A review (rant) on VSCO’s redesign

Recently, VSCO decided to revamp their app. According to VSCO’s press release, the redesigned app aimed to create “a simpler redesigned navigation and improved functionality”. I think VSCO created the opposite.

In VSCO’s mind, simplifying meant changing icons and adding vague functionality that did not clearly explain its purpose.

Before I go any further, VSCO is a photo editing app that allows you to select from a variety of filters to give your photo that extra oomph (and make it more instaworthy…). Before Instagram got their filters upgraded into something that was more usable, VSCO was my go-to app for making my photos look really, really good.

Example of a VSCO filter pack. Photo source: VSCO

Below are some changes in the new app that really irritated me and made me exclaim “why?!!”:

The Library

Previous design vs new design. Previous design image via AppAdvice

The hamburger icon and the camera icon are gone. The ability to change the grid layout and the confusing circle icon have disappeared. Sure, some of these changes were for the better — the hidden features are truly hidden (or perhaps hidden somewhere else now). But what about that new icon? At first, I thought it was the hamburger menu due to the 3 horizontal lines but when I clicked on it, I was asked for permission to access my camera. Later on, I discovered that if you swipe up on the icon, this actually opens the camera. If you swipe left or down— it brings up different functions (Ugh!).

Suggestion: Consider using visual cues to let users know about the availability of gestures. Nick Babich in his post “In-app Gestures and Mobile App Usability” suggested that exploration is fine, but users should be given pointers in where to begin. In VSCO’s case, there was an opportunity for them to initially introduce how the user can open the camera. Users will then know that the icon is not just an icon and potentially allow them to discover the rest of the gestures themselves.

Editing photos

Previous design image via Mobiography

They changed some of their icons. I had an initial reaction of ‘oh, this is new’ and made an assumption that the new icon was ‘edit photo’ because I couldn’t think of an alternative. This seems like a small, petty issue but as a user, I didn’t see how the change added any value. It didn’t make it any more easier for me to associate the icon to ‘Edit photo’, it was just another thing I had to remember.

Suggestions: Don’t make random changes to icons unless it made the previous icon clearer.


So, VSCO wanted simple and this was their take on it. But, what does simplicity mean? Josh Porter describes this perfectly in 52 weeks of UX:

Simplicity is… about clarity.

Clarity was not something the new design achieved. Instead, it added confusion and made things less clear. I felt that VSCO didn’t do any user testing and added functionality to serve their own purpose. I hope they learn from this experience and start listening to their users.

In summary:

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