On Instagram's New Design


I woke up this morning to big news: Instagram redesigned its app.

First things first: I don't love the new icon--it's a little purple/pink for my tastes--but it's certainly an improvement over the old one. Though iconic, the old design stood out like a sore thumb on my iPhone's Home screen. It never fit with the cleaner aesthetic that iOS 7 brought three years ago. It's incredible that a change took so long to materialize, but I'm glad it's finally here. It was long overdue

The other thing that's changed about the app is its user interface. It's been redesigned too, and it looks great. The monochromatic, black-on-white design is a boon for contrast, and it helps make images feel more alive on screen. If this is similar to what the new Apple Music reportedly will look like, then I'll be happy. One of Apple Music's biggest issues is low contrast.

Accessibility-wise, Instagram's new design has two problems. First, I would have preferred the Camera button (for posting) be black. It was blue in the old app, and that splash of color was very helpful in quickly finding the right button to share something. It stood out from the rest of the toolbar. The new design, while cleaner and uniform to the overall aesthetic, loses all of the prior obviousness. As someone with low vision, the only way I now know which button to tap to post is to go for the middle. It may look worse, but I think it would be functionally better (for everyone, regardless of their vision) if the button were white-on-black. I'm no UI designer, but this would make the post button stand out as before while still staying true to the app's new look. As it is today, someone else with low vision may have difficulty in finding the post button because it's "not there" like it was yesterday.

Secondly, Instagram really needs to add support for Dynamic Type. Dynamic Type is a feature whereby a user can set font size to whatever they need it to be, and it'll apply itself system-wide. There's an API for developers to integrate it into their own apps, and I strongly encourage folks to do so. Dynamic Type is a huge help for convenience as well; it saves on having to adjust text size individually in every app. It's arguably my favorite feature addition to iOS of the last few years.

Instagram needs Dynamic Type because the Activity view and comments are really hard for me to read. The test size is just too small, and I strain my eyes far more than I should. I can deal with the worse post button, but the lack of Dynamic Type remains a thorn in my side. It worsens my experience.

Overall, Instagram's redesign gets a thumbs-up from me. As I wrote earlier, it was a long time coming, and I'm glad it's here now. I've loved Instagram forever and will continue to do so. My only wish is the company addresses the visual accessibility issues I raise here sooner than later.