Like many Instagram users, I have specific interests such as fashion, urban photography, and desserts. However, the people I follow (mostly friends) don’t always post content within these categories. Social norms dictate that I should like my friends’ posts so I like them because it’s my friends’ not always because I like the content.
Instagram Explore allows users to discover new photos and videos. However, many users are not satisfied with the content Instagram curates and thus do not interact with them.
People are stuck in a bubble where the content on their feed and explore are catered to the people they follow, not their interests.
How might Instagram enable users to discover content that interests them? How might it allow for more meaningful interactions such as sharing opinions, giving feedback, and developing connections?
Instagram Explore Doesn’t Do Its Job
Going into this, my original hypothesis was: If Instagram Explore had better curating methods, users will be more inclined to engage with posts.
Understanding Why People Don’t Engage
My goal was to learn about how users interact with each other on Instagram and how they discover new content. Here are some key insights:
- Users want to discover new content on Instagram.
“I often check out the discover page to see what other people in the world post on Instagram.”
2. Users are not satisfied with the content they find on Instagram.
“I would like if Instagram had filter options instead of Instagram just assuming what I like.”
3. If users discover content that interests them, they don’t engage with it.
“I sometimes click like but never comment on it because it’s creepy and weird. I don’t have any connection to them.”
4. Some users wished to get feedback on their photography from the Instagram community. But, they could not because there isn’t a space where they can connect with users of similar interests.
People Want to Engage With New Content
At first, I thought users didn’t engage with posts because they weren’t interested in them. However when they discovered interesting content, users found it awkward and weird to engage.
People want to have meaningful interactions with others on Instagram, but a space where users can both find interesting content and be inclined to interact with each other does not exist.
As a result, my hypothesis only accounted for one problem. I learned that engagement not only depends on the content but also the space that it’s in.
Figuring Out Which Feature to Implement
I recruited my friend, Joanna Li, as my brainstorming buddy. After exploring, we decided on an opportunity:
- Instagram Communities: How might we encourage users to interact with others? How might we allow users to discover content that interests them?
Encouraging Users to Interact with Others
The larger problem with increasing interactions was that interesting content didn’t guarantee engagement. People felt weird to interact with strangers.
I decided to see if communities eliminated the feeling of weirdness.
I learned that users were more inclined to engage. A photographer and avid Instagram user stated that “this would be a great way to get feedback.”
How Other Products Execute Communities
Communities across several apps carry similar content and actions.
Groups and communities are very similar with their interactions. Depending on the application, there are a lot of features or close to none. They prioritize the name, number of people, and friends who are members.
Determining UI Elements for Communities
Taking my analysis from market research, I determined which elements were needed in order to grow and promote a community.
After brainstorming numerous content requirements for a community, I determined important elements such as the handle, name, metrics, action button, and posts.
I explored different metrics that are important to a community: total posts, members, recent posts, likes, comments, and monthly active users. The most important metrics were posts and members.
Driving Number of Posts
The purpose of Instagram Communities is to increase interactions between users. Content is the main driver of these interactions.
There are three different actions in a community— add post, add members, and leave—in order of importance.
Because adding a post is the primary action, it had to be constantly accessible by the user. This was done in A & C through sticky components. In A, the plus icon wasn’t large and was hard to be reached by the thumb. In C, the full width button broke the design system but allowed for better visibility and easier access by the thumb. I decided to go with A because the interaction fits in with the current system.
How might we use visual elements to differentiate communities and signify correct actions?
I explored different ways to visually represent the UI elements in a community. One distinct view was similar to the current Instagram profile layout. However, there needed to be distinction between a profile and community to remove any confusions. Following Instagram’s left-aligned information, 56pt height buttons, and sometimes right-aligned actions, I ended up on B.
I wanted to create an icon that fit into Instagram’s icon system and clearly signify “add new post.” I found that F was always clear to users while as A could signify adding members or creating a new community.
