Why Instagram Redesigned Its Home Screen

Trying to become the Thanos of all social media

Key Takeaways

  • Instagram combats its competitors by shifting priorities to Reels and shopping.
  • Users may spend more time on the platform under the new tabs.
  • Whether the changes are good or annoying will depend on Instagram’s users.
Three Instagram images showing the new Reels and Shop tab and pages
Instagram

Instagram’s home screen shakeup is likely meant to take on the photo-sharing app’s biggest competitors: TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, and even YouTube, pushing sales and viral video content over it’s traditional image-centric focus.

Though this may be a simple design change for some, the addition of these tabs booted the Likes and Create tabs to the top of the home page, near the message button. The Shop feature isn’t new on the platform, though, only the positioning is. But pushing its new Reels feature is surprising, considering Reels has only been live for three months.

"This will definitely lead to increased session times," Frank Goodman, the founder and CEO of small business technology firm Bleeding Bulb, told Lifewire in an email. "I do think app users will appreciate not forcing both of these features in existing views. That would have definitely made the app too cluttered." 

Is This Annoying?

The Shop tab is in a similar position to where the Likes tab used to be, so users may stumble on the new feature accidentally. The Shop page is filled with products from users you may follow or also be interested in depending on what you look at most on the platform. Either way, if users have never made purchases on Instagram or aren’t interested in doing so, this tab may be useless. 

"Depending on the type of user it may be viewed as [an] opportunity or simply annoying," said Goodman. 

Since Instagram doesn’t take a percentage of sales for users with business accounts right now, this new shop tab may be most appealing to business owners since they’re essentially getting some free marketing and advertisements. But that may change as users more frequently use the Shop tab, and Instagram is forced to pay Apple and Google 30% commission fees for in-app purchases.

"If you mix this with Facebook Pay as a one-click purchase and some mentions, this can quickly lead to spontaneous purchases."

Instagram’s home screen redesign could have been made to "keep users on the app as much as possible," digital services expert Emmanuel Apau told Lifewire in an email. Apau is also a cloud engineering expert who often teaches courses on web development.

Since Instagram is a great place to market products, Apau thinks Instagram may venture into collecting portions of sales since the checkout flow will happen within the app. Instagram will be able to track metrics for number of sales to see how it’s boosting businesses through purchases on its platform. Without saying it, Instagram may be setting itself up to become an e-commerce platform to compete with others dominating that sector, like Shopify and Squarespace.

Shopping With Your Favorite Influencers

Regardless of how users are using Instagram, having those new tabs there will drive more visits to the respective sections of the app. As younger generations master how to monetize their large followings, users may begin to use the social media platform for more than just keeping up with their favorite people. 

"I think the nature of Instagram is heavily centered around influencers. The youth admire and envy many of these users," said Goodman. "They want to look like them and live their lifestyle. If you mix this with Facebook Pay as a one-click purchase and some mentions, this can quickly lead to spontaneous purchases."

Facebook Pay on Instagram and Instagram Shop's checkout

More purchases may come simply because user time on Instagram has skyrocketed since the pandemic caused us all to stay indoors more. Online shopping is the new normal and Instagram knows that, so it’s trying to bring everything under one roof. 

"Instagram ads are very effective, and one barrier that saved users from making purchases is having to navigate to a store owners website, which they may not trust," said Apau. "Now, they can do a checkout from within an app they trust."

"This will definitely lead to increased session times."

Apau believes this redesign will cause younger generations to overspend on in-app purchases. Goodman, on the other hand, thinks Reels will get more love moving forward.

"This adjustment is no different than when Facebook wanted users to focus on videos. We have to remember many of the users on Instagram are focused on gaining more visibility on feeds and more followers," said Goodman. "Users that adopt features they are looking to push will be rewarded. This means more visibility. The same thing happened when Facebook decided to add Facebook Live and Instagram Stories."

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