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Snapchat is redesigning its redesign to get people watching more Stories

User Stories are headed to the Discover page as part of a new test, which raises a number of questions about Snap’s recent redesign.

A crowd of teens look at their mobile phones. Drew Angerer / Getty

Update — May 10, 2018: It’s official: Snap is rolling out this redesigned redesign to most iOS users. It’s also eliminating the messaging inbox algorithm it used to prioritize some messages over others. Now, all messages in the inbox will appear in reverse-chronological order (like they used to). Snap must have liked what it saw from the test.

Snapchat rolled out a highly anticipated redesign last year, completely separating the content created by peoples’ friends from the content created by brands, celebrities and publishers.

Now Snapchat is rolling out a redesign to the redesign for a small group of users — it’s taking user-generated Stories and putting them on the Discover page, where they’ll exist alongside stuff from brands, celebrities and publishers — similar to how they did before the redesign was rolled out.

Snapchat is adding Stories from friends to the Discover page.

It’s a small change, and a Snap spokesperson says it’s just a test, but it’s also a big deal, mostly because Snap was very adamant about keeping friend content and professional content separate when it unveiled the redesign late last year.

So why is Snap doing this? It’s not entirely clear, though a company spokesperson who confirmed the change added that, “We are always listening to our community and will continue to test updates that we hope will give Snapchatters the best possible experience on our platform.”

There are a few logical conclusions to draw from Snap’s move here:

  • It’s possible Snap found that people were watching or creating fewer Stories as a result of the redesign, and it’s trying to rectify the situation by putting Stories in another section inside the app where more people will see them. A spokesperson declined to comment on whether or not the change was tied to a decrease in Story usage, but that certainly seems possible. Perhaps we’ll find out when Snap reports earnings next week.
  • It’s also possible that putting Stories inside Discover is a push to get more people watching publisher content, or content from celebrities. Snapchat could be luring people to the Discover section by putting their friends there. The redesign also puts “subscriptions” on the main Discover screen instead of requiring users to swipe left in order to find them. In other words, putting friend content on Discover might increase viewership of non-friend content, as well.
  • The fact that Snap wants people to know that it’s “listening to our community” implies that the move was in response to user backlash around the redesign. Snapchat took a lot of flack for its redesign, including from celebrity users like Chrissy Teigen and Kylie Jenner. The company even responded to a petition asking Snapchat to roll things back to the way they were.
  • There are probably more changes coming. The statement says the company will “continue to test updates,” so you can assume that the current Snapchat design isn’t set in stone.

The story here is that Snap is still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Clearly its redesign wasn’t perfect, and now it’s trying to find the right layout and balance of user content and professional content.

And while this certainly feels like a big reversal in Snap’s philosophy to keep friend content and professional content totally separate, a Snap spokesperson pushed back, pointing out that Stories on the Discover page will still be confined to their own feed. That means you won’t start watching a Story from your college roommate and immediately jump to a Story from a celebrity, which is how it used to work (and how it works on Instagram). It also ensures that celebrities won’t dominate the feed and relegate friend stories to the bottom of the queue.

Snap’s argument at the time of the redesign was that pairing user content with celebrity content can create pressure on people to post something funny or fancy or totally unique.

For this test, Snap is organizing content inside the app based on the experience of consuming it. That means that even though Stories might be considered “friend content,” watching them is a similar experience to watching a show from a publisher instead of sending a private message. “With this test, we’re retaining that idea [of separating friends and publishers], but bringing back one place for talking and one place for watching — organizing around users’ behavior, not just relationships,” a spokesperson said.

The new look is rolling out to a small group of test users, and then the company will decide whether or not to roll it out more broadly. Do you have the new design? Let us know what you think about it on Twitter.

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