WhatsApp’s Green Color Controversy: A Lesson in User-Centric Design

WhatsApp's Green Color Controversy: A Lesson in User-Centric Design
Credit: Webwise

WhatsApp, the instant messaging giant with over 2 billion users worldwide, recently found itself in the midst of a user experience storm. The culprit? A seemingly innocuous update to the app’s color scheme for iOS users. The shift to a brighter, more vibrant green for notification icons and chat bubbles has triggered a wave of user complaints, with some even threatening to abandon the platform altogether. This backlash underscores the critical importance of user-centric design and the potential consequences of neglecting it.

Decoding the Green Color Controversy

At first glance, the outrage over a color change might seem overblown. After all, it’s just a shade of green, right? However, a closer look reveals deeper issues at play:

  1. Usability Concerns: The increased color intensity has made it harder for some users, particularly those with visual impairments, to distinguish between message notifications and chat bubbles. This can lead to confusion and frustration, detracting from the overall user experience.
  2. Lack of User Control: The update was implemented universally, without giving users the option to customize or revert to the previous color scheme. This lack of choice has left many feeling disempowered and ignored by the platform they rely on daily.
  3. Disruption of Familiarity: WhatsApp’s green color scheme has been a defining part of its brand identity for years. The sudden change, even if relatively minor, can be jarring for users who have grown accustomed to the app’s signature look and feel.

While some might dismiss these complaints as superficial, they point to a larger issue: the disconnect between WhatsApp’s design decisions and the preferences of its user base.

The “Delete WhatsApp” Movement: More Than Just Talk?

In the wake of the update, social media has been abuzz with users expressing their discontent, with some even calling for a mass exodus from the platform. But is this threat of a user boycott realistic? Let’s consider the factors at play:

  • The Power of the Network Effect: WhatsApp’s immense user base is its strongest asset. For most users, the thought of losing access to their extensive network of contacts is a far bigger deterrent than a disagreeable color scheme.
  • The Force of Habit: For many, WhatsApp is deeply ingrained in their daily communication routines. The convenience and familiarity of the platform may outweigh the annoyance of the new green, at least for the majority of users.
  • The Possibility of Adaptation: While initial reactions to change can be strong, users often adapt over time. As the new color scheme becomes the norm, the intensity of the backlash may fade.
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So, while the “Delete WhatsApp” movement has garnered attention, a mass user exodus seems unlikely. However, the vocal dissent should still serve as a wake-up call for WhatsApp, highlighting the need for a more user-centric approach to design and updates.

WhatsApp's Green Color Controversy: A Lesson in User-Centric Design

Lessons in User-Centric Design

The WhatsApp color controversy offers valuable insights into what user-centric design should look like:

  1. Prioritize User Testing: Before rolling out updates, especially those involving visual changes, it’s crucial to gather feedback from a diverse group of users. This can help identify potential usability issues and gauge overall receptiveness to the changes.
  2. Offer Customization Options: Giving users the ability to personalize their app experience, such as choosing color schemes, can go a long way in fostering a sense of control and ownership. It also demonstrates respect for diverse user preferences.
  3. Communicate Transparently: When significant changes are in the pipeline, proactive and clear communication with users is key. Explaining the rationale behind the updates and addressing potential concerns upfront can help mitigate backlash and build trust.

By incorporating these principles, WhatsApp, and indeed any company developing user-facing applications, can cultivate a more positive and inclusive user experience.

The Path Forward for WhatsApp

In light of the user backlash, WhatsApp finds itself at a crossroads. How the company chooses to respond will have significant implications for its relationship with its user base. Here are some potential paths forward:

  • Addressing Usability Concerns: WhatsApp could consider tweaking the new color scheme to improve contrast and readability, especially for users with visual impairments. This would demonstrate a commitment to accessibility and inclusivity.
  • Introducing Customization Options: By giving users the ability to choose their preferred color scheme, WhatsApp could quell much of the discontent while also offering a more personalized user experience.
  • Enhancing Communication: Going forward, WhatsApp could prioritize more transparent and proactive communication with its user base. This could involve previews of upcoming changes, opportunities for user feedback, and clear explanations of the design decisions being made.
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By taking these steps, WhatsApp can not only address the current controversy but also lay the foundation for a more user-centric approach to design and development in the future.

The Broader Implications for App Design

The WhatsApp green color debacle may seem like an isolated incident, but it underscores a fundamental truth about app design: user experience is paramount. In an era where users have more choice than ever, the apps that thrive will be those that prioritize user needs, preferences, and feedback at every stage of development.

This means investing in rigorous user testing, offering customization and accessibility options, and maintaining open lines of communication with users. It also requires a willingness to adapt and iterate based on user feedback, even if it means rethinking design decisions that have already been implemented.

For companies in the app development space, the WhatsApp controversy should serve as a reminder of the high stakes involved in user experience design. A misstep, even one as seemingly minor as a color change, can quickly escalate into a full-blown user revolt. On the flip side, a user-centric approach can foster loyalty, engagement, and a sense of community around an app.


As the dust settles on WhatsApp’s green color controversy, the key takeaways are clear. User-centric design is not an optional extra but a fundamental necessity for any successful app. Neglecting user preferences, usability concerns, or the need for clear communication can have severe consequences, even for a platform as dominant as WhatsApp.

Going forward, WhatsApp has an opportunity to turn this controversy into a catalyst for positive change. By listening to its users, offering more choice and control, and prioritizing accessibility, the company can not only weather this storm but emerge stronger and more user-focused than ever.

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For the wider app development community, the WhatsApp story is a cautionary tale, but also an invitation to do better. By putting users at the heart of every design decision, we can create apps that not only avoid controversy but truly enrich and empower the lives of those who use them.

About the author

Ade Blessing

Ade Blessing is a professional content writer. As a writer, he specializes in translating complex technical details into simple, engaging prose for end-user and developer documentation. His ability to break down intricate concepts and processes into easy-to-grasp narratives quickly set him apart.

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