UX Study: Instagram App (Android)

Who doesn’t know Instagram? Unless you live under a rock, you must know Instagram. Well if you really lived under a rock, you probably couldn’t read this post. But wait, we won’t talk about rock, we are going to dive-in to Instagram.

In the early days of it, Instagram was used by many photographers and photography communities. So that’s why I used Instagram only to follow Natgeo and their pro photographers. Now it is still used by them, but not only them. It’s like almost everyone on the planet that has access to the Internet uses Instagram as their choice of social media.

With this post, I’m going to continue the UX study I’ve done with the YouTube app before. But now with the Instagram app. For the details regarding the background and the methods, we can revisit the previous post.

The app used in this study is the Android version, latest version on August 4th, 2020, or to be more precise is version Here I’m focussing only on Android as I came from analysing my Digital Wellbeing pattern. And when doing this study, I have no iOS device on hands.

Samples collected from review section (1)
Samples collected from review section (2)

I only collected samples focusing on UX and not looking at reviews that could change the (core) functionality of the app. Five samples collected for this study from Play Store review.

There are some points worth mentioning but not something that could be improved or to be more precise, changed (in terms of UX). Here are some of the skipped points:

Reels are annoying and taking too much screen space

It is a new feature released by Instagram. Unfortunately (or fortunately) hasn’t been available for the masses, so for now I can’t confirm the experiences regarding this feature.

Explore not showing proper content.

According to Instagram Help Centre, posts on Explore are shown based on things like the people you follow or the posts you like. But that’s not all. When we are talking about the people we follow, it doesn’t really about other similar accounts. It is also about the ones that we follow and also their activities on Instagram. Moving to posts we like, it is also not just about giving posts a heart (double tap) but interacting like making a comment on them and even just seeing that kind of posts is considered that we like them. 

To summarise, the algorithm that we are talking about is how we and people we follow ‘interact’ with posts. Not to mention recently followed accounts and frequently contacted accounts may have a bigger impact on which posts are shown.

The image and the textbox didn’t shift up to make room for the keyboard.

It seems this bug happened to a specific device(s) and/or OS version(s) as I can’t confirm this bug. The keyboard showed normally and the image and the textbox would move up if the image and the text was long enough for the screen to accommodate. 

Self promoting on the comment section.

Yes it is annoying. But as far as we follow Instagram Guidelines, this kind of promotion is not a violation. Therefore if there is a kind of comment that we don’t like, we can report it as spam (if you think so) or block the account altogether. 

Ad reporting not working.

The reporting should work just fine. The thing is that ads on Instagram are shown based on your activity, whether your activity on Instagram or other activities in other websites/apps that have shared tracking. So no matter how many times we report ads, the kind of that ad will be shown again in the future.

Nudity, offensive and spam ads.

Actually any ads have to follow guidelines and policies that are stated on their pages and do not violate any laws in countries that ads are targeting. If any of ads that are not complying to the ‘rules’ still show up, we can simply report it so that Instagram can take action.

However there might be some differences in what we understand and what Instagram defineed. For an example, nudity on Instagram is not allowed. But there is a post that shows the nude body of a woman but not showing her genital and blurred her nipples. Some people see this as nudity but Instagram doesn’t. So as far as we can’t agree on what should be considered ‘okay’, unfortunately we haven’t been able to tackle this kind of problem at least for now. To dive in more to ‘no nudity’ on Instagram, Fight The New Drug has a great article on it. 

Link: https://fightthenewdrug.org/if-instagram-strict-no-nudity-policy-but-still-porn/

Now let’s focus on what we can improve. So from the samples gathered, users’ pain points with can be categorised like these:

  • Older posts are in a separate category.
  • Explore not showing proper content.
  • Option to remove a photo from a grouped photos/videos post.
  • Too many ads among Stories.

Older posts are in a separate category.

This feature is actually good. We are informed about the posts that we’ve already seen. But it is more appropriate if Instagram can really separate ‘relevance’ timeline and ‘recent’ timeline.

So I’ve come to a solution to make the home of Instagram to show an option to select which kind of timeline the user wants to see. This is a long awaited feature by many users (not mentioned in the Play Store reviews captured before), since Instagram originally showed posts in chronological order.

Added options to show posts based on what’s relevant or chronological order

Option to remove a photo from a grouped photos/videos post.

Rather than deleting a photo altogether, it will be better to hide it and only show what we want. Think about the ‘Archive’ feature but on a smaller scale. 

‘Show on Post’ in grouped photos/videos
‘Hide on Post’ in grouped photos/videos

Too many ads among Stories.

Based on what I counted, the ad will be shown after we see (swipe left) stories from 2, 3 or 4 accounts. As far as I’m concerned, there might be a pattern whether how many stories or how many seconds that we spend. But it is another algorithm that is buried in the Instagram app (system).

My suggestion is to show an ad after a fixed count of swiping accounts (posts). Also don’t show them too often. The solution is to change an ad to be shown up right after seeing 5 accounts. Anyway the counts will still be counted when the user closes down the story or going to the profile of the story then back, so it still counts until it reaches 5.

By doing the suggestion, it doesn’t become too annoying since not showing too many ads for the users. But there are still rooms for brands to promote their stuff through Instagram Stories. 

Like the study before, I want to improve the apps that I use the most. From the result that we got, it showed us that there were problems that have been lurking in Instagram for quite some time. As even the newest reviews show us things that many users have been asking for. Hopefully Instagram (and Facebook) can lower their ego as an ‘advertising company’ and back to its root as a company that operates social media that really cares for their users.

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