Improving the experience of the app for new users.



Snapchat is a multimedia messaging app that allows users to send messages, pictures or videos that disappear after a short time. This was a hypothetical design challenge which focuses on improving the discoverability of features that are currently difficult to access in the current iteration of the app.


Snapchat wants to increase adoption and retention of people between the ages 25-50 years old.


I worked on this design challenge independently, performing User Research such as heuristic analysis, user testing, and creating personas.  This informed the design phase of the project, where solutions were created using Sketch and prototyped in Principle.


This project was completed in four days.


As someone that’s never used Snapchat, I wanted to immerse myself in all of the features of the app so that I could be better informed when testing. To do this I performed a Heuristic evaluation of the current app to better understand where a new user may have difficulty navigating the interface.

I used elements of both Nielsen Norman Group’s 10 Heuristics for User Interface design and Bruce Tognazzini’s First Principle of Interaction Design to evaluate the interface.


Active Discovery means that instead of waiting for users to discover features they are explicitly presented to them. But there is a delicate balance between showing users just enough information about the possibilities of an application so they feel empowered and so little that they feel confused and lost.  

After a user signs up with Snapchat they are immediately brought to the homescreen of the app. There is a pop up above the camera button that reads “Tap to take a photo. Hold to take a video.”  This gives news users an immediate understanding of what the button is and what actions can be performed with it. Being able to capture content is a core feature of the application.

However there are countless other apps that rely on user-generated multimedia content. What sets Snapchat apart is its ability to let users add filters and ‘Lenses’. Filters overlay artwork or location based information to content. Lenses are filters that use facial recognition technology to augment people’s appearance.  Lenses can make it look as if people have wagging dog ears, larger than life eyes, or any of the countless other Lenses that Snapchat or their active lens creating community generates.

On the current interface there is no visual or text based instruction on how to access or use filters.  In order to access filters there are three steps involved. First they must select the icon to switch to the front facing camera, then tap their face on the phone screen and finally swipe left or right to see the available filters.  The majority of smartphone users understand how to access their front-facing camera, but there is no indication on how to access filters and lenses on the interface.


Features and options within the interface should be displayed in a clear and consistent way to reduce the time it takes to find and access them. New users of an application can become discouraged and abandon the service if their expectations of how it should function are unmet, or are unable to find help to accomplish a task. Essentially, the interface should feel familiar to new users, without features that over complicate or obscure what a user sets out to accomplish.

There are two ways to access support. The first is to open up messages and locate the message from Team Snapchat and type ‘support’. A list of support options then appear.

The second is to tap the menu, find the settings icon and then scroll to the bottom of the list of options to find support.  

Neither of these options are easily discoverable to a new user. Someone unfamiliar to snapchat could need access to support — which contains documentation on how to use the app — more often than those that have used it for a period of time.  There is an opportunity for Snapchat to provide more immediate access to support to reduce user uncertainty.


From this Heuristic Analysis I found that there were two distinct opportunities for Snapchat to focus on to potentially increase the number of people within the purposed 28-55 yr old demographic coming to the platform.

  1. Provide explanation to users on how to access filters and Lenses.
  2. Place greater emphasis on help/support.


Personas are based on research with real users and are used to synthesize the motivations, interests and needs of them to design solutions around. Without personas, designers (myself included) are likely to create designs that are based on personal opinion. But we are not the users.

To provide solutions that encapsulate the needs of a typical person in this demographic I created a provisional persona.   Provisional personas are based on secondary research and anecdotal information, not on first hand interviews with users.  They give a reference point for the needs of a user, without the time investment of recruiting, interviewing and synthesizing information.


I wanted to understand if the assumptions from my heuristic analysis about improvements that could be made to the interface were valid. To do this, I conducted user tests with four participants in the target demographic. If they were experiencing issues I had identified as cause for concern, I would know where I could focus my efforts in improving the interface.

Taking participants through a scenario as jen,I used the think aloud approach, asking them to explain their actions when navigating the interface.

Imagine that your friends have been talking about their posts on Snapchat recently. You’ve decided that you want to sign up and start posting because you feel like you’re missing out.  How would you use Snapchat to start sending posts to your friends?
Applying a filter

Two participants took over a minute each to find and apply a filter

Applying a Lens

Two were unable to apply a lens to their video

Accessing Support

When asked to find support, none were able to do so


I determined that the most resource efficient solution that would solve for the problem of new users being unable to find and apply lenses was to add an on-boarding flow to the app.

User testing had confirmed my assumptions that people coming to the app for the first time would have difficulty in accessing some of the core features.  I understood what problems users were having, now it was time to solve them.

Addressing painpoints for applying a Filter or Lens

Unsolicited redesigns and design challenges are a great way for people like myself who are new to UX to learn. But where I feel they can fall short is in understanding of real-world constraints when solving a problem.  The two most pressing constraints when launching any product are money and time.  I wanted to approach this redesign with the intention of creating solutions that would cost Snapchat the least amount of these valuable resources to implement.

Once I had established the basic layout of the on-boarding flow I moved to high fidelity. The first screen in the on-boarding welcomes the user to Snapchat.  Selecting ‘Next’ continues to the introduction of the features. They also have the an option of skipping the introduction by selecting ‘Skip’.

In the final iteration I settled on a function-oriented on-boarding which gives users an introduction of the features and when they can use them. I choose this because it provides people with just enough information to understand the features of the app without the time investment of walking them through all of the features as with progressive on-boarding.

If the duration of the project was longer I would have A/B tested both progressive and function-oriented on-boarding approaches. The sessions would be structured to use a period of decay between a participant viewing the on-boarding and using the features inside the app. This would be done to see which had a greater effect on a participant retaining the information.

To introduce Filters and Lenses I used existing copy and video from Snapchat’s website to explain the features.  Not having to create new content for the on-boarding will save Snapchat both money and time to implement.

Accessing Support

I redesigned the menu so that Support could be accessed immediately from the menu screen. Giving the Support information greater prominence in the information architecture improves the likelihood that a new user will be able to find the help they’re looking for.


To convey to potential stakeholders how these updates would integrate within the app, I created a working prototype using Principle.


This was case study taught me the value of being able to take on a project independently. Although I enjoyed being able to move quickly from one phase of the UX process to another, I feel that I work best in a team where I have other designers to bounce ideas off of.

The changes I made to Snapchat’s interface are admittedly relatively minor, but if implemented, would increase awareness and conversions in the target demographic using the least amount of resources.

Snapchat has updated the interface since I completed the project. Screenshots of the interface you see within the case study may not exist in the current iteration of the app.

Next Project


Like what you see?

Let's chat.