After a much-needed social media break, I opened Instagram with caution. Yes, I was still basking in the serenity of a mostly Internet-less vacay. However, I was also ready for the memes, selfies, and gossip I count on the app for. Instead, I experienced what can only be described as digital vertigo after realizing it got a major facelift. Specifically, a new Instagram home screen that isn’t shy about pushing the platform’s newest (and maybe most popular?) features.
Citing a “focus” on “young people and creators because they’re trendsetters,” Instagram decided to move a couple of things around. The menu at the bottom of the screen now displays from left to right: the home button, the search button, the Reels tab, the Shop tab, and profile tab. In the top right corner is where you’ll find your messages tab, activity tab, and plus-sign tab for creating content, all of which used to occupy the bottom of the page.
We could come up with plenty of reasons for this update but one thing is painfully clear–Instagram really wants us to shop and use Reels. Both of these features are just a few months old, the latter of which resembles TikTok, that other app everyone can’t seem to get enough of. Insights so far are scarce but in a blog post announcing the new home screen, Instagram said it wants the Reels tab to “be a kind of a stage, a place where people can share their creativity with the world and have a chance to break out and find an audience.”
As for that Shop tab, its new placement is a response to e-commerce trends that took a sharp turn during the pandemic. Screen time is up and people are shopping online more, so Instagram is simply evolving with the times. If you’re a creator or small business owner, this is fantastic news because now you can build brand awareness and scale profit simultaneously. Shop tab gives the user personalized recommendations, editor picks curated by the Instagram team, and shippable videos, all of which are features you can use to your advantage.
As expected, reactions are mixed. I’ve seen brand owners talk about how excited they are to try new marketing strategies within these new features, especially since they’re featured more prominently. I’ve also seen Instagram users complain that the platform is turning into a flea market overly focused on e-commerce. Though it’s been a while since Instagram unveiled a redesign this big, we’ve been here before; complaining about change we inevitably give into.
“We haven’t updated Instagram’s home screen in a big way for quite a while. But how people create and enjoy culture has changed, and the biggest risk to Instagram is not that we change too fast, but that we don’t change and become irrelevant,” said Instagram. “We’re excited about the new design and believe it gives the app a much-needed refresh, while staying true to our core value of simplicity.”
Ultimately, time will only tell how this new Instagram home screen fares, but in the meantime, I’ll continue to wonder why we still don’t have home feeds in chronological order.
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