Instagram: Making Editing Social

Initial Problem: I began this project with several observations about my friend’s Instagram editing habits.

  1. People care A LOT about how they appear on Instagram and how many likes they get.
  2. This translates into time spent both getting the perfect photo and editing it so it is “Insta-worthy.”
  3. Most people were using 3rd party apps to edit their photos. Instagram’s native editing feature was seldom used.

Based on those observations I used the “5 Why’s Method” I develop an initial people problem:

When I post photos, I want to them to well-edited , so I can show the best version of myself and get a lot of likes. But I can’t because I am not that good at editing photos on my own.

To gain deeper insight interviewed four users about their Instagram editing habits. I found that users generally used 3rd party apps out of habit and not because they overall better applications. I also learned that despite user claiming they were uninterested in maintain a cohesive feed, many users strived for the same look with all their photos and they edit their photos in the same ways. Based on the interviews I created two personas that I could use in my later design.


Once I had completed the background research I moved on to brainstorming. To help me, I recruited two other students who were working through their own design process. I started by explaining the work I had done already, and then we each separately came up with a series of “How Might We..?” questions related to the problem space. We came together and organized these “How Might We..?”s into three broad categories: look up categories.

Based on those grouping we brainstromed a series of potential solutions. The solution were then grouped together into solution spaces and the best ideas were determined.

I settled on 3 solution spaces :

Make Editing Social

  • Allow users to create and share presets (Personal Presets)*
  • Allow users to see the editing that was used on images in their feed
  • Have users be able to send out polls to friends about which edit they prefer (Editing Polls)*

Use AI to suggest edits

  • Have Instagram suggest edits based on past posts or based on photos you have liked (Suggested Personal Edits)*
  • Have Instagram suggest edits based on current trends or very popular accounts

Comparison of Editing

  • Allow users to make different version of the same photo with different edits

From here I picked the top three ideas (the ones that are starred above )and solicited feedback from users. I used the guerilla testing method of recruitment where I sat inside a local coffeeshop and offered people who were waiting for their sandwiches cookies in exchange. A short overview of the participants and main findings are listed here.

Based on this user input, I decided to go with Personal Presets because I like it was the most interesting and potentially feasible solution to explore out of the three. Users were overall intrigued by the Suggested Personal Edits, it is simply not a good fit for this assignment because the feature’s success is too dependent on the quality of the algorithm to make for a good design exploration. Similarly I decided against Editing Polls because I felt it was not a particularly innovative solution. Many social media apps have some form of polling so adding it to Instagram would not make for a unique case study.

Building Presets

The first step in my process of actually building my feature was market research. In addition to the products I use regularly, VSCO and Afterlight, I downloaded a slew of other photo apps, looking specifically for those that offered features similar to what I was proposing. Several apps I was looking at offered the ability to save edits into a preset like feature including Color Story and Darkroom. However I couldn’t find any app that had the ability to share presets like I was imagining. However, looking at other apps provided useful inspiration for the flow of creating and using a preset.

I did several design explorations to really help me pin-point my interaction flow. The main question I was trying to figure out is when is the ideal time to create and apply a preset? It was clear that you needed to be able to apply a preset in the editing flow, but should you create a preset in the editing flow as well? Or perhaps you should do once you are finished editing? But then should it come before or after you post? I tried all 3.

I chose the first option.

Eventually I landed on creating another tab in the editing feature of Instagram, labeled preset where you could both create and apply presets. I felt this made the most sense in the overall flow of the application and the editing process.

I also had to design the sharing featue. I choose to place this feature within the direct messaging part of the application, meaning that my feature was now spilt into two separate flows. One was create/apply within editing, and the other was sharing within messaging. For the sharing side, I really tried to use similar styling to the existing messenger content and position presets as just another type of content that could be shared with friends thorough Instagram. I did this by placing the preset icon alongside the photo icon, and like icon and by utilizing the same “bookmark” icon to save presets you’re friend had sent you.

With my medium-fidelity prototype I did some short user testing, basically just asking people to play around with the feature. The feedback I got was most positively and a lot of the difficulties had to do with failures in my prototype rather than failures in my concept. I also got a lot of questions regarding my prototype like: will you be able to see what is a preset that you’re friend sends and what happens when you apply a preset over a photo that already has edits? This are questions that will be answered when I flesh out my prototype more fully.

Also, the day I was doing with my concept, VSCO came out with a very similar feature to mine called recipes. This both made me sad because it meant my work was now less innovative but it also re-confirmed that my design and people problem are real and accurate.

After the feedback I went back and fleshed out my design further, so hopefully the overall prototype was more useable. I also responded to user request to be able to see more about the presets that their friends had sent before saving them. Finally, went in and tightened up the design of my feature, ensuring that all of elements were properly spaced.

Here is the final result. I have included both an InVision prototype and breakdown of the two separate flows.

Flow for applying a preset
Flow for sending a preset.
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