tapping on them. A very low predictability is provided to the user to be able to oversee the outcome. This is a severe issue for the users who are not tech-savy as they might be inundated by the many icons presented. There is no clear indication of the function of icons. There is no visual clue why the icons change the color? In the figures below, we can notice the change of color of icons without any information of the reason.  The icon used for capturing the snap or recording a video is used to see the stories continuously as well. This leaves the user confused as single icon is being used for different purposes.

Proposed Solution: Improved icons should be used which denotes the action of the functionality. The icons should be aided with the text to remove the ambiguity i.e. the labels can be included to the icons that are most prone to confusion. Certain icons such as flash or camera switch can go without labels as these icons already denotes their functionality.

Issue: Hard time using the filters

 Since filters are the most important feature of Snapchat as they are the reason to attract users to use the application, they need to be easily discoverable. But this is not the case and thus this is one of the most severe usability issue with Snapchat. Users have hard time finding the filters as there is no clue of discovering them. Accessing filters and editing pictures is hard to start with. Since there is no visibility of the filters, users are unaware of the functionality if it exists as there is no proper feedback. There are no shortcuts to use the particular filter. You have to swipe all the way to use the last filter in a row. While using the filters, sometimes the application gets hanged and crashes suddenly without providing any error message. The user requires the investment of their time to learn and utilize the capabilities of the feature. As we can see in the fig. below, there isn’t any icon available to reach for the filters. There is no proper feedback to show “how to use the filters?”. A user must long press on his face to get the filters. When it recognizes the face, the user can see a row of filters as shown in fig. In order to go to the particular filter, the user has to scroll through the list.

Proposed Solution: There should be some visible options like an icon to use the filters. A visual clue should be enough helpful for the users to let them know the usage of filters. Users should be able to spot the filters by themselves without any feedback or external help. In addition to this, once discovered there can be two columns of filters on the both sides of the screen so that user can directly choose the filter instead of scrolling through all the filters. Apart from this, there should be proper error message along with the reason of crashing.
The key problems and issues were found during the evaluation of Snapchat. The issues found are severe ones especially for the naïve users. Many issues related to navigation, consistency, feedback, user control etc. were found during the evaluation. If these issues are resolved, Snapchat will provide its user a good user friendly interface.

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