Instagram Stories

Conducting a UX Research process for hypothesis validation in a 2-week sprint.


In context of a UX Showcase, I had the challenge to validate a hypothesis that Instagram's User Stories were not performing properly, in a deadline of two weeks to get the expected results.

My role

UX Researcher defining the Strategy & Executing Research, Analysis & Reporting.

September 2021.


In the context of a UX Showcase for my actual company Globant, I was in charge of conducting and presenting a UX Research on one usability problem that Instagram was having with its Stories feature. Instagram detected some interaction issues with that feature and I was asked to plan and execute the strategy for identify those issues and proposing the solution in order to test it later.

The challenge had a deadline of two weeks, so my task was to propose a process on which the issues would be identified and the solution would be proposed, but the Testing stage would come afterwards in another sprint.

This challenge was very satisfying to me because, besides I love to research and detect usability issues for improvement, about two months later this study, Instagram changed the interaction for this feature with the same solution I came up with.

Diving in

One of my strongest skills is to Dive in into whatever I'm working on, so I can get the data I need to propose a Data-Driven Design afterwards. This skill is linked to my taste for knowledge and to have solid arguments for everything I work on. Following this, I started to understand the User Stories feature beyond its usability. I wanted to understand its function and the different contexts for users.

After I understood clearly what the Ephemeral Communications Platforms were and how (and why) the users -used- them. I needed something to focus on and a starting point. It was pretty obvious that Instagram it's used more on mobile devices than in desktop, but I wanted to argument that with data. So the firsts question I did to myself were: What device should I look into? Will Nielsen's Heuristics be enough for a mobile device? When I reach the User Testing phase, what age have the average user of Instagram?

For answering those I needed data.

With this basic data in my hands, I was able to decide where to start, and I decided to do so with a Heuristic Evaluation on Instagram's mobile app.

Heuristic Evaluation

Since I was focusing on a mobile application, I needed to consider some heuristics made specifically for mobile devices besides Nielsen's. So I decided to include some of the SMASH (Smartphone Usability Heuristics) to take a deeper look into this topic.

Having this defined, I decided to take an approach by scenarios, considering all the actions the user can take while using Stories, so I selected the most frequent use scenarios and based the evaluation on those.

Hybrid approach: Heuristic Evaluation plus Cognitive Walkthrough

With the approach by scenarios, the first thing to do was to put on the user's shoes and evaluate, along with 4 colleagues, each scenario proposed:

  • Create and Share a story
  • Create a second story
  • Create and add elements like: filters, markers (label, location) emojis and a survey
  • Save a story in the device
  • Comment other stories
  • Delete an already published story

Results & Findings

Main usability problems were found in the first three scenarios. From User control and freedom to Physical interaction and ergonomics, different issues appeared while executing each escenario.

At first story creation, the main problem is related to the lack of control to stop or cancel the upload until it's finished, in case of user made a mistake or didn't want to uploaded yet. A similar problem occurs with the Share with Facebook option, where users don't have much control in case they repent of doing so. Some lack of error feedback and some ergonomic issues between the positioning of some key buttons were also founded in some of the scenarios mentioned above.

Another major problem detected was the interaction within the button for creating a new story located in the feed page, due to the positioning between the first and second actions, where ergonomic issues are presented, and the second menu for content choosing, which easily leads the user towards error making.

Instagram had the solution to this problem right at hands, with the interaction of the same button located on the Profile screen, which looked the same but worked differently, opening a drawer with the list of functions to choose from.

Having the average usability results for the most affected heuristics, it was time to get some hypotheses and plan the next steps to follow for the 2-week sprint ahead.

Hypotheses to validate next

I formulated five hypotheses to validate in the future research, considering the most affected Heuristic Principles seen before:

  • Hypothesis 1: Do and undo
  • Hypothesis 2: Usability improvements
  • Hypothesis 3: Ergonomic improvements
  • Hypothesis 4: Friendly Errors
  • Hypothesis 5: Personalization

Do and undo

We believe that if we allow the user greater freedom of action on the stories at all times (with emphasis during their creation), including actions of cancellation before publication, editing post publication (type post) and choosing to publish on Facebook, we will increase the adoption of this social feature and we will prevent accidental posting errors as well as the cognitive load of rebuilding from scratch on the user's part.

We will know this when we detect an increase in the use of the feature and better comments regarding the possibilities of action with IG Stories.

Usability improvements

We believe that if we improve the usability of the “+” button for content creation on the feed screen, following the dropdown menu principle as in the profile screen, we will facilitate the creation of content (stories) and reduce user friction to Reach your goal.

We will know this when we detect an increase in the interactions on the element and therefore the use of the Stories feature.

Ergonomic improvements

We believe that by relocating the “+” button for content creation to a more accessible area on the screen, we will be able to increase and facilitate interaction with this key element for said action.

We will know this when we detect an increase in the interactions on the element and therefore the use of the Stories feature.

Friendly Errors

We believe that if we improve the content of errors when creating a story and enable options for the user to understand the situation and take action on it, we will increase satisfaction with the application and with IG Stories.

We will know this when we detect fewer negative comments regarding errors and an improvement in user perception reflected in store notes and positive comments about the app..


We believe that if we add the option to create filters and/or save custom filters, drawings and the like for later use in a future story, we will improve user satisfaction with this feature and consequently its use.

We will know this when we detect an increase in the positive perception of the application's users.

Next Steps Planning

Having obtained improvement hypotheses through the Heuristic Evaluation of Instagram Stories, it is necessary to continue with the following steps to complete the investigation and be able to devise the solution:

At a final stage of this challenge, and following the spirit of the agile methodology, this planning seeks collaborative work from start to finish with the team members, seeking support from the Product Owner for the recruitment of users for the tests, from the entire team for the Brainstorming session and from the stakeholders, with whom continuous participation will be sought during the process and progress of the sprint.