Instagram and My UX Journey
I’ve always had a reluctant level of engagement with social media. I appreciated the purpose they serve; however, I found myself often overwhelmed by the massive volumes of content and the consistent need for engagement with friends, family, brands and media channels between all the content. I found myself briefly checking a few applications daily, but never really diving in and engaging with the content.
With the culmination of a global pandemic, social unrest, and major political conflicts in 2020, it’s no surprise that social media usage has gone up by 9%. Many individuals turn to social media to connect with others in a time of isolation and loneliness, others turn to social media to seek answers to constantly changing questions. On a daily basis, people want to know:
· What do I need to know about COVID-19 today?
· How the pandemic is changing the lives of others?
· How their lives may be affected by the ever-changing global landscape?
· What political issues do I need to know about?
· How can I find others that share similar opinions, views or experiences as me in relation current events?
Many turn to social media to connect with others to discuss their concerns, feel heard, or gain a sense of community. Some also turn to social media to knowingly (or unknowingly) distract from or to feed anxieties.
For me, 2020 has certainly changed a lot for me, as I imagined it has for many others. Just to name a few, I embarked on a UX Design career path, I redirected networking efforts to focus on different professional and personal relationships, and taken the opportunity to change my relationship with social media. As I imagine many others did, I still wanted to connect with others, and with the limitations, social media has served as the ideal platform to do so in this virtual space. With my growing knowledge of UX Design and Content Strategy, I have come to see all social media platforms in a different light. My use of and interaction with Instagram has been the most surprising and enjoyable change when it comes to my relationship with social media.
Learnability: Almost anyone can hop into this app and get the hang of it quickly. Its straightforward! The concept of widely understood by even those that don’t use the app. Throughout the process of creating an account, posting a picture and liking/commenting on a post, you’ve learned Instagram!
Tailored feed & suggestions: As technology, data tracking, and SEO strategies advance, more brands and organizations are learning that people gravitate towards things they like. Brands want to build addictive and pleasant products. Instagram consistently curates their algorithm to provide content that users will be familiar with.
Delightful & pleasant usability: With Instagram’s endless scrolls, the application layout, as well as the the enjoyable way to like content and engage with others
Valuable: I certainly have seen the value of Instagram mainly through finding relevant content and engaging with others that share similar experiences, interests, goals, and ideas. Having a space to share and connect especially in the craziness of 2020, has proven more valuable to me (and I am sure many others) than I could have ever anticipated.
I am grateful to my UX journey for now being more aware of the accessibility of digital products. As someone who rarely needs (visual or audio) accommodations, sometimes it can be difficult to think about how others may experience a product. Instagram has thought through various features to accommodate individuals of different abilities. One of the major things are the Alternative Text Feature ; which created descriptions of photos using object recognition. This comes in two major ways: automatic and manual. Users can add descriptions to their photos in addition to an automatically generated one. This is especially important for influencers and brands that have large followings. Another thing I noticed were the growing number of captioning in videos on Instagram, which I can appreciate simply because I don’t always like to listen to videos, I prefer to watch them without sound. However, For someone who is hearing impaired, this can be quite significant.
Just as UX professionals have to evaluate and study their audiences, so do Social Media brands. The way that different demographics and age groups interact with these platforms are substantial. With generation Z growing up with technology their reliance and engagement with it, is much deeper. Cyberbullying, self-esteem issues, severe social anxieties and mental health are just a few things that should be considered when creating a Social Media brand for various audiences. There are two major things that I can appreciate about Instagram when it comes to ethics:
Number of likes: IG has made an effort to minimize the likelihood of users feeling pressure or anxiety in relation to how many likes, they or others receive on posts. The privatization of this has improved the enjoyment of the platform.
followed. This is in consideration for those users that may gain negative mental or social pressures in relation to Social Media.
What do I think, you ask?
Instagram and many other social platforms have a responsibility to ensure that their platform is not only engaging, useful, relevant, and accessible but also a social obligation to ensure that their platform considers users as a whole. Meaning considering users abilities, experiences, preferences, habits and values.
The platform has come quite a long way since it’s debut one whole decade ago; constantly churning out new features and usability improvements. Just like that friend that you admire, Instagram is straightforward, sociable, constantly growing, and makes a lasting impression!
However, now, after many months of consistent use of the platform, I have a few usability critiques:
Space for clickable links
Now that many people are using Instagram to promote organizations and share content, more users are including links in their bio. (If I had a dollar every time a saw #linkinbio..) however, unless your fingertips are the size of a fine tip pen, you may have a hard time accessing these links. Now this may be a new issue due the increase in self-made influencers, startups, and small businesses; however, this is something that can be a bit frustrating to experience.
Closed captioning feature videos
Now that videos are being more frequently incorporated, it would be ideal to have an automated closed caption feature like YouTube for accessibility. Even though YouTube doesn’t always get it right, having the option to turn on closed captioning can mean a world of difference.
Some updates may just be too creative
Now I’m always a fan of bold moves, but I have often found myself a bit lost after an update, not knowing where to find certain buttons. In on recent update, Instagram moved their ‘add’ button to the top. I wasn’t immediately aware of the change and missed the button entirely. At first I felt like, maybe it was me who forgot where it was! After a few more days, I realized that other users were also in a similar situation! With Instagram’s flat design, they could easily add in a flashing bubble, or a large pop-up card to highlight if something may have moved, or if something was added.
As digital users, we have the power to hold digital products (especially the large ones) responsible for creating products with our needs in mind. I believe we can create a healthier UX for all users that’s takes into consideration our relationship with technology. Individual users should be vocal about their frustrations, expectations, challenges and needs when it comes to products that are meant to enhance our lives in some way.