Instagram Product Head on Product Design (Part 2)

As I mentioned earlier, square-format images are the foundation for Instagram’s product design. In addition, there aren’t many variations for how content displays within your feed. This is a deliberate choice that keeps the user experience very simple and easy to scroll. However, this can be limiting for advertisers who have different needs for displaying content. That said, we are always mindful of delivering meaningful content for our users. We never want to compromise the impact of user content.

For example, one of our defining features is the placement of captions. On other platforms, the caption is placed above the image. This suggests that the text is just as important as the media. However, Instagram places the caption below the media. As a result, we prioritize the impact of an image or video rather than text. Furthermore, captions are completely optional – it’s all about the media.

While this creates a satisfying experience for users, it presents a challenge for advertisers. In addition to formatting constraints, direct links are not clickable within captions. While this is beneficial for end users to maintain focus on the media, this limits the ways in which ads can drive clicks. As a result, we added two features to make ad units clickable. First, we introduced a bar underneath media with simple calls-to-action (learn more, shop now, etc.). In addition, users could tap the media itself to go to the brand’s linked website.

Initially, the click-thru rate looked great.

However, we found that 80 percent of users were exiting the brand’s website within two seconds. Instead of tapping an image to simply like a post, users were being taken to a website that they did not intend to visit. Said differently, there is a big difference with user intent between tapping a call-to-action banner and tapping an image.

To address this issue, we launched an overlay for media in ad units to verify that users wanted to leave Instagram. As a result, users are now explicitly aware that they are visiting a brand website. This decision reduced click-thru rate, but it drove higher ad conversion with more meaningful interactions.

In the end, you have to put the community first to set up your business for long-term success.


Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 3

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