Instagram app new feature introduction

Instagram for iOS – New feature introduction via “Stories”
The Instagram app for iOS occasionally introduces new features to its users. To do this, it leverages “Stories.” When an existing user gets an app update that includes a new feature, Instagram introduces it with a story called “New!”

The good bits:

  • While a lengthy, animated intro showing off a new feature would be tedious or inappropriate for many other apps, it fits into Instagram’s design language to use one of the Stories slots.
  • By using the “Stories” area to show off new features, Instagram puts the pace of learning in the user’s hand. This is much better than forcing all users to see the same introduction of the feature after launching the app after an update. A person who likes (or has time) to explore new things can do so at their leisure, and those that are on a mission, or prefer to discover features on their own, can skip it entirely or return to it later.
  • All new feature stories are clearly branded as Instagram educational elements by using the app’s icon and a special animated border. Users will build up an ability to recognize reliable educational content over time (assuming Instagram does not later repurpose this treatment for advertising content…when they may then learn to ignore it).
  • Some “New!” stories provide reinforcement of the concepts they introduce. For example, the “Tap to Type” story returns the user to the home screen where a follow-up prompt to open the camera appears. If someone dismisses the prompt without opening the camera, one last non-interruptive tooltip points out how the camera can be accessed if they’d like to explore this feature later.
  • Stories don’t disappear after first viewing; they can be re-accessed later, in case the user didn’t complete the story, or forgot some information from it. This makes the education more accessible.

To be improved:

  • The Story format is OK for introducing a feature and priming the user about what it can do, but not for teaching details. It shows and talks about the UI, without allowing interaction. This passivity, paired with long animation times and fun (but distracting) imagery, reduces a user’s ability to learn more than a few things. Instagram tries to hedge this issue by making the “New!” story revisit-able later and leading them to the camera once it’s complete, where they can fill in the gaps by rewatching or playing around.
  • In contrast with the “Tap to Type” story, which has a follow-up prompt at the end to help users to try the feature, other new feature stories, like “GIF Stickers,” have no  of reinforcement.
  • When opening the camera via the prompt after watching the “Tap to Type” story, the user lands on the main Camera screen, instead of the “Type” state. This can be very jarring as, again, the user may not remember details from the story, like how to swipe to it as a feature in the Camera.
  • The tooltip that appears after the “Tap to Type” story is confusing; it points to a camera button, but says “Swipe to open camera.” Either teach users to swipe without pointing at a button, or just change the text to “Tap.”