User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are inextricably linked. The two terms are commonly misconstrued to be the same. UX requires having a deep understanding of users’ wants and needs while balancing business goals and objectives. On the other hand, UI ensures a product’s interface is as aesthetically appealing, intuitive and responsive as possible.
To address the changing needs of a specific application’s demographic, updates to both UX and UI are essential. In this article, we will delve into Instagram, a massively popular social networking app, and the evolution of its UI and UX over a decade.
Instagram began as a photo-sharing community for bringing loved ones together in one place to share memories. In the early years, people used Instagram mostly to capture the moment and convey their artistic side through photography using the basic photo filters Instagram provided.
After being acquired by Facebook in 2012, it has since evolved from a basic photo-sharing service to the cultural powerhouse it is today. Being a user since 2011 myself, it is incredible to have witnessed its rapid development in functionalities and aesthetics throughout the years.
A logo has huge ramifications on a company’s brand, where branding is crucial in user interface design. You might wonder, however, what role does it play in UI design? An effective logo that is harmonious with the design interface makes a product more recognisable and draws in more users.
In recent years, there has been a growing trend to move away from bold, complex designs and toward flat, minimalistic ones. Instagram is not an exception.
While the original logo has more intrinsic details and muted colours, the current logo has a more contemporary look and vibrant colours which matches its overall visual identity better. However, the Instagram logotype remains unchanged in a decade.
Accessibility + Change in Features
Instagram continuously rolls out updates and consequently, features are added, removed or moved around.
The main tabs on the bottom navigation bar in the first version (2010) were Feed, Popular, Share, News, and one’s profile. The app bar and navigation bar have subsequently changed from blue and grey respectively to white, contributing to a cleaner overall look. Additionally, the icons are now flat and simple.
Notification Tab replaced by ‘Shop’ Tab
One significant change to the navigation bar was the removal of the notification tab indicated by the heart icon. In its place is the ‘Shop’ icon, which users tend to accidentally click to access their notifications. Presently, the notification icon sits at the top right-hand corner of one’s feed next to the paper airline Direct icon.
Understandably, users were outraged by this update as they now have to reach for the app bar to view their notifications when they were previously conveniently accessible from the navigation bar. The replacement of the frequently-used notification tab with the ‘Shop’ icon is a strategic and deliberate move by Instagram to direct users to the new Instagram Shopping feature.
Besides that, ‘Reels’, a video feature that allows users to record up to 30 seconds and is Instagram’s attempt at competing with TikTok replaced the centre New Post button. This update was not well-received by many users.
Removal of the Following Activity Tab
A key feature removed in 2019 was the activity tab which has existed since 2011, in a bid for a more simplistic interface. According to an Instagram spokesperson, the regular Instagram user barely tapped on the tab and found it to be a hidden feature that was not particularly useful.
Users were also becoming more concerned with the fact that others could see the type of content they liked and consumed. On the contrary, some users were upset they could no longer keep track of the posts their friends interact with.
‘Stories’ introduced in 2016 is Instagram’s blatant substitute for Snapchat’s stories. Just like Snapchat, anything the user shares is deleted after 24 hours. It has done exceedingly well too and outdid its competitor; within a year of its debut, it had 250 million daily active users.
The success of Instagram ‘Stories’ resulted in Facebook launching its own version of ‘Stories’ in 2017 which triggered a slew of memes.
With its extensive AI filters and an already prolific consumer base, it is no surprise that stories gained traction and skyrocketed in popularity.
In the pursuit of better mental health, Instagram has been experimenting with hiding likes in some countries such as Australia, Japan and Singapore. Some see this as a positive development because it reduces superficial rivalry, where likes are perceived to be a form of social media currency. As such, people can now freely express themselves without constantly seeking validation and the fear of being judged.
However, influencers and advertisers were more concerned with this change as they would not be able to showcase their engagement to the public. Furthermore, despite not being able to see other people’s likes, users can still view their own, which does not affect their self-esteem. Users also mentioned that the removal of likes prevents them from tracking what is currently trending and popular.
Frustration with Advertisements + Feed Algorithm
Recently, users have been bombarded with advertising between stories. Likewise, sponsored posts infiltrate feeds which breaks the experience.
The perennial problem, however, is the change in the feed algorithm where users no longer see posts in chronological order. Instead, posts are shown based on engagement and reach. Users have been pleading for it to revert to its initial state but no avail.
Consequently, they have missed out on updates from loved ones, which worsens as the number of people they follow grows. This adds to the already existing frustration and unhappiness. When they scroll to the bottom of their feed, suggested posts appear, contributing to the list of undesirable features as the Explore tab already recommends posts based on user interests.
Instagram has evolved beyond photography to becoming the birthplace of cultural trends, which is mirrored in its UX and UI updates over time. Notably, many Instagram users are increasingly irritated and dissatisfied because their feedback on updates is continually ignored. It tried to be a little bit of everything but its original purpose, which was to allow people to easily catch up on each other’s lives.
Until a new social photo-sharing giant comes our way, we will have to rely on Instagram as our primary visual content sharing platform to keep in touch with our family and friends.