Complex Made Simple

Opinion: Instagram’s home screen gets a new makeover, but loses its identity and originality

Just like its 2016 redesign that saw it incorporate Stories more actively into its home screen in the wake of Snapchat's growing popularity, Instagram is enacting another home screen redesign that seems to be fueled by competition more than anything else.

New to the home screen are two tabs: Reels and Shop With Shop, Instagram is pushing its e-commerce business, which makes sense given its natural trajectory over the years As for the Reels tab, it will be replacing the iconic Compose button that has been positioned at the center of the navigation bar, which calls to question Instagram's real intentions with this latest redesign

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Just like its 2016 redesign that saw it incorporate Stories more actively into its home screen in the wake of Snapchat’s growing popularity, Instagram is enacting another home screen redesign that seems to be fueled by competition more than anything else. 

New to the home screen are two tabs: one for Reels, Instagram’s answer to TikTok that incorporates short-form videos into the app, and a Shop tab, pushing Instagram’s e-commerce ambitions, to the delight of influencers and brands everywhere. The Shop tab will offer users personalized recommendations, editors’ picks curated by Instagram’s @shop channel, shoppable videos, new product collections, and more.

The move towards putting shopping in the spotlight makes sense, as Instagram has slowly integrated e-commerce features into its app as a result of organic usage trends and demand for such. Influencers and brands have naturally pushed this trend on the platform for years, so it makes sense. 

However, what’s most shocking is the repositioning of the Compose and Activity tabs to the upper right corner of the home screen, long-time staples of Instagram’s main navigation bar. The Compose tab has particularly been a defining design point of the app since its inception, signifying Instagram’s original goal of simplifying taking pictures on smartphones. 

With it being the centerpiece of the app since day one, this repositioning feels like a turncoat move reeking of insincerity – a decision by a company that has quite blatantly discarded its original identity in favor of its bits and pieces of others, held together by the only thing harkening back to its roots: its name. 

Instagram’s homepage in 2011. The central button has always been dedicated to taking and editing images. Now, it’s home to Reels, Instagram’s answer to TIkTok. Image: Business Insider 

And what does it replace it with? 

Reels. Its TikTok clone. 

“We don’t take these changes lightly – we haven’t updated Instagram’s home screen in a big way for quite a while,” says Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, in a blog post announcing the new redesign. “But how people create and enjoy culture has changed, and the biggest risk to Instagram is not that we change too fast, but that we don’t change and become irrelevant. We’re excited about the new design and believe it gives the app a much-needed refresh, while staying true to our core value of simplicity.”

This is quite the interesting choice of words by Mosseri, who clearly acknowledges the magnitude of this shift that the app is taking. He remedies concerns about Instagram’s lost identity by attributing this redesign on changing user behavior:

“At Instagram, our focus has always been on young people and creators because they’re trendsetters. Change is happening quickly right now, including how both of these groups use Instagram and engage with the world. This year, with the pandemic and much of the world sheltering in place, we’ve seen an explosion in short, entertaining videos on Instagram (Editor’s note: TikTok is basically dominating the world and we need a piece of that pie). We’ve also seen an incredible amount of shopping move online, with more and more people buying online and young people looking to their favorite creators for recommendations on what to buy.”

To the average user, most might not think much of this redesign. But when you stop and look back at Instagram’s origins, especially given that, just recently, it celebrated its 10th anniversary, you are bound to feel that the company’s identity has been diluted over the years as a result of Facebook’s ownership, which has historically led to its subsidiaries adopting a cutthroat, copy-till-death approach to competition

At this rate, one has to wonder what Instagram will look like in 5 years.