Instagram is a photo sharing app, which utilizes several of Don Norman’s principles for good design, which make it a user-friendly social media mobile app. (You can also make 15 second videos with Instagram but this blog will focus on the photo sharing aspects.)
There are a number of constraints that make Instagram easy for users to share their images. A large part of Instagram is sharing your own photos but you can only share square shaped images. If you take a photo within the app then it will automatically be the right size. I choose to take pictures with my phone’s general camera to share with people who don’t use Instagram, so taking a picture that could be easily edited into a perfect square was tedious at first until I got used to the app. I have come to agree with the developers of the app that the square shape does indeed lend itself well to mobile devices, which often have screens of varying sizes.
For easy use, Instagram utilizes mapping arrows to take you through the process of preparing your photo. The process includes the option to use one of several pre-set filters (most seem, ironically, to harken back to the pre-digital film era, when photo quality sometimes degraded over time, unintentionally changing the colors of the image). Examples of all the filters are shown below your photo-to-share. You can share without a filter, of course, but it is fun to test out all the filters.
One of the few parts of the app that doesn’t have many constraints is the last share screen where you can input comments about the photo and hashtags (which can help people other than your friends find your photos). It also allows you to share photos on other networks, like Facebook or Twitter. You can chose to send your photos directly to specific users rather than to everyone but I’ve never used this function. I can see how it might be useful, though, if Instagram was your main platform for sharing pictures with friends.
Since most people use social media to socialize, Instagram conveniently has an easy feedback system. Feedback comes in the form of people “hearting” your photos or making comments. It also can come through a tone notification on your phone, indicating new activity in the app.
Once you’re done sharing your picture, it is easy to browse through your feed to see your friends’ photos by simply scrolling down.
The navigation bar relies on easy-to-recognize icons such as a house for “home” and a compass to “discover” what others are posting to Instagram outside of the accounts you follow. A camera icon allows you to take pictures (and video), a speech bubble with a heart shows feedback you’ve received on your pictures as well as activity from accounts that you follow, and finally, the image of a person takes you to your account. You can set up things in your account like a photo map, see all the photos you’ve posted, and, sometimes most important of all, you can log out of your account using the menu in the upper right hand corner, represented by three dots.
Overall the app is simple without being too vague. It’s clearly focused on the apps main function, allowing users to share their world through pictures.