August 17, 2012

Instagram, here's your Feedback

"Updates" are meant to improve upon what is existing, and add useful features that add to functionality. Well Instagram rolled out an update, but it went against everything an update brings. In short, it caused the opposite effect to what I've described.

I'm first going to start with their newest feature, Photo Map. This is basically a feature on your profile that allows you to view (and share) all your photos that have been geo-tagged with location information. And although they are touting the user has "full control" of what photos appear on the Photo Map, it's also a great way for you to be stalked if you are the type to geo-tag every photo you share on Instagram. Someone can now go to your profile and see photos from places you've been, draw up a pattern of where you like to hang out, and stalk you. The way to prevent this would obviously be turn your account private or refrain from geo-tagging your photos. But that's borderline, having the user do too much. If Instagram wanted to go big on location why didn't they add this to the "Explore" tab? Where it would actually make sense to let users view photos by country/city, with it auto-updating just like how the Popular photos work today. They can even go ahead and rank cities by the popularity of their geo-tagged photos. I'm not sure why they felt the need to screw up a user's profile with this useless feature that I and several others will not use.
It begs the question: Are they already learning the evil ways of their soon-to-be parent company? It seems like it.

My second issue with the new update is with the layout of photos when looking at a user's a profile. Photos are still in grid-view, but the layout and color selections are painful to look at. Previously, profile pages looked like the below image. The new profile page design is what you see above.

I'm not sure who decided that a light-grey background was more appealing to the eye than a plain white background, which put more emphasis on the photos rather than the layout.
The photo-grid has been redesigned with an extra layer of white borders around individual photos. Therefore making the photos seem smaller and refocusing attention on the surrounding borders and background. In one word: this is one awful update that I regret having installed. One would ask what areas could Instagram have improved on, well heck, making the app faster and less prone to crashes is a start. I had this weird occurrence with the app this week where photos I was trying to upload where continuously failing, and after the sixth or seventh try it had posted a barrage of the same photos to my timeline. Fail. Infinite scrolling is a nice feature to have since it allows you to see more photos without hitting that dead end when scrolling down your timeline.

This update has made the app more complex to use and figure out. People just want to share their photos. That's it. So enabling users with the quickest, fastest way to do that is the way to keep us happy. Instead of spending all their deign and development resources to rollout this bad update, they could've spent that time re-thinking the Explore section. Currently I'm only seeing photos of teenagers showing off their jewelry and people posing half nude. Why not surface some photos depending on the "pulse" of what's happening in world. The explore section should be able to trigger serendipity at any point in time. It should be relevant, curated, and purposeful. Not just based of likes and popularity of the user. The Explore section should be instagram's way of informing users on the visually interesting things that are currently going on in their world.

Another opportunity in Instagram 3.0 was for them to come out with a dedicated iPad app(they still might). More screen real-estate, more ways for users to access the network. An overall improved experience for the user. It's a no-brainer if they are serious about owning the mobile-photo-sharing space.

I can't vent my frustrations enough about the latest update. But I think I've tried. Instagram is an app I check everyday, every morning--it's actually the first app I open when I wake up, and the first app I share to. The app isn't a joy to look at any longer, and I'm afraid it'll gradually become "that" app I hardly check.

Instagram, this was a bad update.

Sent with Writer. From Ed's iPad.

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