Last month I turned 35 years old and, in two month’s time, I’ll be getting married. These aren’t just milestones, they’re catalysts for change in my everyday life. My priorities are shifting and it’s starting to bleed into my mobile usage.
This morning I realized that I barely recognized my phone anymore. Apps like Tinder, CandyCrush and Zillow Rentals have quickly been replaced by TheKnot, CNNMoney and Realtor.com. My search history has queries like “best island vacation for honeymooners” and “average home mortgages in Los Angeles”.
As you can imagine, one app that remains on my Galaxy Note that I don’t use too often is Snapchat. For many of you who still struggle to fully comprehend why Millennials can’t get enough of the ephemeral messaging app, I relate it back to when we were kids – passing notes in class. A quick hello to tell someone you were thinking about them, easily discarded, but something with which you could get as creative as you wanted. Use different colored pens, draw little pictures or fold them up into fun shapes to make them easier to hand-off to one another.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’ve never used it or that I don’t find it entertaining, I simply no longer have the time to invest in it these days. But wait…isn’t Snapchat supposed to be a quick engagement for users? If you know what you’re doing, it can be as snackable (or time consuming) as you want it to be, but even Snapchat CEO, Evan Spiegel, knows it’s not a simple user experience to get started on the platform. On stage at this year’s CodeCon, he told Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, “There’s a bit of a learning curve – that’s what makes it fun.”
In this case, as it is with most, the word “fun” is highly subjective. However, that “learning curve” could be one of the biggest hurdles Snapchat will face in scaling their business. The wildly successful messaging app has always seemed to be one where, you either “get it and buy in” (spending countless minutes Snapping pictures, sharing Stories and watching short videos) or after a couple of attempts to figure it out, the app is quickly relegated off your homescreen never to be heard from again. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever actually met a “casual” Snapchat user.
For those “die-hards” out there, there’s good news today! Spiegel says his messaging service is likely going to be making a change that will make the app easier to use when it comes to video: Users may not be required to hold their thumb on the screen to watch video content for much longer.
Currently users must keep their finger on the screen while they look at a Snap (image or video) and it’s seen as one of Snapchat’s distinctive differentiators. But what started out as a UX necessity, is a necessity no longer according to Spiegel. Initially, it was the only way Snapchat knew how to fight against it’s users taking screenshots of what were supposed to be disappearing messages.
When asked if this was something Spiegel and his team were working on changing, he said,
“We try not to ruin surprises, but that may be in the cards. I think, for us, it’s holding us back from longer videos being watched on our service.”
But what seems to be an effort in making the app’s UX more streamlined could have huge implications for Snapchat’s future monetization efforts. Currently the app boasts over 20 minutes a day of usage by A18-29; a heavily sought after demographic for advertisers. An increase in average video lengths could easily see this number surge exponentially, giving Snapchat a wide-open door for adding pre-roll ads and give advertisers new avenues for stronger Snapchat influencer campaigns.
While the UX change seems imminent, only time will tell if Spiegel and company grasp onto the low-hanging fruit that sits in front of them or if, like his decision to turn down Facebook’s $3B acquisition offer, Spiegel chooses the sanctity of his users’ Snapchat experience over turning a “quick buck”.