Facebook: Please Don’t F*ck with Instagram

in tech, product

Dear Facebook

I have an intense affinity with Instagram. As far as social networks go, the mobile UX i̶s̶ was exceptional, and it’s an app I use regularly throughout the day.

Scrolling through my carefully curated feed is a joy: with only one photo occupying the screen at a time, the pace feels relaxed and my attention doesn’t feel like it’s being frayed at the seams.

The introduction of ads to Instagram doesn’t actually bother me. They’ve been tasteful, so far. I read somewhere that the founder was carefully vetting every single one in the early days, and it showed. Companies typically make more of an effort with the aesthetic of their ads on Instagram. Instagram is a business with big ambitions, and an ad model makes complete sense for the platform. I’m cool with that.

Reordering the timeline bothers me.

Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the days of chronological news-feeds. Opening the app and seeing something that JUST happened is exciting! I like being able to respond quickly to things at the top of the feed. Most of all, it just makes sense. It requires no extra mental work on my part to figure out when something was posted.

If you know anything about good UX, you know that good experiences are designed to minimise mental strain. The latest change to the feed breaks this fundamental principle. Instagram have moved the timestamp from the top of their posts to the VERY BOTTOM. The user has to make an effort (both mental and physical) to figure out when something was posted. I hate this. It frustrates me a lot.

“Let’s move the timestamp to the bottom of the photo”

“Why don’t we put it below the comments so the user has to scroll past them to find it?”

“Great idea! We’ll massively increase engagement and session times!”

“Score. What should we put in its place?”

“How about a chevron linking only to a ‘Report’ button?”

“I love it. Hey, pass me another beer. I’m sobering up.”

Instagram redesign comparison

Left: timestamp in the top right corner. Right: Timestamp is offscreen, replaced by a useless chevron. WTF!?

I’m not going to wax lyrical about how much I love Instagram, but I can summarise it very quickly.

I used to hate the idea of Instagram. Filtered photos of hipster coffees and meals that don’t need to be photographed? No thanks.

But then I tried it, and I loved sharing the highlights of my day. Instagram is designed to be experienced one photo at a time, and that encourages people to share only their best photos. Over time, I started to curate a visual highlight reel of my life, and with 400+ posts on my account now, I have a wonderful photographic account of the last two years.

Instagram Map feature

My favourite feature. Spot the “meal that doesn’t need to be photographed”

I cherish my Instagram account dearly, and would be reluctant to switch to another platform, but that doesn’t mean I’ll tolerate reductions in product quality.

This new change bothers me a lot. I don’t use the feed as much as the average user, but these backward steps don’t signal a promising future for everyone’s favourite photo app.

Dear Facebook,

Please don’t f*ck with Instagram.

Kudos to Giulio Michelon for providing the inspiration (and call to arms!) for this post.

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