Instagram Local

The Opportunity

Instagram is a visual first platform with over one billion users worldwide. The abundance of recent, high quality photos of places uniquely positions it against its competitors.

Competitors are trying to drive creation of user generated content. However, mental models have already been established and people use other platforms only to view details such as hours of operation and location.

Our team heavily leaned into Instagram’s advantage as the go-to platform for visual place discovery. We saw a great opportunity to differentiate ourselves from other local discovery / consideration services, thus we approached this space from a visual first perspective, as opposed to focusing on low level details.

Problems to Solve

For People — IG wasn’t designed to easily facilitate discovery of nearby places. You had to search for the exact name and relevant information was dispersed all over the app.

For Instagram — Businesses weren’t getting maximum value out of their time on IG. We needed to do a better job of facilitating real world outcomes otherwise risk losing them.

The MVP

We developed a visual first place discovery feature within the Instagram search tab. When on the Places section within Search, we surfaced categories of local businesses around the users current location.

The product was a feed of nearby places that highlighted user generated content. In research, we observed that people responded much better to user generated images as opposed to imagery from a business. They felt like they got a sense of what the place would be like in the real world, as opposed to a neatly curated grid of photos the business wants you to see.

Location Page Evolution

The location page redesign ended up being shipped to 100% of Instagram users globally. Here's a few iterations along the way to the final version you'll find in the app today.

Alternate Feed Explorations

Longer Term Vision

As with the development of any product, you need to think short and immediate term as well as longer term and envision where you want to head. Here are some explorations I developed with my team on what this product could turn into.

Divestments at Instagram

In 2019 Instagram began heavily investing into retail commerce initiatives (current Shopping work). Leadership identified various teams across the app that weren’t directly contributing to top level strategies and made divestments. Sadly, the Local team was part of this simplification effort.

Fortunately, my changes to location pages and info pages are still available to billions of people worldwide and businesses are still benefiting from real world outcomes attributed to these surfaces. I am proud of what our small but mighty team accomplished.

My Role

I joined a team of 10 as the sole designer, taking over for a colleague who left the company. Fred Fahlke had established early prototypes of the product. During my time on the team, our small group developed a new product area at Instagram. We ended up shipping parts of our work to 100% of users globally.

Local Team at Instagram, circa 2019:
Todd Lappin, Content Design
Lukas Schubsda, User Researcher
Gemmy Tsai, Product
Chris Xu, Data Science
Samantha Wiener, Software Engineer
Kai Chao, Software Engineer

For a deeper dive of this project, please contact me.