Ephemeral social media or social media content that lasts for a very short time, has become a prominent part of the social media ecosystem. Snapchat, one of the most popular social media apps, was created with the sole purpose of providing this short, temporary content. When Snapchat was initially released it focused on person- to-person photo sharing, but has released various updates over the years and now features various lenses or filters for taking photos, it can be used to live chat with people, or a group, to send video messages, to share “stories” that are broadcasted to your followers and last 24 hours, you can create Bitmoji avatars, and now has a “Discovery” section where you can read news articles from popular news sources and publishers. More recently snapchat has also created a “snap-map” where you can see your followers’ avatars’ live locations on a real-world map, if they choose to be seen. There are other features that keep users coming back such as a “snap-streak” which keeps track of the people that you Snapchat every day, and it also uses emojis to indicate whether someone is your “bff” or in your top “bffs”.
From a user perspective, Snapchat is an easy and fun way to update your friends on what you are up to and to also see what they are up to. It is instant communication through your mobile phone that seemingly more closely replicates real life face-to-face interactions with its ephemeral quality. According to the Business of Apps, 186 million people are using snapchat daily, there is a 94% penetration rate among 18-24-year-old age group, and 77% of college students use snapchat. With statistics like these, it is important to understanding why people are using snapchat, their satisfaction with the app, and their overall attitudes towards the app and its function.
Design and Method
To conduct my research, a user-centered design was utilized because it a requires deeper analysis of my target audience which was Lehigh students who use Snapchat. I wanted to test the particular habits and preferences of target users to come up answers to my specific questions.
The method I chose to use to conduct this usability test was a questionnaire. With so many people, specifically college-age students using Snapchat, I wanted to find out some specifics of their usage and ask some questions to get some statistics about their feeling towards their usability. Using a questionnaire I was able to get the most amount of answers possible. I combined some personal questions I felt were relevant for my research along with Arnold Lund’s set of questions for measuring usability. I asked questions regarding, usefulness, ease of use, ease of learning, satisfaction, and some questions that might lead to social psychological, cognitive, behavioral factors or conclusions. Most of my questions were in the format of statements and participants were asked to choose true or false. For example, “I find Snapchat easy to use.”, and “Snapchat makes me feel more connected to my friends”, would be statements seen on the questionnaire. The full questionnaire can be found in the appendix.
At the end of my allotted research period, 37 college age Snapchat users had responded to the questionnaire. Regarding technical usability, it was found that the vast majority of people who answered the survey found snapchat to be very easy to use and user friendly. When asked if snapchat was easy to use 100% of participants said yes, 97% of participants said it was user friendly, and 97% said they learned how to use it quickly and easily. We can conclude from that that Snapchat was well designed in terms of ease of use and the audience that I targeted doesn’t struggle with using it.
The questions I asked about usefulness were slightly more difficult to discern. First, interestingly, I when asked if Snapchat was their most used app 43% of respondents answered that yes it was. Even though this was the case, 51% of respondents said Snapchat did not make them more effective at communicating, and 68% said it did not save them time or make them more productive when communicating with friends. However, 97% did say they felt it kept them more connected to friends. This leads me to believe that efficiency and productivity were not a huge concern when communicating through Snapchat. When asked what they use Snapchat to do 73% of respondents said they split their time both sharing content and seeing what others are doing, 16% said they use it to view other peoples’ content, 8% said they use it share their own, and only 2.7% used it for the Discovery/news section. Similarly, when asked if people liked having their friends see what they are doing at all times, 78% said they did NOT like the constant personal sharing, while 68% said they DID however like seeing what their friends were doing at all times. These results lead to a conclusion that users typically like to spend their time on Snapchat looking at other people’s lives and feel more comfortable doing so.
Further social psychological implications could be related to the fact that 95% of respondents said Snapchat made them use their phones more, 43% felt that snapchat made them feel isolated from the real world and 53% agreed that snapchat made them feel lonely at times. Social psychological conclusions could be that constantly looking at what others are doing instead of doing things yourself in turn is making users feel isolated and alone. On the other hand, interestingly, 67% of respondents thought it was possible to foster strong personal connections through Snapchat which seems to contradict the idea that Snapchat is isolating.
Finally, I asked some questions regarding overall satisfaction with the app and asked for any suggestions or improvements. 97% said that snapchat was fun to use and 94% said they were overall satisfied. The 6% that weren’t satisfied were asked to leave any comments as to why they were unsatisfied. One responder said that they felt that people “idealized” themselves on the app using filters, and only showed themselves living their “best lives” which led to negative self-image for people viewing stories. Similarly, another responder commented that “Snapchat was fake” and they did not like “that people post stories to make their lives seem more interesting.” Instead, they continue, “if someone has the time to take a video, you must not be enjoying the moment that much.” It is interesting to think about the paradox between this false sense of reality and wanting to portray your best self but also factoring in the fact that the majority if people believed you could foster real meaningful relationships through Snapchat.
In terms of improvements for the app, the suggestions I received from my questionnaire and that I thought that could be best implemented were to limit peoples stories to a number of times per day, to fix the friend algorithm, and finally to leverage their younger audience and more strongly advertise and personalize their Discovery section so that people can use the app to read about current events and move away from feelings of isolation. Limiting the number of Snap stories that people can make would force people to spend less time on their phones and also limit people’s focus on showing others what they are doing instead of living in the moment. This could be easily implemented with a message that alerts you when you have reached the story limit. Additionally, a few people had complaints about the friend algorithm and thought that it seemed more random opposed to people who you are actually friends with. I think this could be improved by creating an algorithm that generated your best friends by factoring in who you are in contact with the most and who you enter in as your best friends. Finally I think that when users download the app they should be asked what news they are interested in or their favorite publications and then the news from there on out is tailored to their interests and not just whatever is the most popular.
In conclusion Snapchat is a well -designed and functional app that has allowed for quick
spontaneous communication between people. People are using it to both share their own and see other people’s lives. The genuineness of the communication is up to users but seems fairly limited and more about frequency, or quantity not quality of contact. By analyzing the questionnaire and garnering some insights I think Snapchat could be improved, but overall it is a well-liked and successful app and does what it was created to do; connect people.