Reviewing Instagram’s New User Interface

Instagram's New UI

Instagram’s new user interface may have violated the principle of least astonishment (POLA). So far, the popular, photo-sharing site has not suffered any serious consequences for daring to change their interface—at least for now.

POLA is a concept found in programming and UI/UX claiming necessary features with profound astonishment factors may require redesigning of those features. According to POLA, elements of Instagram’s interface should not “astonish” or resist expectations of Instagram’s users. However, that’s exactly what Instagram’s flatter interface and new logo did.

Instead of seeing that familiar, classic camera logo when you log on to Instagram, you’re now hit with a pink, orange and purple icon and a few negligible changes no one has really mentioned. It’s this stark, more one-dimensional interface that has everybody wondering why Instagram’s new look was rolled out.

So Why Did Instagram Change Their Look?

Change is good, as long as it’s done professionally and by seasoned developers. No doubt Instagram’s website designers spent many days and nights researching fundamentals of UI/UX, correlating UI improvements to enhance UX and experimenting with test subjects to determine whether the new interface elicits positive computer-human interaction (CHI) responses.

Aside from Instagram’s gradient-based, colorfully undetailed camera logo, the new interface is nearly absent of color. Although you still see the same dark blue hashtags and red alerts, any colors stimulating the cones in your retina belong exclusively to user-posted photos. By deciding to contrast colors against a black and white design, Instagram re-established the primary focus of their website — user-posted photos and videos.

In response to a slew of questions about their new interface, Instagram’s blog stated “simpler design puts more focus on your photos and videos without changing how you navigate the app” and that color should be taken from users’ photos and videos.

This kind of immaculately designed user interface perfectly embodies POLA. What’s more, the designers pointedly addressed the fact that humans have a lot of trouble paying attention to two or more things at one time.

Muddled, poorly designed UIs confuse and subtly irritate users because they violate POLA way too much. Instragram’s new look only slightly impinges on POLA rules. It also incorporates simplicity, consistency and a stronger emphasis on the purpose of Instagram — gratifying the deep desire of users who want to impress, surprise, shock, etc., other users with their videos and photos.

Why Instagram’s New UI is Useful

Efficient, practical and compelling, Instagram’s new UI offers just enough change to remain enticing without sending Instagram users scattering in all directions. Representing an expert fusion science, art, psychology and postmodern perspectives, Instagram’s minimalistic UI/UX succeeds in reaching a global audience who relies more and more on computer-human interaction for experiencing satisfaction and meaningful communication with other people.

The usefulness of Instagram’s interface stems from designers cleverly incorporating several characteristics found in other exceptional interfaces. Reviews on Instagram’s UI say it is:

  • Direct and simple— Does not overload users with information. Less is more, but do the less well.
  • Satisfying — A UX needs to be visually appealing but balanced, pleasantly interactive and emotionally gratifying.
  • “Glanceable” or “capturable "at a glance — A good UI provides design elements that do not require too much cognitive effort.
  • User-focused — Instagram’s new UI makes users and their intentions, not the navigational elements, the focal point of the UI.

All social media platforms linger neck-deep in a never-ending quest to create the quintessential user experience. The trick is discovering how to deliver an intuitive and enjoyable UX through a precisely conceived UI. Instagram designers knew instinctively that the difference between Fortune 500 companies and businesses struggling to dig themselves out of Google’s sandbox are website interfaces failing to connect with prototypical users.

Although no two people experience the exact same reactions to perceptual stimuli, all demographics share similar reactions to similar concepts that UI designers should incorporate when defining UX. And that’s what Instagram did.

Do The Users Like Instagram’s New Interface?

Yes and no. Instagram users like the interface but don’t like the logo. Once users get past the logo, they generally forget about it and concentrate on why they originally logged onto Instagram.

Do logos necessarily contribute to UX or are they just part of a branding strategy in which big businesses like Instagram invest a lot of time and money? One of the problems with changing logos is how familiar the logo has become with users and non-users. Instagram had the same Polaroid-like camera image displayed on its app for nearly six years.

In logo years, six years isn’t really that long — the Goodyear and GE logos are over 100 years old. Rebranding is difficult because users have to accommodate new visual metaphors. Even though in most cases rebranding reflects changes on business offers and streamlines updated company-user communications, the change is never easy on users. Logos not only represent the company. They represent something we can depend on, enjoy and access whenever we want.

When Instagram made such a radical change to their logo, users felt a little annoyed and even deserted by Instagram. Supported by a professionally created user interface, however, Instagram’s logo-induced queasiness isn’t expected to last long.

Instagram knew exactly what it was doing when it launched its new user interface and logo. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t realize the importance of designing a near-flawless UI for today’s discriminating app users.