Why do we get frustrated when apps get updated?

Since my high school days, I have been a pretty loyal user of Snapchat. Since it came out in September 2011, the app has evolved a lot, and this post is inspired by Snapchat’s recent update and the nature of change in the apps that we use.

I’m a fan of Snapchat because it keeps me in touch with friends that I don’t see often in person, even if we go to the same college. When I started using Snapchat, I remember that people could see each other’s top best friends and there was a continuous race to be someone’s best friends on Snapchat. In this sense, now the app is more private and only allows you to see who your own best friends are. On the other hand, there are other updates that I will talk about later that promote the opposite of privacy.

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I started off using snapchat very rarely and I have to admit I’m not great at Snapchat because I am the type of person that will leave snaps on ‘open’ and not respond because there is nothing to respond sometimes! (Some people get really annoyed at this apparently… oops)

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Ever since the Snap streak started my sophomore year of college, the snapchat experience has changed forever. I used to love Snapchat because whenever there was something interesting to send to my friends, I would do it. Now, the streak is what keeps us going back to the app on a daily basis. And for me, it has lost part of its value because now it’s just a number that we want to see increase.

The exciting thing about receiving snaps (in my opinion) is that you don’t always know what you are going to see. But now, a lot of the snapchats that I get just say ‘Streak’, which defeats Snapchat’s original purpose. In addition, there used to be a limit of 10 seconds on each snap, which was cool because they were ephemeral. Now, you can select ‘infinite seconds’ as an option, which means that you can see as long as you want. Snapchat has moved to make things permanent because the fact that snaps and chats disappeared wasn’t appealing for users who want to store conversations and pictures.

Over the years, Snapchat has added a lot of functionalities. Some of these updates help people ‘stalk’ other people and see where they are, whereas some of them are designed to enhance the user’s experience, such as the filters and the Bitmoji. Some of these updates are:

  • Chat
    • Ability to chat with people and save the conversation if you want to.
  •  Stories:
    • upload content that everyone in your Snapchat can see for 24 hours. Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp also offer this feature but only Instagram and Snapchat have succeeded.
  • Geotags:
    • you can use them to show your location on your snaps and snap stories.
  • Filters:
    • they vary a lot but they change the way you look on your snapchat.
  • Bitmojis:
    • Snapchat partnered with the Bitmoji app so users can use their avatar in the app.
  • Snapchat friend map: 
    • allows to see where people in your Snapchat are. I wasn’t aware that this was a feature until one of my friends told me. You can change settings to be on ‘ghost mode’ so people can’t track you.

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But now…. how about some thoughts on Snapchat’s recent update??

Some of my friends got the update before I did and they complained about it. I thought: what could be so bad about it?

A day later, my phone updated the app and the interface really threw me off. My longest streak (196 days!) sent me a snapchat saying: “We are going to lose the streak because of this update”.

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Snapchat’s previous user interface was very easy to use and it made sense because the feed was in the order of the snaps that were received last. The latest update causes frustration because:

#1 Some people who I snap regularly get pushed down and other people that I never snap are at the top of my feed

#2 Snap feed and stories are on the same page

#3 The streak number is notably smaller, therefore making it harder to see when the streak is ‘dying’ (hence my friend’s concern about losing our hard-earned streak).

For non-Snapchat users: the image on the left illustrates the old version and the image on the right illustrates the new version.

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I don’t think that people are going to stop using Snapchat because of this update because everyone that has a long Snap streak (like me) is too invested in the app to stop using it. (You got us there, Snapchat!)

However, that doesn’t mean that we are happy with the change. There was even one user who was so upset by the change that he contacted Snapchat to see what could be done. Desperate times call desperate measures, am I right??

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He got 1.4 million retweets on Twitter and nothing has been done… and will it be done?

I doubt it because updates are expensive and take a lot of time to develop.

I feel like nowadays we get too used to a type of interface that when it gets changed drastically, we get frustrated. Something similar happened when Apple released IOS 7 (or 8?). Everyone was very confused by the new layout and the bright colors but after a few weeks we all got used to it and now we don’t even think twice about it.

I think it’s important to realize that apps need to updated from time to time in order to keep things interesting and also attract more users with innovative features. Why are we so reluctant to accept change, even if these updates will add more value to our app experience in the long run?

