An Open Letter to Instagram. Stop Moving My Toothpaste!

Time and space are relative. My time and my space are precious. Don’t waste my time and don’t mess with my space.

If I leave a personal space a particular way, I expect it to stay that way until I change it. If I come back and things are different, I have to spend time and a little bit of brain power to find what I need quickly.

Like my bathroom sink; if you move my toothpaste tube, I have to go search for it and that wastes my time. Sure, it seems insignificant and it only adds a few seconds to my routine, but it adds annoyance that wasn’t necessary.

What does my toothpaste have to do with Instagram?

Every user experience expert will say, “make your users happy, and make the experience as easy and enjoyable as possible.”

But moving my toothpaste tube is not making my groggy morning as easy and enjoyable as possible. On the contrary, it makes me consider throwing my toothbrush across the room in an admittedly irrational fit of rage.

Forcing actions on users or performing actions the user never asked for is moving their toothpaste.

Instagram, I’m talking to you. Stop moving my toothpaste.

The Problem

Let’s talk about the digital world.  We’re all busier and more connected than we’ve ever been. We’re all going through life distracted and in the back of our minds we’re considering what other media we should be consuming.

Most of the time we spend on social media sites is squeezed into the free time we can steal between things we have to do: Waiting for a train, sitting at a stop light, standing in line during lunch, or waiting for a client to arrive to name a few.

Most interactions are incomplete or paused.  That means when I come back to the app, I want to pick up right where I left off, not start over all again. It’s like having a bookmark versus having to search for your place every time you open the book.

Here in lies the issue I have with Instagram 

When I come back to the app, depending on how long it’s been, Instagram will often reload my feed when I’m 4, 5, 6, or more “pages” in. No, I don’t have time to scroll back through those 6 pages  of content I’ve already seen to find my place. I’m a little more careful with my phone than my toothbrush so I don’t consider throwing it across the room, but it’s enough to make me consider spending the tiny amount of time I have for it on something else so I don’t have to waste my time.

This serves as a lesson for all consumer sites and apps clamoring for the attention of its users.

Time is precious, satisfaction and pleasure even more so.

Erode any of those for your users, and risk eroding engagement.

Erode engagement and you erode your entire business.

So Instagram, please stop moving my toothpaste.

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