If you opened Instagram recently you may have noticed a change in the way you are able to view your stories. Stories from accounts you follow will now play on a 15 second loop instead of expiring and automatically moving on to the next. To continue to the next story post, you tap the right side of your screen just like before – but now it is when you are ready. The bar at the top of your screen that measures how far along the story is until completed is now removed. I didn’t think the change was that impactful until I began using the app longer.
Out of habit, my finger pressed down on my screen when I wanted to read a story that likely would take longer than 15 seconds. This is not needed anymore, yet it did take my brain a few attempts to create a new habit. Not feeling the pressure of consuming content in 15 seconds and/or pressing the screen to stop and read a story that includes a lot of copy makes the user experience much different, despite the minor technical change in the app. More than likely a user would skip a story if they realized the text was too long to consume quickly by letting the story continue to the next, now the user must take the action to move on to the next story.
This creates a better opportunity for content creators and advertisers to sell products and services to users, knowing they can include more details in one story post. Instagram ads that include static text with a video or .gif could see higher engagement as the user is able to digest the content more easily. A great example I saw was from a clothing company. The ad had copy above and below a t-shirt that was spinning 360 degrees on a floating hanger. Before the update, my eyes would go to the moving t-shirt where I would decide if it was cool enough to read more about it in the surrounding text, knowing my time was limited. However, this time I viewed the ad for well over 15 seconds, reading every word and looking at the t-shirt for multiple spins before moving on.
A downside to this update could be revealed in looking at how many of the story posts followers view from accounts who post often. The bar that used to exist at the top of the screen not only counted down the time left on the story, but it also let you know how many stories are upcoming from that account. With this removed, it will be interesting to see if users choose to swipe to the next account or if they tap and stay on the current account and view each story post.
Personally, I found after a few sessions on Instagram I was used to the update and overall, like it more than how it was before. This update puts more freedom in the hands of the user while also creating a better advertising experience.