Why Snapchat is 'deliberately confusing' to use

One of the longstanding criticisms of Snapchat is that the app is confusing and not very intuitive to use.

Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., even went so far as to include a guide on how to use the app in its public offering paperwork with the SEC.

The reason Snapchat can feel hard to understand happens to be the same reason it’s popular with younger people, according to Snapchat’s first investor, Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Ventures.

In a comment on a recent Medium post titled “Why Snapchat’s Design is Deliberately Confusing,” Liew explained that Snapchat’s design “is confusing to some because it breaks traditional metaphors and conventions for app design. Hence it is confusing to those who are expecting those conventions.”

“But to those who do not come in with any expectations about ‘how an app should work’, it isn’t confusing at all,” he continued. “In fact, it is MORE intuitive because it takes a fresh look at UI from first principles, rather than starting with established metaphor. And because it is more intuitive, it rewards those who use the app heavily.”

Here are the five main screens that comprise snapchatSnap / SECHere are the five main screens that comprise Snapchat. Each is accessible with a swipe.

Snapchat is touting its youthful appeal and high engagement metrics — like being opened 18 times per day on average — as it prepares for a blockbuster IPO. The app’s design is a key Snapchat for to keep its young users addicted, according to Liew.

“This is why Snapchat found an initial user base with teens; those with the least expectation for what UI ‘should’ look like, and those who use it the most,” he said.

Snapchat’s “unfolded cube” design, as Liew put it, is a different take on how to navigate an app. Instead of using a menu button or drop-down, you simply swipe in any direction to move between different parts of the app.

If you’re interested in Snapchat’s design, Liew’s full comment and the original “Why Snapchat’s Design is Deliberately Confusing” article he references are both worth a read.

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