Fran Rosa

1 December 2016

Case Study

Instagram: How To Fix A Deceiving UX

Let me tell you a short story I have lived repeatedly as an Instagram user.

I am taking a look at the timeline over the breakfast, that today is a couple of soft-boiled eggs.

I started using Instagram to post pictures of myself, with the goal of posting one pic a day for a year as an exercise of self-acceptance, and documenting the changes my body was going through as I progressed in my journey into fitness. And the main topic of the photos I post and the people I follow is gym related.

I find a pic of an individual I’m not following. Maybe that person happens to be on a pic with someone I follow, or it is a repost, or it is a suggestion from Instagram on the explore tab.

So I visit this person profile. I scroll through pics of that person, all of them or just some are fitness related, but I can relate to that person, or is a prominent name in the industry, or is someone representing success and an inspiration. So I follow.

When I return to the timeline, I can see the last picture posted from that account. Double tap. I like it, I am happy that I am following that person, and I look forward to see more from theirs.

I am leaving the office in the afternoon and on my way home I check Instagram again. Scrolling through pictures from friends and fitness related stuff, I see and ad.

That’s awkward. I never follow any account posting advertising or promotions. I understand you may be posting a photo about a product because you want to or you are being paid. But if you post it with a marketing selling pitch, or post about the same product once a week, I will not follow you anymore. But pasting an ad is by far the most annoying way to do it.

It comes from the account just started following this morning. That’s weird. Could it be that person just started posting promoted content just a few hours after I followed? Maybe that account has posted more and I did not notice.

I go back to that person profile and I do not see any ad. Not just before I started following. There is no ad at all. Last picture shown is the one I saw this morning, heart in red confirms it is the same picture.

What happened?

Most people do that frequently. They post an ad, so their followers receive it, and then they remove it from their profile so people looking at their profiles do not see it.


Because most of these accounts post ads once or twice each week, so even if they post daily, there would be an ad every four or five posts. Also they usually post the same image several times, so a profile would look horribly repetitive.

Is there any solution?

I am glad you asked. The solution is Instagram showing when a pic has been removed. Of course it would have an undesired effect by showing blank spaces if you remove a post just to publish a better version of the picture, or editing it differently.

Of course Instagram can not prevent users to remove some pic posted, so keeping the thumbnail or a gray version of it is not an option.

A more subtle approach would be displaying how many times that account has removed a photo along with the total number of publications. That could even be a visual gradation as the percentage of photos removed is higher.

Or just add a warning when some account does that all the time.

Those solutions are technically easy to implement, and some of them are easily affordable in terms of space needed.

The only problem is Instagram, as well as other social apps are not willing you to focus on negative aspects, so they let those users go with their tricks. Also those accounts provide an endless amount of new content everyday. But this is a real problem, on fitness related accounts mostly, but I am sure there are other industries using Instagram the same way.

Is not that Instagram needs to stand against advertisers. Promoted content is not prohibited on Instagram. Instagram should stand for the integrity of its platform and it users’ experience, helping them get rid of cheaters making a deceiving use of the platform.

Maybe Instagram is concerned about sponsored accounts stop sharing new content daily. But they shouldn’t. Brands are going to adapt, because they need the platform. And users will be thankful.