Although it is hard to remember now, there is a time in history, not so long ago, our mobile phones were just tools that we used to place and receive calls. Nowadays, we can almost do anything we can think of with our phones, from living in virtual reality to taking photos and tracking our health. As the usage of mobile phones changes, mobile apps have adapted to this change. Apart from adding new features, which certainly required fundamental design changes, brands updated how they look according to the needs of users and industry trends.
Let’s look at two popular apps, Facebook and Instagram, that sort of set the trends of the mobile app design.
Founded as TheFacebook in 2004, Facebook started as a website. In 2007, the same year of the first iPhone’s release, Facebook started to support mobile by launching https://m.facebook.com/.
Version 1.0 is quite different from today’s Facebook, apart from the blue bar. Even the app icon didn’t have an “f” on it. Its news feed was a table view. In the first versions, the button tab bar consisted of five icons: Home, Profile, Friends, Chat, and Inbox. Later, Facebook added two more layers of navigation under the main title bar.
In 2009, Facebook 3.0 introduced a 3×3 grid to help navigation. Early screenshots show an entirely blue-tiled grid; it wasn’t released to the public.
In 2011, Facebook adopted the hamburger menu for navigation. As one of the most popular apps, it is a major contributor to the adaptation of hamburger menus, starting as a grid.
In 2017, Facebook changed the comments section to look more like chat bubbles. With this change, it was easier to differentiate the original post from comments and replies to those comments.
Facebook introduced Facebook Stories in 2017. Having similar features to those of Snapchat’s, such as disappearing after 24 hours, stories on Facebook can be considered as a second newsfeed.
Instagram started its life as a mobile check-in app called Burbn. Later, the creators, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger refocused the app towards photo sharing and changed the name to Instagram.
Instagram was launched as an iOS app in 2010 and became available to android users only two years later, in 2012. In the same year, the iPhone 4 was also released by Apple as having a high-quality camera compared to the previous models.
Obviously, the original app didn’t have stories or IGTV. However, these aren’t the only features that Instagram added/changed or removed. Let’s dive in.
Starting with the basics, many people can remember that Instagram’s logo was quite different at the beginning.
The first Instagram logo was a replicate of a Polaroid camera. The other logos, essentially, give a similar sense of a Polaroid camera paired with the portmanteau word instant camera and telegram. Starting with a skeuomorphic design (on the old logo, you could see the vintage leather texture, realistic glass and reflection, rich shadows and highlights), Instagram changed its logo into an eye-catching, colorful, flat one that still has a camera on it. It wasn’t easy for many users to accept this change. Adweek published a post with a headline of “Instagram’s New Logo Is a Travesty. Can We Change It Back? Please?”
When you look at the beginning of the Instagram, you can see that the layout stayed similar. You could scroll through photos, see the user’s name, photo, and comments. The tabs remained at the same place, at the bottom of the page.
With its logo update, Instagram also adopted the flat design within the app. While the logo became colorful, the app itself removed the color. Instead of using blue and white in the app’s chrome, the new black-and-white design allows color in the app to come from the community and what’s being shared. This new look lessened competition in the user interface.
In 2016, Instagram launched Instagram Stories. Users could upload their stories (videos or photos), and these stories would expire after a day. The Instagram Stories worked just like Snapchat stories. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said, “They deserve all the credit. This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.”
One of the biggest differences between Snapchat stories and Instagram is that Instagram Stories are placed at the very top of the screen. However, users access their stories on Snapchat by swiping left from the camera tab. On Snapchat, a vertical feed of recent updates and stories of the people you added are displayed between blocks of promotional content.
With Snapchat’s pivot and their adaption by Facebook, Instagram, and other popular apps, story format is becoming more and more familiar to the end-users. Businesses undoubtedly benefit from stories. In fact, 1/3 of the most viewed Instagram stories are from businesses, and brand stories reached an 85% completion rate. So, you may want to save real estate in your mobile app for stories to boost your app’s performance. Discover the world of stories with Storyly.
In 2017, Instagram started to allow users to archive their stories and group their stories permanently under a section of “highlights” in their profiles.
When Facebook and Instagram were first launched, it was impossible to know how they would look like today. Innovation and changes led to other innovations and changes. Even though these are big brands that may find it hard to redesign, they keep themselves updated according to the users’ needs. So, you should always keep in mind how important it is to keep up with the industry with how your app looks.