How the Instagram navigation became convoluted
With the introduction of significant layout changes — the tabs Reel and Shop — the Instagram navigation became convoluted. Let’s briefly explore how.
Announcing the changes, Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, pointed out how the pandemic changed the way people use the app. Short and entertaining videos became prominent, and people started buying more online. Young people and creators are at the centre of Instagram’s focus, which is the reason behind the positioning of the two new tabs in the bottom navigation.
For a person holding a phone with one hand, the bottom area is easier to reach with the thumb. Anything at the top, considering the increasing sizes of modern phones, is impossible to touch without readjusting the phone.
The convoluted navigation
For the Reel and Shop tabs to be quick and easy to access, New Post and Activity had to be moved to the top of the screen. New Post is on both the home page and profile page, while Activity is only accessible from the home page.
Being able to access Activity exclusively from one page means more taps and more chances of getting lost or distracted before reaching it. One could argue that the in-app notifications won’t make you miss a comment or like, but people might wish to easily go back and reply at a later moment. As mentioned earlier, the Create New feature is now at the top. What I find confusing is how the nature of the feature changes based on its position within the app.
From the home screen, people can create four types of content — Post being the default — by choosing from a sliding menu at the bottom of the page, which I initially didn’t notice: Post, Story, Reel, Live.
From the profile, people can create six types of content: Feed Post, Story, Highlight, IGTV Video, Reel, Guide.
One possible explanation
Instagram may be testing which one of the similar-but-different features performs best. The reason I say this is that the layouts are too different to think they both fit the app. Moreover, it’s good UX practice to test between two solutions. If this is the case, we’ll find out soon.
In the meantime, if you updated the app and felt lost, know that it’s not you. At the moment, the navigation is genuinely convoluted.
The products we design or use can get complicated over time, mainly when they become established. It happens when users ask for more features or when they change the way they use it. See Design, Digested 12 – Struggling with growth.
Sometimes it happens when the business model changes: if the goal is to keep people engaged — and watching reels and looking for things to buy do it — then these actions need to take priority on the screen.
- The Thumb Zone: Designing For Mobile Users by Samantha Ingram (on Smashing Magazine)
- Bottom Navigation Pattern On Mobile Web Pages: A Better Alternative? by Arturas Leonovas (on Smashing Magazine)
- Basic Patterns for Mobile Navigation: A Primer (on NNg)
- UX Design for Mobile: Bottom Navigation (on Medium)