Instagram Should (But Never Will) Make These Changes.
Let me start off by saying I can’t even imagine how challenging it must be to design for a platform that has over 1 billion active users every single month. Having to cater to an ever growing audience that possesses an infinite amount of differing preferences must be a daunting task. However, this begs the question: why is Instagram essentially the same for every user? Given what we know about social media addiction and the effects it has on warping our sense of reality, why is it that the only major change we’ve seen in recent memory on the platform is hiding like count and adding user stories?
In this article, I’ll attempt to make a case for a two-part improvement to the platform. I’m fully aware that 1. these tweaks might clash with the core of Instagram’s business (putting ads in front of people’s eyes) 2. some people are completely content with the way they scroll through their feed and don’t see a need for change. Which is why the first part of my improvement is simply allowing for different user modes. I’ve heard from certain UX practitioners that different user modes is a usability sin. I’ve heard fair criticisms of user modes like: “how can the user know which mode is best for them?” or “if your product requires different grades of complexity maybe you’ve built an overly complex product”. However, what I’m suggesting here isn’t a reduction of functionality but rather an introduction of design elements that could help make the Instagram experience better for some.
This different functionality would be an opt-in choice from the user. Accessible through the settings menu, the user would be able to choose whether they want to modify their Instagram experience.
From here, they’d be able to modify their daily post limit and amount of posts per page (a little more about that later).
So, now that they’ve activated this Clear Mode what’s different?
1. Make Ads Obvious
What makes Instagram ads so deceiving is how similar they look to all of the other posts on your timeline. I often have to do a double take when scrolling through pictures to realize I‘m seeing an ad.
A Clear Mode ad would look purposefully different than all the other posts on your timeline. Hence making them a whole lot less effective and cutting into Facebook’s revenue but this is a thought exercise not a business strategy proposal. Does this make the ad look clunky? Yes. Can you more easily send feedback about an ad you don’t like? Yes. Could you make a case to implement something like this on the basis of it being the right thing to do instead of the most profitable thing? Absolutely.
2. Get Rid Of Infinite Scroll
There’s nothing accidental about the fact that virtually every social media platform implements some version of the infinite scroll. Gone are the days where you have to consciously opt-in for your next dose of content, scrolling in perpetuity is the norm.
A “Next Page” button would introduce friction into the experience and help create moments of reflection. Moments where you can think things like “hmm I’ve spent way too much time scrolling past posts I don’t even remember”. The amount of posts per page before you tap “Next Page” could be customized within the Clear Mode menu seen earlier.
3. Make Paid Posts More Obvious
When I see any account with a high follower count post something that has any brand within view I automatically assume it’s been paid for by the brand in question. However, that thought has become a rare occurrence for me as these types of posts have become more prevalent.
Making them more obvious by including a UI element that very plainly explains that the picture you see has been paid for by a company would help distinguish normal posts from paid ones.
4. Introduce Daily Post Viewing Limits
Some of you may already be using a feature like Apple’s Screen Time, which does a great job of shaming you into closing any app after a predetermined amount of time. It’s a great feature but what if a platform like Instagram took it upon themselves to create their own safeguards to mitigate overuse of their platform? What if Instagram allowed you to set a limit of posts you could see in a day and gave you real time visual feedback as you neared the limit.
A feature like this would really give some insight into just how much junk we scroll through without even noticing it. Calculate the time you’ve spent scrolling through Instagram today, now try to recall in detail at least 5 posts you saw… See what I mean?
There are an infinite amount of tweaks Instagram could make to its platform to improve the overall digital hygiene of its users. They’ve been making a step in the right direction with changes like removing the like count in certain markets. However, I think it’s time to offer more opt-in changes before the addiction to the ‘Gram gets worse.
Have any more ideas? Leave me a comment, I’d love to read your thoughts on how social platforms can be improved.