"Why can’t I re-instagram?": The Influence of Design, An Instagram Case Study
I have a confession to make.
I recently joined instagram after much harassment from friends. I had used instagram privately to filter and store my personal photos, but never engaged in the community by following other users on a regular basis (allegedly, the core driver of growth.)
For the last week or so, I have started to understand why this community element was and remains so critical to instagram’s success. In particular, I noticed a few design and user interface decisions that contribute to building this creative community.
1) Focus on creation: I was shocked to find that the only way one can share content on instagram is by copying the photo URL and sharing on other websites or tweeting the photo link directly. There is no ‘retweet’ (or re-instagram) functionality. I remember when I first joined Twitter, I felt more comfortable retweeting other people’s content before I became comfortable creating my own. Instagram pushes users to create on day one to feel truly engaged. You can like, comment, and follow to show appreciation but it doesn’t influence your own content stream the way it does on Twitter.
Figure 1: Sharing options on instagram
Figure 2: Sharing options on Twitter (Retweet functionality is second to left.)
2) Photo size: When I go through my instagram feed, each photo is guaranteed a few seconds of my attention. Instagram’s design interface leverages the mobile form factor to highlight each individual photo (if the photo size was any different, this leverage may have been compromised.) Instagram wanted each photo to speak for itself before the user was inundated with the comments that followed (almost forcing a user to be influenced by the photo itself before being influenced by the comments that followed.) The font size and comment collapsing features augment this focus on the photo. Facebook took a similar approach in their most recent design, understanding that users wanted to see, create and be influenced by more photos.
Figure 3: A photo on instagram takes up most of the iPhone screen.
Figure 4: Facebook has mimicked this focus on photos.
3) Devaluing the tag: While users can tag other users in their instagram photos, these tagged photos do not appear on the tagged user’s personal feed. On Facebook, many passive users augment their feeds via active users who tag them. On instagram, your personal feed depends on individual creation.
Figure 5: I was tagged in this photo, but could not view it until I went to my “news” section. On Facebook, this would show up on my home feed.
We take design at face value and miss some of the subtle features that are so core to a company’s success. A lot of these features iterate over time and depend on user feedback, but a core few dictate the way users act, ultimately shaping the reputation and community of a company.
Agree/disagree/share your own case studies! Happy to jump down the rabbit hole of design…