The fourth column

One column is a feed, two provides options, and three makes a grid. Your beautifully curated grid. Now Instagram wants to add a fourth column, smashing that grid to pieces!

As with breaking the fourth wall on tv, the forth column represents a jarring, yet exciting change to the platform’s visual setup.

Thus far the response to Instagram’s ‘hijack testing’ has been largely negative. Proponents of the curated grid begging for a stay of execution, while the rest enjoy a moment of schadenfreude – Some people just want to watch to world burn!

 

And burn they shall. There are many accounts that would be adversely affected by the change, but a couple of sore thumbs really stick out.

TV series’, Homeland and The OA, will no doubt be hoping this is all a bad dream.

Homeland offers 66 posts of interlinked intrigue. While The OA serves up a big picture bonanza – the ultimate scrolling sensation.

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However the biggest hit lies in wait for Reynolds Kitchens – Two years’ worth of interlinked posts… Ouch!

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Nike Lab, have already jumped the gun, deleting the entirety of their feed, mysteriously before the news first broke in September. Do they know more than the rest of us?

The account has remained post-less for nearly two months now. Keeping their powder dry till the re-boot? I bet their 1.3m followers are thrilled!

 

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But why are Instagram toying with the idea? It has to be about more than just the sake of change, particularly with the wrath of their users in mind.

It turns out there are some very valid reasons for rocking our Instaworld:

Phone screens are getting bigger.

When Instagram first launched in 2010 it was designed to be used on devices like the iPhone 4 with its 3.5inch screen. Four columns maximise the use of the extra screen real-estate provided my newer models.

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Less Scrolling.

Looking at a four-column grid means less scrolling, and allows you to consume more information faster.

Overpopulating the screen will also encourage people to click into posts, getting a proper look at them, increasing engagement and interaction.

Fresh look.

Shaking up the grid will push people to be more creative. This represents a re-birth for Instagram, preventing stagnation.

War on Brands.

The curated grid is often the preserve of brands and influencers, Instagram could be looking to reduce the amount of advertising activity on their platform.

Though advertising brings in plenty of cash, allowing your platform to be swamped with ad content scares away the average user. It’s a fine balancing act.

Trip-Pics.

It is harder to break a single photo into four than it is to three. Hopefully this will mean less broken pictures which spam news feeds with ‘dead posts’, worthless on their own.

‘Dead posts’ were something that we were very conscious of at Prism when re-launching our brand recently.

Our strategy was to post in threes, but endeavouring to ensure each post held value on its own too.

We weren’t spotless in this regard, a splash of our sharp new logo was too tempting, but I’d say we’ve done ok.

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However a four column system would require us to rethink how we present our work.

The simplest option is to post in pairs, A heavier visual next to a lighter one. This produces a checkerboard effect on your grid, and makes it easier to avoid ‘dead posts’.

Cleaner, simpler images will also stand out better, as anything too busy will get lost and fail to entice the viewer to engagement.

I’m sure some brands will start from scratch and attempt to re-create the entirely linked grid, I can assure you that won’t be us. But how magnificent they will be!

Written by Charlie Roberts

November 19, 2017