Reddit's Android 2.1.9 update

Today let's talk about some Reddit Android app changes (but also celebrate that things do get changed!). There's some interesting design decisions in here today. Let's just say I am now aware of r/redditmobile and r/changelog, two subreddits I really shouldn't ever need to know about.

The long press to collapse comments

This is why I found r/redditmobile. I thought I might be alone in disliking this change, I wasn't.

In my interaction with Reddit, the action I perform the most is the comment collapse. I've done it forever on the desktop website rather than scroll a page, and I have carried that behavior to the mobile app. The long press change has highlighted just how right the original (short press) function got it for me - I had never thought about the process.

However I also had never visited r/redditmobile, where apparently a lot of users were unhappy. There was an intended outcome the team were driving for - making it harder to miss a tap on a link and accidentally collapse the comment containing it instead.

If we could assess whether the outcome was a positive one for us nimble comment collapsers, this exchange between Redditor and community manager might some it up:

Q "Why did they remove easy thread collapsing?
A "It is still somewhat easy [...]

First here's some untested assumptions:

  • Regular users read comments quickly. Really quickly. The Reddit app works because it's lets you explore content quickly, often in moments when you don't have a lot of time.
     
  • Regular users dismiss comments they don't need really quickly too, and want to move on as fast as possible. Sometimes there will be 3 or 4 comments in a row you'll want to collapse in search of one which covers your question, or has other relevance to you.

Now the side effects of the new intended outcome:

  • Time - if you increase the time it takes to dismiss a comment from 0 seconds to ~1 second, you are adding a significant overhead to the time a user has to spend on a thread. When on mobile I might read a thread for 20 seconds. If I collapse 10 comments this thread takes 50% longer to read now.
     
  • Failure feedback - sometimes you may slip when you begin the press. Because it's now a long press, you wont realise the gesture is going to fail until your estimate of the dismissal time has expired (your estimate will be longer than 1 second to be certain). This is not fun, and there's no easy feedback solution to this.
     
  • Discovery - because it's a long press and you have no onboarding tutorial for the feature, people won't discover it. This has been evidenced by people coming to r/redditmobile asking why collapsing isn't working, or to confirm an intended change was made, and that's users that knew it was a feature.

As trivial as all this might sound, it's a legitimate deal-breaker for me. It makes the whole UX feel so much slower and more cumbersome to me.

Let's Fix it

Luckily, if Reddit thinks this is an important change to keep for the reasons stated, they can fix it by simply making it an option in the settings to restore the short tap functionality for us dexterous tappers.

As for the onboarding itself, a simple "what's new" modal would solve the pain for the indifferent users, who don't care about the press length either way, but simply need guidance if a feature is changed because it's now non-obvious how to use it. If you wanted to be fancy, you could capture the first post-update short tap on a comment and pop a modal too.

Not addressing stuff like this can lead to attrition, which with so many 3rd-party apps available is not particularly improbable.

better onboarding

As the app is becoming more feature filled, it's also becoming more complex, and could really benefit from sharing it's features more clearly (such as the now less-visible subreddit search). It's never safe to assume even your core users know what they can do - when Microsoft asked users which features they wanted in Office, they discovered 90% of the requests were already there.

The Navigation menu

Another change a number of users seem upset about is the inclusion of the new bottom nav menu, and the removal of the hamburger side menu. Personally I don't feel as strongly about this, but I will say, if you are doing this for your customers, explain it as such, don't say:

The new navigation menu brings the Android and iOS apps more inline with each other.
Android has adopted the same designs schema as iOS.

This sounds much more like a business need than a customer one. Most people don't own Android and iOS devices, they pick one that they prefer, inclusive of it's design patterns. A lot of users feel strongly about not being second class users because of their platform choice. Implying one follows the design principle of the other for no other reasons than above suggests you are doing this for your developers, not your customers.

Anyway, good luck Reddit, please let us have our short tap back!