Reddesign: How Reddit Redesign Alienated Its Users
Reddit is just about one of the biggest social media out there, attracting millions of users, as well as movie stars and big companies. It’s different from Facebook and Twitter, but lately, it’s been trying to narrow that gap. As a result, it changed its design drastically, resulting in user outrage. Here’s the story of the Reddit redesign.
The Story of Reddit Redesign and Why It Left People Alienated
In 2018, Reddit, the popular online platform that boasts being “the front page of the internet,” underwent a significant overhaul, marking the first visual update the site had seen in ten years.
The revamp aimed to create a more inviting, modern, and user-friendly interface and attract new members and advertisers, but it also generated a lot of controversy and criticism from existing Reddit users, who felt the new design betrayed Reddit’s core values and identity. Here is the story of the Reddit redesign and why it disappointed so many people.
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The Motivation Behind the Redesign
In 2005, Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian founded Reddit as a platform for sharing and voting on links and comments. Over time, it grew into a thriving community of millions, with thousands of subreddits focused on a wide range of topics. Despite its minimalist design, Reddit is known for its quirky humor, passionate debates, and sometimes toxic behavior.
As Reddit grew, however, it faced a number of challenges. Its outdated and cluttered design made it difficult for new users to navigate and understand the site’s conventions and jargon. It was also hardly mobile-friendly. Additionally, Reddit struggled to monetize its traffic and compete with other social media platforms. In response, the site’s CEO announced a redesign in 2017 aimed at improving the user experience and making Reddit more user-friendly and enjoyable for all.
The Process of the Redesign
The redesign was a massive undertaking that involved multiple teams across Reddit’s engineering, product, design, community, and research departments. It took over a year and a half of planning, testing, feedback, and iteration to complete. The redesign team had several goals in mind. It wanted to make Reddit:
- more visually appealing and consistent across different devices and platforms
- easier to use and navigate for new and existing users
- more customizable and flexible for different communities and preferences
- more engaging and interactive for users and moderators
- even more attractive and effective for advertisers
The redesign team followed a user-centered design approach that involved conducting user research, defining user journeys, prototyping solutions, testing them with users, collecting feedback, and iterating on them. They also consulted with moderators and power users who represented different subreddits and perspectives.
The Features of the Reddit Redesign
The redesign introduced several new features and changes to Reddit’s interface and functionality. Some of the main features included:
- A new navigation bar that replaced the old sidebar and allowed users to access their feeds, subscriptions, and profiles from a hamburger menu in the left corner
- A new set of viewing options that let users choose how they wanted to see Reddit’s content: card view, which displayed posts with large images and videos; classic view, which resembled the old Reddit design with smaller thumbnails; and compact view, which showed posts with minimal details and images
- A new post-creation tool that simplified the process of submitting content to Reddit and offered more options for formatting, uploading media, and choosing communities
- The night mode feature that switched Reddit’s color scheme to a dark theme for easier reading in low-light environments
- A new chat feature that enabled users to have real-time conversations with other users or groups of users
The redesign also improved Reddit’s performance, security, and accessibility by using a modern web framework and adhering to web standards and best practices.
The Backlash of the Redesign
The redesign was rolled out gradually to Reddit’s users over the course of several months, starting from April 2018. Users could opt in or opt out of the new design at any time and provide feedback and suggestions to the redesign team. However, not everyone was happy with the new design. Many users expressed their dissatisfaction and frustration with the redesign on various subreddits, such as r/redesign, r/beta, and r/announcements. Some of the common complaints included:
- The new design was too cluttered, busy, and distracting, and made it harder to focus on the content
- The design was too slow, buggy, and unreliable and caused various issues with loading, scrolling, voting, commenting, and moderating
- It was too similar to other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, and lost Reddit’s unique identity and charm
- The new design was too different from the old design and required users to relearn how to use Reddit and adjust to the changes
- The design was unnecessary, unwanted, and imposed on users without their consent or input
- The new website was buggy and sometimes unresponsive
Some users also accused Reddit of redesigning the site for ulterior motives, such as catering to advertisers, censoring content, or alienating its core user base. Some users even threatened to leave Reddit or boycott its advertisers if the redesign was not reverted or improved.
The Response of the Redesign Team
The redesign team acknowledged the feedback and criticism from the users and tried to address them as much as possible. They made several updates and improvements to the new design based on user suggestions and bug reports. They also communicated with the users regularly through blog posts, surveys, etc.
To placate the users, the team let them continue using the so-called “old Reddit”: by activating it in the settings, the users could go back in time and replace the redesign with the old version of the website. In a way, there are two Reddits now: the new, flashy one and the one that’s stuck in time.