“The new Snapchat separates social from media.”
During Snap’s recent earnings call, the social media powerhouse issued this rather disorienting statement. Granted, it could work. Snapchat has long prided itself on a less obvious UI, worn like a badge of honor by younger users over their less app-savvy predecessors..
Whether it will work, however, is beside the point.
More important is the fact that a major tech company specifically highlighted a product redesign as a way of refreshing its business. Now more than ever, design is taking center stage: to earnings, to user growth, to revenue. Any business worth its salt, even in the traditionally monotonous B2B space, should pay attention.
Design as Business Plan
Apple Inc. arguably started the design-centric business pivot. When the company first announced the iPhone in 2007, it was a civilizational milestone. The iPhone broke ground for pervasive computing. And today, we can’t imagine life without a flat, sleek smartphone in our hands.
Apple’s design risk ended up changing the world. While other design-centric maneuvers haven’t been as influential, the idea of using design to revolutionize a business is gaining traction. In Snap’s case, a redesign was the answer to a stagnant user base. Pinterest is another example. Its genesis was the mobile shopping app Tote. Designed to make online shopping easier and more fun, the app stumbled — and became the foundation for Pinterest, a social media platform with dynamic tiles-based viewing design. The visual social network is now valued at $12.3B.
Another household name, YouTube, had humble roots as a video dating site. Unsuccessful in its original intentions, YouTube decided to revamp its website and let its users define what it was to become—a top repository of user-uploaded videos.
Allowing design to rule the directional roost is a gamble that paid off for Pinterest, YouTube, Apple and maybe Snap. These cases prove that design, as much as sales, marketing and operational efficiencies, is becoming a strategic lever at the highest level.
Trickle-Down Design Prerogatives
When software products don’t live up to users’ expectations, better support or new pricing tiers won’t solve the problem. Everyday users have new alternatives to choose from. Global competition makes everything on the planet available to anyone with a credit card. It’s true in the consumer space, and increasingly visible in B2B as well.
Not long ago, B2B software was so limited in scope, and industry specific, that it could afford to be clinically boring. Think spreadsheets, balance sheets and other ledger-like interfaces.
By now, the story of software’s sudden eruption from its chrysalis of on-premise servers is a worn story: with the cloud came mobile, and big data, leading to the instant-gratification economy that we now dwell in daily.
Such software, which hinges on glacial enterprise adoption cycles, has been slower to evolve, but the change is here. It wouldn’t be surprising if, in some future earnings call, we hear of a CRM redesign to keep midsized business users from churning, or an accounting-software overhaul to appeal to Generation Z users.
While it is still uncertain if Snapchat‘s gamble to stay relevant will pay off, the company’s redesign announcement offers a hopeful future following in the design-led footsteps of Apple, Pinterest and YouTube. The takeaway: it is far from the last time we will witness a design or redesign as a key topic in an earnings call.
By Chris Belli, Strategic Marketing and Business Development, Studio Science
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