For apps, less is more and Instagram’s layout proves the point
I developed a compulsive need to share images I capture on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Most of the time these are single uploads of different images taken at the same event, and they just line up with the Facebook timeline, because creating albums on Facebook from a phone is really tedious .
Creating a collage is a good compromise, but requires you to fiddle with third-party apps and these are usually full of ads and loaded with an intimidating array of features that make it difficult to create a beautiful collage and sound share.
Instagram’s new app, Layout by Instagram, tries to solve this problem and mostly succeeds. Just like Instagram, Layout is also a great app with an attractive yet simple user interface. This reduces your choices to the bare minimum, allowing you to create something that looks good. The layout doesn’t really give you too many options, but this simple approach also prevents you from going overboard and messing up your photos.
Come to think of it, I probably got used to Instagram pretty quickly for similar reasons.
Using the layout is easy. All you have to do is choose images from the photo library (the app allows nine in total) and insert them into preset collage options. The layout also groups images using a facial recognition tool in the selection page, which should be helpful for selfie lovers. Unlike other apps, Layout doesn’t give you the option to add borders, write captions, or apply filters. This might sound negative compared to other apps with more features, but if you look at the shared collages, you quickly see that Layout has narrowed the tool down to what the majority of people actually need.
The thing is, most of us just aren’t great artists. The genius of apps like Instagram or Paper by FiftyThree — at least when they first launched — is that they constrain your choices, unlike competing apps. By narrowing your options, these apps make it easier for us to work with simplistic tools and create finished products that don’t look amateurish.
This is why simplicity of user interface and functionality is essential for an application. Secret co-founder and lead designer Chrys Bader told Gigaom that “when a user opens an app, they should be able to figure out in five seconds what they’re supposed to do next, and that should be like this every step of the way.” It’s such a shame that Secret itself lost sight of this incredibly important piece of advice with a recent major overhaul.
Instagram, on the other hand, nailed this ideology with Layout. In fact, the app doesn’t even have captions that explain how the app works. Instead, it has a slideshow that appears when you first launch the app and long-pressing the icon afterwards. With such a solid start, Instagram can focus on adding layout options for future updates without worrying too much about functionality.
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