Opinion: Snapchat vs Messenger’s Newest Features, from a UX Perspective

messenger-snapchatTwo communication platforms are vying for users and trying to push the newest features and functions. Which incorporates a seamless user experience better?

As much as Snapchat is fighting for its life right now to differentiate from its copycats, figure out a way to make money, and a myriad of other business concerns, from a UX perspective I actually really like the moves they’re making.

The key thing that they’re doing is adding more features but not ruining the experience by forcing the user to use them. One that I really liked is the Bitmoji widgets which give you a personalized person and provide another way for stickers. They’ve added groups, which makes it much more easier when you want to send to specific groups a lot. You can send a picture from your camera roll. The latest thing they’re trying to do is searching across all stories that are put on public, and you can spend much more time viewing whatever thing you want. I think all these changes are great.

Even with ads, they’ve done it in such a genius way. These pop up within the discover stories you view (which make them relevant), but you can also skip them! It’s also positioned in the right place between your “recent stories” and “all stories”.

In addition to adding features, they’re always modifying the usability of the app in incremental changes that, even if users don’t agree with the change, it doesn’t hinder their ability to use the functions. An example of that would be removing the alphabetical grouping of your friends list in rows, but still allowing you to see the letters of your friend’s first name as you scroll down. You can search people and chat.

Contrast this to Facebook Messenger. I used to love it as a product, but not so much anymore although it’s still my main form of communication. Perhaps its that stickiness that make it okay for them to push certain features while Snapchat can’t, but the all-in-one use tool and the bloatedness of the app is just too much. When these horizontal bars started showing up in my messages of “suggested friends”, “active now”, “wish them a happy birthday”, I got so annoyed that I would delete the app and redownload it to get back to the previous version. They’ve since given us the ability to hide them, but not even permanently. Like why on earth would I want to see suggested people to add on my list of messages? That’s what Facebook is for, not Messenger. Not only that, but there already is a button on the bottom column where you can see people who are active now. And stop having a message for people you’ve just added to tell you to chat with them.

This whole market shift towards “the camera is the news feed” is also implemented terribly into Messenger. They stuck a camera button in the middle of messages, and the worst part is scrolling to the top of your messages can render the camera to pop up too. Then they added stories to the top, but also adding this rectangle box that shows up on the right side if the person has a story up looks terrible. It completely changes the look of the app without giving the user control. It’s not the fact that the camera/stories is a part of Messenger, but that they’re being forced into being the main way of communication when you’ve never used the app for that purpose. Like, I would have no problem if stories had a separate tab on the bottom right where you can go in and view everyone’s stories there.

That being said, there are a bunch of good things that is implemented smoothly in Messenger: reaction emojis to messages, @ a specific person in a group, polling, even the games thing was fun for a few days. These were all useful and cool changes, but they didn’t have to be used if you don’t want to. They’ve also made the integration and workflows better when you click links to navigate to different things.

I get that the challenge is that Messenger is trying to shift towards the camera being the face of communication while Snapchat is already there, but I’m not sure if forcing their user base to be there without easing them in is the right move. But maybe I’m just in the minority as messages being my communication platform versus the camera.


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