76) Snapchat – designing out inhibition


 wēi danger

We’re continuously told that our ‘data trails’ will come back to haunt us and recent various high profile security breaches have eroded our confidence that our data will be handled responsibly.  Rightly we’re becoming more paranoid – who will see my data in the future?  How might it be taken out of context?

However, startups have learnt that providing login through existing social graphs creates better consumer experiences – it’s faster and enables us to connect with all our friends, all the time.

Surely these two forces are compounding to create a growing emotional barrier to sharing.  We are designing users’ inhibitions into our services, will they increasingly stop to ask: Will I regret this in the future?  Will any of my friends see this accidentally?  Will anyone else?

With all of these security fears in mind surely any photo-sharing app launched in September 2011 was destined to fail – it wouldn’t be trusted to tap into other networks for social sharing and if it stood alone it would never go viral?

 jī opportunity

Ironically, Snapchat which was founded that month turned these dangers into an opportunity.  Unlike Instagram or other photo-sharing services the user controls how long he or she wants images to be viewable, often for only seconds, before they disappear.  Combined with its low-friction design, Snapchat reduces mental barriers to sharing.

Not everything deserves permanence and whether users recognize this or not, permanence introduces friction when creating and sharing content.  SnapChat subverts existing photo-sharing networks because its user base doesn’t want the content itself to show up on the web. Even switching away from Facebook Connect (for authentication and seeking out friends) to verification by SMS and friend search through the phone’s address book helps in this regard (and lowers SnapChat’s dependency on other platforms.)  Over 200m photos are shared per day on Snapchat and they’re in the process of securing a $100m+ funding round.

TL;DR / How About…

  • Designing friction and inhibition out of your service – what might be ephemeral?  What might be anonymous?