Photo Credit: Inheritance Selfie by Patrik Nygren

How I Became Addicted to Snapchat

User experience design is not always about wireframes, screen interactions and ideating. Deeply rooted within all of those things is human psychology. As I design for tech companies, I’m constantly asking myself why people do certain things. Why does a user open an app? Why does a user delete an app? How does it make them feel? To illustrate this, I thought it appropriate to share with you a bit of my own psychology as it relates to today’s hottest, youngest and hippest tech….

Along with the nickname “UX Queen,” which I gave myself some time back, I’ve also managed to be crowned “Princess Teenybopper” by my loving boyfriend and his roommate. It’s definitely a cute-sy name that I’ve come to own, but the interesting part is the origin of this nickname.

This nickname was bestowed upon me because I am a self-proclaimed lover of Taylor Swift, the movie Frozen and the ever-popular app, Snapchat (among other things). This smartphone application has been around since September 2011 and began as a cute little way to send photos to your friends (and admirers) that would disappear in seconds. Simple idea, great stickability.

Click a photo, swipe for filters, tap to write (or draw), send!

Why is this app so sticky? Let me break it down for those of you old-timers and millennials that were born before the mid-90s. Snapchat uses a little pink (or purple) box to tell you that something is waiting for you.

A specially, and carefully crafted message / photo / video just appeared with a crucial piece of information from your bestie / secret crush / guy you met last night / that one friend who thinks you’re their bestie. And you justhave to tap on it! So you do. And that, my friends is where the dopamine squirt comes into play. Our brains just love dopamine, it’s the happy molecule that is released in our brains, when we respond to a text, when we pick up the phone, when we watch the latest episode of Scandal, and when we open a new Snap.

That’s how it began for me. I loved sending Snaps; it was easy! (Which, by the way, is also part of Snapchat’s Secret Sauce). All I had to do was click a photo of me in the fabulous outfit I chose for the day, swipe left or right for the perfect filter, tap to add the text “#ootd” (Outfit of The Day) and send it off to my best friend, Trisha. In a matter of minutes (or seconds), I would have a reply with Trisha’s #ootd. As I Snapchatted back and forth with friends like this, another amazing thing happened — my snap score grew.

What is a snap score, you may ask? It’s basically the gamification embedded into the Snapchat app. Every snap you send and receive gets a point. You also get little trophies for sending certain kinds of snapchats in certain ways. If you use 5 colors in your “Snapsterpiece” when drawing on a photo, you get a rainbow emoji trophy. If you send 50 video snaps, you get the video emoji trophy. There are so many different types of trophies, and I have a long way to go in filling up my trophy case, as you can see…

This idea of racking up a score and winning trophies makes snapchatting not only a method of communication but also a game. In fact, I know friends that even compete in seeing how high they can get their snap score. Rewarding you with a new trophy is another way that Snapchat creates dopamine squirts in your brain. This app has set up an entire system to leave you craving more.

And it doesn’t end there, of course. There is that small matter of Snapstories. Yes, Snapstories. Along with sending your Snap to your friends you can also add it to your Story which any of your friends (or non-friends) can see if they swipe right from the home screen of the app. This screen features your story and all of your friends’ most recent stories. In my opinion, this is Facebook for those of us millennials born after the mid-90s. This is where I can show the world where I went last night, who I was with, and what I wore. There’s a catch though — your Snapstory disappears 24 hours after it was posted. This means that all my friends have to constantly check this page for updates, and so do I. Snapchat has created a reason for me to come back to the app, even if I haven’t received a direct snap. That’s powerful. They know that humans are innately nosey. We want to know what you did last night, who you were with and what you wore. We care about getting in your business. I mean, isn’t that why gossip exists? Snapchat has decided to capitalize on that innate human quality — real time. This is one thing Facebook and Twitter (or even Instagram) doesn’t do super well. These platforms have a lag in time, whereas Snapchat is more instant because of its ephemeral quality.

I’ll be honest with you, I took a fast from Snapstories for a year and a half because I thought they were silly. Recently, I realized that there were at least 50 of my friends posting Snapstories and then I came to another realization… I was missing out! Here’s another powerful UX tool: FOMO. Everyone has that fear of missing out on what the world is up to, if an app can surface that and provide meaning, it’s magical. (That’s why we can never make concrete plans, we want to make sure we have all of our options on the table before we decide. Master of None, anyone?)

In a nutshell, there are three reasons that I became hooked on Snapchat: dopamine squirts, gamification and FOMO. It’s plain and simple. It’s not my fault at all that I leave my phone out next to me, never put it in airplane mode and use an Apple Watch — it’s Snapchat’s fault! They made their UX too sticky! And yes, I’m in too deep now, I’ll probably teach my kids how to use Snapchat before Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. After all, I would never want to deprive them of those dopamine squirts, right?


If you’ve enjoyed this article, comment below and subscribe to my blog! I’ll be posting more of my colorful thoughts in relation to tech, design and business. And if you’re ever so inclined, follow me on Snapchat: @avanim13 ☺ Happy Snapping, y’all!

Subscribe to my blog and receive weekly updates

PODCAST EPISODES, BLOG POSTS, FREE RESOURCES FOR ENTREPRENEURS, FREELANCERS, + CONSULTANTS