Are We Constantly at Odds with Social Networks Redesigns…or Do We Actually Love Them?

By on May 16, 2018

Back in February, Snapchat made adjustments to the overall design of the platform, which didn’t go down too well with users. A million people signed a Change.org petition to reverse the changes.

The smallest of tweaks to a social network, from Twitter to Facebook and Instagram, and beyond, often prompts disgruntlement.

But days, weeks, or months later, users tend to get over the changes and apps see an increase in usage. News of any platform updates fade away and become normal, as apps see their design choices validated by more people using them.

Is it normal for us to be vexed by change, or is this a great example of our over dependence on social media?

We looked at other examples of social platform updates to see what we can learn about how app users react and behave online.

Snapchat: a problematic redesign

In February 2018, Snapchat’s update was upon us – out of the blue and unannounced. This was unusual, mainly because we hadn’t seen many major updates to the platform design before this. The update managed to break the ‘streaks’ users could develop as they shared snaps with one another. They even encouraged users to create a hack that temporarily restored the old design. There was an inevitable outcry as a result of this.

Most Snapchat users are late teens to early 20’s, and this particular social group proves to be an expressive audience. Many Snapchat users have grown up online, with little experience of life without the use of social networking apps. By changing the original designs of platforms, there is a sudden and impactful re-adjustment of the places where many within this age group spend their time.

A week after their update, Snapchat released a newer version of the app, clearly taking into account the complaints they’d received but not necessarily changing much.

Having said that, the update had very little impact on the overall usage of the app in the end, possibly due to the dependence on social networks that is key to people ‘overcoming’ these updates. but it could quite easily have introduced trust issues in Snapchat as a whole.

Twitter: doubling the limit

When Twitter decided to increase the character limit for Tweets to 280 characters in September 2017, there was plenty of discussion and reaction – most of which were dismay and confusion. However, Twitter has a tendency to evolve as a product – often introducing updates that reflect the user experience of the platform, such as retweets or @ replies. This results in any discussion over the update dying down rapidly.

Twitter is built on the use of short updates. In other previous updates, Twitter has shown its leniency – such as not including links or images in character limits. The one thing Twitter users knew was that they had to express themselves as much as they could in 140 characters. When it was first revealed that this would be doubled, users responded in droves. There was concern that undesirable users would be given a platform to talk more, while some argued that Twitter had not honed in on the more pressing issues first.

But even amidst the outrage, many were keen to be the first to try out the 280 character limit and the flexibility this offered when updating their feeds. People had adjusted to the change by the time it was rolled out.

Instagram: introducing chronological feed

Back in 2016, Instagram – now owned by Facebook – announced they were switching to an algorithmically-run feed, showing users content that resonated with their past experiences on Instagram so they were more likely to get the images they were after.

Once again, instant uproar ensued. There was continued backlash even when the updates started to roll out – and even now it seems not everyone is happy with the changes. Two years from the update, users remain dissatisfied with a feed that gives them a groundhog-Valentine’s day mix that means they’re still seeing content that was ‘in the moment’ days ago. A petition was also started to revert these changes (although a lot fewer people signed it) many users have voiced their concerns with Instagram on Twitter instead, due to a difficulty expressing their opinion on a primarily image-based social network.

Despite all this, algorithm changes haven’t driven people away. Instagram users continue to grow and there’s been an increase of several hundred million in the last few years. With that in mind, I guess we’d be wrong to argue that social platforms don’t know what they’re doing.

About Tom Bracher

Tom Bracher is the UK Marketing Lead at Pulsar Platform, an audience intelligence tool which was born out of a research agency.
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