Reddit redesign featuring legacy look and image preview, personalized content filter functionalities
UI Redesign w/ Figma
Prototyping w/ Principle
January 2019 - January 2019 (2 weeks)
New Reddit v.s. Old Reddit
In April 2018, Reddit launched its first major site redesign since it began in 2005. It was done allegedly to attract newcomers who disliked Reddit’s “dystopian” look of the past. However, such change in turn casted doubts on a lot of experienced Reddit users like me. Since then, Reddit has been available in two modes, new and legacy. In response, I decided to seek out fellow Reddit users’ opinions and come up with a more widely-accepted design.
I posted a survey on the subreddit r/SampleSize to gather data on how Redditors feel with the following three questions:
What do you use Reddit mainly for?
Do you prefer the new or old Reddit Design?
Why or why not?
The first two were multiple-choice questions while the last one was an open-ended one. It’s important to note here that while the population of r/SampleSize includes a good amount of less experienced Redditors as indicated by previous surveys, most users tend to be more experienced and aren’t exactly representative of the entire Reddit population.
Moving on, I got a total of 168 responses after a week and here are the results:
It seems that people tend to use Reddit for browsing randomly and sometimes for specific things instead of making posts and commenting. In addition, as expected, most people preferred the old Reddit. However, what’s more important is the reasoning behind their preference so let’s take a look.
Users dislike drastic change
Putting other issues aside, users generally disliked how drastic of a change the new design was. The user interface didn’t just get updated, the way someone browses through a post also became more varied. Here were some user responses:
I don’t feel like relearning how to use it when I can navigate the old UI just fine
In addition, it seems that part of the appeal of Reddit is in its “dystopian” look.
It doesn’t have that slightly clunky-looking charm of old reddit
However, there were some, although very few, users pointing out how they appreciate Reddit not looking like “an archaeological find”.
2. Users dislike not being able to skip over posts easily on New Reddit
In the words of a user:
The redesign spreads out posts so much across the page that you can only see 3-4 posts at a time on your screen, which means you can’t just skip over the posts you don’t care about
Despite there being an option on New Reddit to switch to a more compact view, in the context of either browsing through randomly or looking for something in particular, the “card” view makes little sense and should be removed completely.
3. Users dislike images opening on different tab with Old Reddit
One thing users find really convenient with New Reddit is that posts now open on the same page in modal, meaning that images can be viewed without going to a different page. Although, linked images still pop up on different tabs.
Taking the main recurring themes I discovered through user feedback, I made an affinity diagram based on business and user needs.
Being able to skip over posts easily and view images quickly would allow Reddit to feed users more content. Most importantly, the clunky look seems just as important to Reddit as it is to the users since it has become such a signature that changing it would mean changing their business strategy completely and alienating a large percentage of users. The sleek look, while important for rebranding Reddit, doesn’t seem to be offering better usability overall as described above.
Here’s a sample user persona and a scenario he might go through:
Keeping Markus in mind, I decided to mockup some ideas to address the pain-points.
Firstly, for the initial redesign I decided to keep the original look of Reddit due to the large percentage of users preferring the old design of Reddit. Secondly, addressing the issue of skipping posts, I decided to add medals on the right side of posts that are included on top 100 of the Reddit front-page, allowing the users to skip over unwanted posts even easier than Old Reddit by curating content.
Finally, responding to the concern with image showing on a different tab, I decided to allow users to preview images on the same page by clicking on the image thumbnail. A modal screen would show up and if users would like to see the full post, they can still click on the title for the post with the image to open up in a different tab. Even in new Reddit, there’s no way to have images show up on the same page without the posts showing up along with the image as well.
Next, I decided to do A/B testing with five users who took the Reddit survey and two who describe themselves as “occasional users” of Reddit and three “frequent”. I explained the project and pain-points I was trying to address in my proposed redesign and had them A/B test the three versions (old, new, proposed) to see which one responded the best.
Here are the results:
They all felt like keeping with the old design and having image-previews on the same page by clicking on the image thumbnail better addressed the issues with drastic change and image-view. However, they didn’t feel like having the medals would help with skipping unwanted posts much compared to the old Reddit.
A user said:
There’s already a filter function so having the medals doesn’t really matter
Taking that into account, I decided to explore different options and come up with a final design.
The final design includes a “personal” content filter along with the preexisting ones like “hot”, “new”, “top”, etc. The “personal” filter would be available to users on subreddits that they are subscribed to. It would filter and show posts based on what the user browsed on the subreddit lately (similar to Facebook feeding users posts). It wouldn’t be a default as it may not update as frequently as other filters like “new” or “hot”.
To confirm that this is something users would use, I had the same five users A/B test it against the other two versions of Reddit (old, new).
Besides one person, they all believe this would help users skip over unwanted posts and that this is something they would use. Perhaps the high acceptability is due to similar methods being employed on different websites like Facebook but one user mentioned that he “love[s] getting suggestions”.
Despite being an experienced and long-time user of Reddit, through this redesign process, I learned that there’re still a lot of things I don’t know about Reddit, from other users’ responses. User response was definitely one thing that went well. I decided to send out a survey to the Reddit community as I knew how helpful they could be but I was shocked at the number of thoughtful responses I actually got.
One thing that could’ve gone better was the ideation phase for solutions. In hindsight, the medals didn’t stand a chance at making an impact; however, as this was my first time doing a UX project alone, I failed to be empathetic on that part. Thankfully, the users put me back on track. I really didn’t expect to do a second round of user testing.
Given more time, I’d like to go back to the initial phase of user research and look for more pain-points users are having with either the old or new Reddit using a different research method and keep adding onto my redesign! However, before that, I really wish Reddit would add image-preview and personalized content filter functionalities to the current Reddit and ditch the new look as I’m proposing.