The Instagram update of May 2016

I looked at my phone this morning and noticed something different. A bright pink icon screamed for attention amid a sea of apps on my screen. What is that? I thought to myself, it must be a mistake, some kind of error. No, it was Instagram, and they’d updated their logo.

I opened the application keen to see new features and updates to the user experience. Had the ideas I’d written about been adopted?

The base navigation had been given the flat design treatment and the icons tweaked slightly, but no changes to the home screen functionality or experience. I tapped the heart icon hoping to see my direct messages integrated with the activity on my posts and the posts the people I follow like. Again, no change. The search page, my profile page, nothing new. Finally, I took a photo thinking I’d be sure to see some updates, but still no difference.

Old vs. New

It was a re-skin! No updates to the layout or the functionality, just a new logo and colour scheme. I was disappointed, I was confused. Why would the Instagram team spend time and money on a facelift? Why wouldn’t they update the interface or add new functionality?

I took some time to reflect and started to see the positives in the updates. The new logo is eye catching, it’s original, it stands out from the crowd. At first I hated the gradient style background but after a closer look, I can see it resembles a lens flare and I kind of like it. The minimal flat design with black, gray and white palette works. It puts the focus on the photos and makes them stand out, which makes perfect sense.

Instagram have chosen a new aesthetic over an improved experience. I can understand why they would do this, however, as a user and a person with a passion for user experience, I feel this is a safe move for the company. I think the app could be improved and I hope that now the new logo and design has been released, the team can concentrate on improving the experience.

Thanks for reading.

Tom Connelly

The Intelligent Personal Assistant

In 1997 my father purchased some voice recognition software called NaturallySpeaking by Dragon Systems. It was my first introduction to voice recognition technology and although it wasn’t 100% accurate (it really was quite useless), I was amazed that it was possible.

These days all you have to do is say “OK Google” or “Hey Siri” and your phone is ready to take your command. Setting reminders, sending text messages, and making calls is only a taste of what can be actioned via voice commands.

Voice recognition technology has come a long way.

I’m an avid user of Google’s intelligent personal assistant (IPA) service Google Now aka “OK Google”. The thing is, I don’t like using it in public. When I do, I try to keep it discreet until I give up and switch back to the ol’ fingers and thumbs. Friends and family I’ve spoken to say they feel the same way.

I feel like this technology is going through its teething stage where we’re not sure if it’s cool yet. This is such a great tool but it must be embraced in order for it to improve and be used more across more applications. What can be done to help this technology be adopted by the mainstream and socially accepted?

Allow custom wake up commands

I don’t want to walk down the street saying “Ok Google”. Why can’t I create my own activation phrase? I’d be much more comfortable using my IPA in public if I was able to say something like “Are you ready?”. As far as I’m aware, S Voice for Samsung is the only IPA that allows custom wake up commands.

Make it so I can “call” my intelligent personal assistant

I want push a button, put my phone to my ear and hear a voice say “How can I help?”. Imagine it, you could be rushing to work talking to your IPA on the phone, sending texts, writing emails, learning your agenda for the day and more. Voice recognition works best when your mouth is directly next to the receiver anyway. Why not hold it to your head like you’re on a call?

Flip it on its head – Dictaphone style

I often turn my phone upside down and speak into it like a dictaphone. This allows me speak directly into the receiver and glance down to my screen for more information. The problem is my phone doesn’t automatically invert the screen when the phone is the wrong way around. This idea impacts the phone’s operating system and the possibly the phones design rather than functionality of the IPA software.

“Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

When I make a voice command and it’s answered, the IPA should continually ask me “Can I help you with anything else?”. This would eliminates the need to repeat the voice recognition command and facilitate multiple commands.

This powerful technology won’t be applied to more apps and tools until it becomes adopted by the mainstream. For this to happen, I believe the way users engage with IPA software must be matched with existing technologies that they are familiar with and feel comfortable using.

Thanks for reading.

Tom Connelly

Re-thinking Instagram’s User Experience

I really like Instagram. I’ve been using the app daily for years now, and I still can’t get enough. I’m also passionate about user experience design. Here are some of my ideas on how Instagram’s UX could be improved. Enjoy!

My Profile. View posts you’ve liked

I often view the posts I’ve liked. I show my friends pictures; I look for event posters and I browse through them when I have run out of things to do on my phone.

Currently Instagram allows users to view the posts you have liked by selecting the navigation drawer from the My Profile page and selecting Posts You’ve Liked.

I believe this feature is wasted hidden in the navigation drawer. I’d like to see a Like icon added between the List View icon and Photo Map icon on the My Profile page.

This small update brings the Posts You’ve Liked feature to the forefront and allows quick and easy access to the photos you’ve liked.

Instagram - Posts you've liked

All your activity in one place

Instagram currently displays what photos the people you’re following have liked and the activity on your photos on the Activity page.

Separate to this, is the Direct inbox where all likes and comments activity is shown for your sent and received messages.

Why can’t all your activity be in one place?

Clicking the Activity icon should show all of your activity. The posts the people you’re following like, the likes and comments on your posts and your direct posts.

Instagram - All your activity in one place

Thanks for reading.
Tom Connelly