Visual Hierarchy, Information Architecture, and the new Snapchat Update

One of the most well-known rules in UX design is the concept of “visual hierarchy.” Visual hierarchy involves designing and organizing content – either in print, or digitally – so that an audience’s attention is directed in the intended way. For example, on a web page with ten buttons, a designer might make only one of the buttons bright red, as a way of highlighting its importance.

Though there have been many complaints on social media about the new Snapchat update from a personal aesthetic view, I think that it can be argued that the new update also violates some principles of visual heirarchy. In the old Snapchat layout, a user’s eyes were first drawn to the large rounded rectangles on the left side of the screen, allowing users to instantly gauge whether they had an incoming snapchat or not. The contact name of the user was bolded as well, allowing the natural progression of use to flow from seeing a new Snapchat, and then seeing the contact name. After that, secondary information was available – whether a contact had a “streak” with the user, and whether that contact was on the user’s best friends list.

A comparison of the previous version of Snapchat to the new update

Additionally, the new Snapchat update seems to have a poorer information architecture compared to previous iterations of the application. Information architecture is the organization of content so that “users [can] easily adjust to the functionality of the product and [can] find everything they need without big effort.” The new lack of separation between Snapchat public stories and private Snapchats remove the mental break which occured between personal (messages sent to a user individually) and public content (content posted for all of a user’s friends). Additionally, this has resulted in many users with large Snapchat followings complaining of much lower view counts on public stories, with some saying their views have been cut in half, or worse.

A view of user stories before the update, which removed them

In my opinion, Snapchat should find a middle ground between the new design and the old one. There are some elements of the new design which work well within the application; the ability to find new celebrities to follow, for instance, works much better in the new design, since there is now a Discover “feed” to scroll through, giving one the opportunity to discover new users. Ultimately however, Snapchat needs to simplify its user interface and rework the architecture of the different elements in its app if it wishes to improve engagement the way it intended to with this update.


Lise Statelman, “Achieving Visual Hierarchy,” Hackdesign, Accessed 15 February 2017.

Tublik Studio, “Information Architecture. Basics for Designers,” Accessed 15 February 2017.


  • February 15, 2018 - 5:10 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely agree. This new update seems unaware of what its user is looking for in their Snapchat experience. I would add that, while Bitmojis are fun, they are not entirely integrated into the Snapchat app, which is frustrating when Michael Fulciniti doesn’t have a Bitmoji to represent his face in your screen grab – a purple mug shot doesn’t give me any indication who that person is!

  • February 15, 2018 - 6:33 pm | Permalink

    I really agree with this! You make a really good point in how Snapchat should find a middle ground. If you watch the video that announces this change, they way they describe it makes complete sense – it was just executed in an awful way. I hope Snapchat makes some design changes in the near future to reverse this 🙁

  • February 23, 2018 - 10:45 am | Permalink

    I agree – the simplicity of the older version of snapchat made the app much more approachable. Now, the app feels cluttered and disorganized, both in appearance and functionality. Your feed of snapchats doesn’t seem to be organized by time anymore, it feels much more random. I often see people near the top of my feed that I haven’t sent a snapchat to in weeks or even months. As mentioned in another comment, this update of snapchat seems to be catered to bitmojis, featuring them as a central element in your feed, perhaps as a way to be more approachable and personal. However, if you or a friend doesn’t have a bitmoji, this idea doesn’t follow through.

  • February 27, 2018 - 10:38 pm | Permalink

    You make great points, and I couldn’t agree more – it is important that Snapchat finds a middle ground. Snapchat is a very popular app, especially for our generation. I feel as though it may cause people to decrease their use of Snapchat. Your point about people’s Snapchat story views is interesting and is one factor that I believe could affect people in their decision to use Snapchat less. They made significant changes to the app that took users by surprise. It is usually difficult for users to adjust to updates, and this update seems to have caused even more uproar and difficulty than previous updates.

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