Instagram announced direct messaging of photos, similar to Snapchat. Instagram also launched Instagram Video, similar to Vine.
Last year, Facebook added hashtags, similar to Twitter.
Twitter added photo filters, similar to Instagram.
All of these added features on these platforms are great additions and often work very well. They may even enhance the user experience on that platform. All of these platforms added these features as an attempt to gain market share from their competitors but…
A user will not switch platforms because you added features.
Users are set in their ways. They have spent years using a platform and developed specific behaviors that will be impossible to break. For example, users have been adding hashtags to tweets for years but never to Facebook posts and few will start because the feature has been added.
Adding a new feature will get traction on the platform as a function of the number of users currently on the platform especially when a platform has millions of users (billion for Facebook). A percentage of users using a new functionality does not mean the user has used the other platform less but it will most likely mean the user has figured out a new way to include that new feature in their current platform usage behaviors.
Changing user behaviors and influencing users to switch from an existing platform is like moving mountains.
Adding bells and whistles are great but how does that new feature add to the core functionality of the platform?
New platforms launch everyday with “improved design” and a “unique user experience” but if the functionality the platform is giving is similar to an already existing functionality in another app or platform, why would I really switch?
I was at Dallas New Tech in December. One of the demoing startups was a camera app called Gestures. This app had one of the greatest UX designs that I’ve seen and it will absolutely improve the user experience of the iPhone camera app. I will definitely use it and test it once it launches, however, I’m an early adopter.
Most users and the general public are not early adopters and are not in tune with the tech scene as people in our industry. Is a new UX and sleek design enough to make my mom, who just got an iPhone last year, switch from the default Camera app to Gesture? Probably not.
Platforms need to think about how they can improve on current user behaviors and the unique essence of their platform before attempting to drastically change user behaviors.