9 comments

  1. Great post. It seems like this Snapchat update has got everyone talking about the app. People are furious because it hasn’t changed in several years it seems. I do remember the first time they came out with a big update, it made everyone upset because when you clicked on one story, all of them would play one after the other. People complained because they didn’t want to watch everyone’s story at once, so they added a feature where you could select which stories you want to play consecutively. I think it goes to show that Snapchat listens to people’s concerns once they gather more information on what people like and dislike. You’d think that they would do a trial run before people get pissed but…I digress. Overall, I think you’re right in saying that the updates are a necessary evil. Hopefully soon we will get used to it!

  2. This post made me think about a quote by Margaret Gould Stewart in her Ted Talk where she said, “people can become efficient with bad design.” I wonder what part of Snapchats old layout did they find that was inefficient or did they just want give their consumers something new. As someone who doesn’t have any streaks (sad right) I have already seen my time used on the app decline due to the new layout. However, if they do change the layout again I most likely will give it a second chance.

  3. I think you make a really interesting point that often goes overlooked — updates are for the benefit of the users and are important in adapting to changing industry demands and trends. I don’t think it’s odd or unusual that we get frustrated when different applications and operating systems roll out updates. We’re humans, after all, and we like the things that we’re familiar with. I would argue that, more times than not, time helps to resolve this frustration. An example of this is the newsfeed feature Facebook rolled out that users initially hated, as we talked about in class. Other times, though, the updated feature might not be appropriate for the platform. In these situations, as Katherine mentioned, I think it is especially important that the platform listen to its customers. To preempt this, platforms often are in constant conversation with their users and roll out beta versions.

  4. This post reminded me of what we talked about a few weeks ago in class regarding Facebook. When Facebook originally revamped its users’ profiles as “Timelines”, there was a mini-revolt of sorts, similar to what has been going on with Snapchat over the past few days. For Facebook, however, its users eventually got accustomed to the changes and the complaints subsided. I’m not sure if Snapchat has the same amount of cache currently that Facebook did when it was getting complaints about its updates. It will be interesting to see going forward how loyal Snapchat’s users are to their precious “streaks”, or if this new update was enough to push users to communicate over other platforms.

  5. As an outsider (someone who has never used Snapchat) I have found it funny the past few days listening to everyone complain about the Snapchat changes. However, I remember myself getting into similar tizzies after Facebook or iOS changes and at the time that seemed totally rational to me…
    Human beings inherently don’t like change – no matter what it is. I think back to a middle school history class where on the first day the teacher didn’t assign seats. About 2 weeks into the semester the teacher pointed out that every student sat in the same seat every day for 2 weeks. She ran this little social experiment on us just to point out that we are creatures of habits and that our brains create routines and shortcuts to help make better sense of navigating a complex world.
    So I think we can thank evolution next time we get upset over an app change.

  6. While people probably won’t stop using snapchat because of this design, there have been cases in the past were a bad design update totally killed a platform. The key example here is Digg, which was an early competitor to Reddit (and the leader early on). One bad design update completely killed the community and it never recovered.

  7. Nice post, it reminds me that every time after my friends update their iPhone, they will complain about it. There is the same scenario happen in some computer games, such as League of Legends, which is an online game. Whenever there are updates and patches to the game, players always criticize it.
    I personally think the updates are quite necessary for the Apps because every element of the business and technology will change over time and they want to keep their Apps attractive and get people’s attention. Over time, people will get used to it and feels more comfortable in using the Apps, and those updates will benefit the business in the long-run.

  8. I loved this post because it’s obviously extremely relevant – I too hate the new snapchat update! I think its interesting to note that we often are more suited to adapt to change than we realize – and within a few months no one will even mention the new update. Not to mention all the buzz the update is getting – any press is good press! Ultimately I think it will be nothing but a bump in the road for snapchat.

  9. My thing with the new Snapchat is that I feel like there has been such an outcry against it, but Snapchat is clearly not in a rush to change it back, so whats the deal? I think you have to look at the actual quantifiable data. I would love to see how their usership has progressed but I guess all we really have is how their stocks are doing. When the update was announced, they shot up by over $6 a share. Since then, it really hasn’t moved much, so I guess unless Snapchat has data we don’t (which they probably do), they don’t really have any reason to change, and they might as well ride out the pushback for now.

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