Product Propositions Driven by Users

Instagram. Initially an app that enables users to share beautiful photographs quickly, now a real-time search engine connecting people around the world.

Everyday, over 70 million photos and videos are posted to Instagram, with a large number of those coming from my own account. I’ll be the first to admit that I spend too much time trying to achieve the perfect composition of my poached eggs and I do feel a great sense of satisfaction when I get those sedate 12 likes afterwards. People are increasingly more conscious of what they’re posting online, meaning we’re all constantly on our phones trying to get the best picture, before we step back and enjoy what we’re actually photographing. A sad case for society but a beautiful outcome for your Instagram feed.

Initially created as a social network, Instagram has evolved into an inspiration platform ‘sharing the world’s moments’. Be that people turning their own accounts into dedicated blogging platforms or users choosing to only follow accounts that interest them (as opposed to their entire Facebook directory).

With all this said, it does mean that for me, Instagram is my go to search engine for the miscellaneous things in life. When moving to Amsterdam, I had no real knowledge of the area. I didn’t know where to go, the best places to eat or what was happening near me. Instead of Googling events in Amsterdam or trawling page after page of the best restaurants in the City, I found myself using the Instagram Explore tab. After finding numerous bloggers to follow, I managed to curate a feed that has now become my very own, personal city guide.

Ultimately, this is the ideal example of us as users changing our behaviour and decision making, and how as designers, we should never assume we’ve ever ‘finished’ a design or product. The only way to accommodate this inevitability, is to design in a more holistic and human-centred way; by designing with and for users, we can achieve the most effective solutions and continue to create the best possible experiences.

“Design thinkers try to figure out what the key problem is. They look around and try to understand what’s going on, and come up with some wild ideas on how to solve it. They assume they’re not going to get it right the first time.”
- Don Norman

Back in June last year, Instagram announced updates to the Explore area of the app. The updates aim to create a more powerful search, making it easier to find the people, places and tags we’re looking for. This indicates that there’s plenty more people using the app in the same way I do; feeding the need for a better experience. The top level search now also allows users to search across people, places and tags at the same time, making the results returned pretty accurate. Although today’s documenting culture is starting to have negative connotations, the creation of this user generated search engine is undeniably useful.

“With the new Places Search, you can now peer in at just about any location on earth, allowing you to scout out your next vacation spot in the South Pacific or get a look inside that hot new restaurant.”
- Instagram

For me, Instagram is the perfect example of an app that has evolved due to the behaviour and content created by it’s users. Instead of being satisfied with being one of the most popular social networks worldwide, they have identified a secondary use for the content created within their platform based on their users’ behaviour, and have now created a genuinely useful product.

Quite often we analyse user behaviour and wonder why they’re not interacting with something in the way we’d intended. However, this clearly demonstrates that you don’t always need to encourage behaviour change but instead adapt your experience accordingly based on the data and insights available to you. Using an iterative approach to identify unexpected uses for your product before your users have requested it, could be what results in it becoming something great.

I’m a Product Designer, with a background in delivering solutions across multiple platforms from ideation to launch. Currently based in Amsterdam and forming part of the team at MOBGEN — Part of Accenture Interactive.

Hopefully you found this post interesting! You can say Hello on Twitter, or feel free to troll me for being another designer stating the obvious…