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Snap CEO Evan Spiegel is redesigning Snapchat because it’s too hard to use

This is a big deal.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel
Snap CEO Evan Spiegel
Matrix / Getty Images

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel wants to redesign Snapchat.

Why? Because Spiegel admits that the app, which is popular with teenagers, might be too hard to use.

“One thing that we have heard over the years is that Snapchat is difficult to understand or hard to use, and our team has been working on responding to this feedback,” Spiegel wrote in prepared remarks for Tuesday’s Q3 earnings call. “As a result, we are currently redesigning our application to make it easier to use.”

This is a big deal. Companies redesign and restructure their products all the time to try and increase engagement or use. But Snapchat — and Spiegel in particular — have always held a mindset that users either understand Snapchat, or they don’t. Spiegel did not want to have to explain Snapchat to people, and he didn’t want to hold anybody’s hand to help them figure it out.

Now, though, he’s admitting that Snap may need a redesign in order to appeal to a broader audience. Snap added just 4.5 million new users last quarter, much fewer than analysts expected.

“There is a strong likelihood that the redesign of our application will be disruptive to our business in the short term, and we don’t yet know how the behavior of our community will change when they begin to use our updated application,” Spiegel continued. “We’re willing to take that risk for what we believe are substantial longterm benefits to our business.”

At least one part of the change sounds like it will rely on software algorithms like the ones Facebook and Twitter use to prioritize which posts people see first in their feeds. Spiegel suggested that Snapchat might use something like that for its Stories feature.

“As part of the redesign I mentioned earlier, we are going to make it easier to discover the vast quantity of content on our platform that goes undiscovered or unseen every day,” Spiegel wrote. “We think that there is a big opportunity to surface some of this content in a personalized and more relevant way ... We are developing a new solution that provides each of our 178 million Daily Active Users with their own Stories experience.”

Spiegel is famously tight-lipped about product updates and new features, and we may not hear many other details on what this redesign might look like. But Spiegel will take questions from analysts on the company’s earnings call at 5 pm ET today, and we’ll update here if he shares any more details.

Update: As expected, Spiegel declined to share details about when the update will go live. “We’ll look forward to surprising you with the redesign,” he said.

Spiegel did offer a few hints as to what may be included. It sounds like Snapchat’s Maps feature, which is currently hidden behind its main camera and requires users to pinch the screen to see it, may be easier to find. “We look forward to elevating the map in our product so that more people can find it easily,” Spiegel said.

One of the analysts asked Spiegel if Snapchat should add a News Feed to the app, or a never-ending stream of posts and updates, instead of just Snap Stories, where users may eventually get to the end of the line. (I have just 12 Stories live in my feed at the moment, for example.)

“I don’t think we would add a news feed, per se, but I definitely think there are ways to improve ad performance on our service,” Spiegel replied. “As part of the redesign, I do think there will be new monetization opportunities. Again, too early to tell there, but we’re excited about it.”

Part of Snap’s struggles are probably due to Instagram, which has copied some of Snapchat’s best features, and seems to have stolen some of Snapchat’s users as a result. Instagram’s version of Stories, for example, has 300 million daily users. Snap’s entire app has just 178 million.

Snapchat and Instagram Stories daily active users

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