From noise to clarity — how color-coding changes our perception

#35: Misleading color-coding

The user revolt and blackout on Reddit caused by bad user experiences and unreasonable API pricing. Find out why third-party Reddit apps are preferred and how Reddit’s pricing harms designers and developers and forces users to inferior UX.

Collage of Reddit black out news headlines
Credit: Author

Reddit is one of the top social media platforms of the decade. It is the home of over 430 million monthly active users (2019). It is a site where people can find, share, and discuss anything. The topic ranges from news and memes to hobbies and fandoms. A famous saying is, “There is a subreddit for every topic on earth!”

However, this massive part of the internet has gone dark due to a protest by the user. The root cause of this protest is terrible user experience and usability.

Why do Reddit users prefer third-party apps

Despite being one of the most popular social media platforms, it has a lot of usability issues. Consequently, many users prefer third-party Reddit apps that offer a better user experience (UX) and features than the official app.

Popular third-party apps like Apollo, Boost for Android, Sync for Reddit, Rif, and Relay for Reader use Reddit’s application programming interface (API) to access and display Reddit’s data.

Recently, Reddit announced absurd new pricing for its API. Simply put, they changed the pricing from free to $0.24 per 1,000 requests.

This new pricing is designed to kill all third-party apps. With the new pricing, third-party app developers can’t operate. According to Christian Selig, the developer of Apollo, Reddit’s API pricing is so high that it would cost him about $20 million a year to keep his app running.

Reddit is trying to take away the third-party Reddit client’s delightful experiences from its users, perhaps because they can make more money running ads however they like. The ads on the official app are a bit different compared to the ones in the third-party apps, such as “Promoted posts” People cared so much about the wonderful experiences that they decided to make over 8,000 popular subreddits go dark for 48 hours starting on June 12!

Why third-party Reddit apps are better than the official app

Reddit users prefer third-party Reddit clients over the official app because of the overall better user experience, meaning better usability, utility, functionality, user interface, aesthetics, accessibility, performance, and satisfaction.

Third-party apps do better regarding UX because they put the user front and center. The designers and developers are passionate about Reddit; they can empathize with the users better. Their apps have their own subreddit, where they receive constant feedback from users and keep on designing better versions.

Things the third-party Reddit clients offer better compared to the official app —

  • Customizable themes and layouts
  • Advanced filtering and sorting options
  • Enhanced media viewing and playback
  • Offline browsing and caching
  • Gesture-based navigation and actions
  • Rich notifications and widgets
  • Integrated comment editor and markdown support
  • Ad-free and premium options

These aspects provide users with a delightful experience, unlike the official app.

How many users use third-party Reddit apps

Reddit does not provide official statistics; thus, estimating how many users use third-party clients is hard. Nevertheless, we can leverage some indicators to get an idea of how popular these apps are.

One of the indicators is the number of downloads and ratings on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. For instance, Apollo, Rif, and Relay have over 4 million downloads and 4.9 stars out of 5 on App Store, over 10 million downloads and 4.6 stars out of 5 on the Google Play Store, and over 5 million downloads and 4.7 stars out of 5 on the Google Play Store, respectively.

Another vital indicator is the number of API requests these apps make to Reddit’s server. According to Salig, Apollo made 7 billion API requests last month. Assuming that each user makes an average of 344 requests per day, Apollo has about 20 million active users per month.

These two indicators demonstrate that third-party Reddit clients have a significant share of Reddit’s user base and traffic.

How reddit’s API pricing is unreasonable and unsustainable for third-party app developers

It seems like Reddit made this decision to kill third-party apps for their profit because the new API pricing is unreasonable, unsustainable, and impractical. The pricing is also high compared to other similar platforms and services.

Selig mentioned in one of his posts that Reddit plans on charging about $12,000 per 50 million requests. This means that Apollo would have to pay $2 million per month or $20 million per year to continue operating at the same pace.

This pricing is preposterous because Reddit only earns about $1.19 per monthly active user. It also contrasts with other platforms, such as Imgur, which charges only $166 per 50 million requests.

Since third-party developers can not charge more than the official app, free with ads or $6 per month without ads, it leaves no viable option to cover their expenses, let alone make a profit. They cannot rely on donations or subscriptions because they are voluntary and unpredictable.

This decision by Reddit leaves the third party with only two options, one is to shut down the app, and the latter one is to sell out to Reddit (Reddit has yet to show interest). This is unfair and unethical, as it deprives developers of their hard work, creativity and users of their choice and freedom, and most importantly, it’s killing these fantastic products.

How Reddit’s API pricing harms user experience and violates user trust

This new pricing threatens the user experience on the platform and violates the user’s trust in the service. If Reddit persists with the pricing, it will force users to use the official app, which has an inferior user experience. This will reduce user satisfaction and engagement with Reddit, which has already started. Moderators are already planning to continue the blackout indefinitely.

It also indicates that Reddit is prioritizing business over users. Reddit is greedy and selfish since it prioritizes its profit rather than putting the users front and center. Remember that the platform is user-driven but fails to prioritize the user’s experience.

What Reddit can do to improve its UX and restore its relationship with its users

Though the CEO of Reddit tells Reddit employees that “it will pass,” the damage has already started. Reddit can still do several things to improve its UX and restore its relationship with its users. Here are some suggestions:

– Reconsidering the pricing and making it practical and affordable for third-party developers. This would allow third-party apps to continue operating and provide a better user experience.
– Collaborate with the designers and developers of third-party apps. This would help Reddit improve its app and website and offer more features and options for users.
– It is still not too late to learn from their mistake and appreciate the designers and developers. It will help Reddit regain its lost trust and love.

If Reddit does not care about its users now, it might be one of the biggest blunders in the history of the internet. Reddit is full of such comments that users only use it for a particular app. If the app dies, they will stop using it altogether.

In conclusion, the recent user revolt and blackout on Reddit highlight the detrimental impact of bad user experiences and unreasonable API pricing.

Third-party Reddit apps have gained popularity due to their superior user experience and features compared to the official app. However, Reddit’s new exorbitant API pricing threatens the existence of these apps, leaving developers with no viable options.

This decision not only harms developers but also compromises the user experience and violates user trust. To restore its relationship with users, Reddit should reconsider its pricing, collaborate with third-party developers, and prioritize user-centric improvements. Failing to do so may result in a significant loss for the platform and its loyal user base.

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References & resources:

The Reddit blackout: how bad UX triggered a user uprising was originally published in UX Collective on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.






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