Will you be 'double-tapping' or 'blocking'?

Making changes to a much-loved and extremely popular app might seem like a misjudgement, because as the saying goes ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, however, this isn’t stopping Instagram.

The beloved app, which emerged in 2010, has been making alterations ever since its creation, some welcomed by its users and some, not so much. Instagram began as a simple photo-posting site, where users could like and comment on others’ photos and play around with the built-in filters ‘Sierra, Mayfair, Sutro, Amaro and Willow’. Since then, it’s taken influence from other apps like Snapchat and TikTok and created a combination of all three. Despite the app’s winning popularity (1.2b monthly users) over Snapchat (528m) and TikTok (732m), its recent design changes, which alter the way users experience the app, have sparked a lot of controversies among designers and its more general audience. Let’s take a look at why…

Instagram is looking to align users’ feeds around reels. Whilst this change is not in full swing yet, individuals already have doubts about this alteration. This will make the jobs of creators and designers who share static content more difficult. If they want to keep up with the new user experience of the app, their content will need to start including videos (reels), having to learn new skills of video creation, taking up a lot more of their time. This can be harder for small businesses or solo creators especially, as they may fall behind the faster-paced, larger companies that have more resources.

If designers do have the time to learn these skills, it will not only lift their Instagram page as it aligns with the app’s new priorities, but it will also add variety to the brand’s visual portfolio with the inclusion of video – can’t complain!

Below are some of the videos we’ve posted on Instagram recently to make Instagram’s new updates happy!

This next change may seem wild, it definitely did to me! As a successful app, its interface and presentation have always been very orderly; the gridded profile, the (old) chronological feed and the separate pages for messages, feeds and interactions, however, there’s talk of an interesting variation. The new user interface will potentially remove the top stories bar and present everything in a swipeable, immersive experience, including reels, regular posts, suggested posts and stories in one feed. I know, it just sounds like TikTok! At the moment this is just a back-end prototype, but it does seem a very questionable design decision.

There’s also discussion of the app taking influence from TikTok by using its classic item-by-item scrolling style (instead of whizzing through posts, users are forced to view each post). Both changes are features that force users to interact with content whether they want to or not and manage how individuals take in and experience content. From a designer’s perspective, this could be seen as an interesting plus, as content and artwork must be at least acknowledged by other users, whether they choose to give it a detailed scan or not. With the immersive all-included change as well, stories will be more obvious to users to view and therefore, users will digest more content. Despite this last potential change perhaps being a positive for designers, it may be the most different change they have made, raising the question of whether general Instagram users will ‘double-tap’ or ‘block’.

Finally, a few changes we’ve experienced in the last few months are the ability to ‘like’ a story and ‘pin’ a post on your profile. I believe that ‘liking’ a story instead of sending a message through direct messages, is a positive feature of Instagram’s new user experience, especially for a designer or business owner. Others have said, that as a business you may work by keeping your business deals in your direct messages, therefore, this liking feature will keep your messages clean and organised. Being able to ‘pin’ a post on your profile allows you to highlight a favourite or most successful post, meaning that when someone visits your profile, this will be seen first and therefore, make it even more successful.

Overall, there are pros and cons to Instagram’s recent and potential changes in how it might affect designers, but if you want to stay relevant on the platform, be prepared to make changes to your content. Will following and taking elements from other apps like TikTok, do more harm than good for the app? Perhaps there’ll come a point where all social media platforms have blended into replicas of each other… come on Instagram – nobody likes a sheep! 🐑

NOTE TO DEVELOPERS… there might soon be a gap in the market for an app aimed at the 1.2 billion monthly users who just want a space to post a few snaps! 😉