Maximizing Engagement for Community Posts
Community posts can’t just live in itself or people won’t be able to continuously discover new users, content, and more communities. How might we encourage continuous interaction?
A — Seamlessly present a community post to the main feed. However, might be weird seeing a stranger’s post in the same visual treatment as a friend’s.
B — Separate feed. This would decrease engagement in the main feed which people value more.
C — Disturbs the vertical scroll interaction within the main feed. Allows for more posts to be shown. Gives attention to the posts because it breaks the v-scroll.
To drive engagement on community posts and encourage interaction, I decided to pursue C. The break in v-scroll interaction gave attention to the horizontal scroll of content.
Focusing on the horizontal scroll feature in the main feed, I determined which components were necessary to encourage the user to engage while not cluttering up the horizontal scroll.
- Action buttons provide a quick and easy way of liking or commenting on the post.
- Metrics remove the feeling of awkwardness that stopped many people from engaging.
- People will not follow based off one content.
- Profile pictures are unnecessary because they often come with usernames and takes away focus from the content.
- Main focus is the community and the content, not the owner. Removing the username will encourage users to click the cell to see more details. It removes the bias of famous usernames. It seems more of a product of the community, not the product of a single owner.
Final Interaction for Communities
The final interaction is one that encourages users to continue to interact with other users by posting content. By putting users with common interests in a community helps remove the feeling of weirdness — increasing meaningful interactions.
Enabling Users to Discover Content They Like
It’s frustrating not seeing content that you like on your feed. But, it’s even more frustrating when you go on your explore tab, and there isn’t content that interests you.
How Other Products Execute Exploring
Users are often given suggested groups and also quick access to categories to filter their interests. Users know if their friends are members. The cells are dense with information.
Determining Entry Point
I pursued C because it allowed users to preview suggested tags to explore both tags and communities. This removed the step of having to go into search.
I asked users to determine if tags or communities were better for preview. I decided A because it allowed for more explorations of both posts and communities. It fit in better with the current explore page: posts.
These are two visual explorations for suggested tags on the explore tab. To fit in with the current explore system, I pursued A. It was also more scalable, the suggested tags could be surfaced throughout the screen as a user scrolls.
Making People Join Communities
What information do users want to know in the preview? I explored different UI elements and asked users.
I discovered that familiar users and the members metric were important to the cell and landed on option E.
Final Interaction for Discovering
The final interaction includes a simple way of exploring content that users want to find. Users can easily access tags they are interested in from the explore tab without searching and discover communities to interact with other users with common interests.
Understanding Instagram Visual Design
Here is the UI Kit that I generated from my analysis.
Intro to Digital Product Design is a place for open sourcing our processes to the community. Here is the download for my Sketch, Origami, Specs, etc.
What I Learned
For the product, I learned that the space in which the content is in is important. If it’s just on the explore page, users are less likely to engage with strangers even if they are interested in the content.
In terms of design process and thinking, this was a huge learning experience. Going through my first design process, I learned most importantly that not everything is perfect. I will have to scrap a lot of my work. However, the more iterations and options I create for myself, the better product I will create in the end. Looking back, I lacked explorations throughout my process. In the future, I will steer away from doing visual explorations and focus on creating more higher-level explorations.
Instagram is a great platform for sharing photos and videos with friends and the world. However, it lacks a community feeling when the content is outside the main feed. People are less likely to engage with users that they don’t know.
There is an opportunity to create more meaningful interactions on Instagram. Users need to overcome the feeling of “weirdness” and “awkwardness.” With communities, Instagram can serve more than just the role of sharing photos and videos. It can be a platform that allows users from around the world to connect over common interests.
This is a case study for a project in Intro to Digital Product Design. I am in no way affiliated with Instagram.
I am a freshman at Cornell University, pursuing a major in Information Science, Systems, and Technology and a minor in business. This was my first ever case study and design process. I hope to continue to focus on Product Design.