Fixing (just one of) Instagram's UX issues

Instagram has a UX problem.

Well, actually it has many, the general usability of that app is quite bad overall. But there's one in particular that crops up constantly, and I want it gone!

The problem: there is no easy way to follow an account from multiple accounts at once.

Like many I'm sure, I have multiple instagram accounts, one for myself as Paul, another for my work as Cosmos, and finally my 'main' account for a side-project about books. It's not-uncommon for me to come across an account I'd like follow from my Cosmos account for example, whilst I'm browsing as Paul.

In order to follow that account from my preferred profile, the whole process looks a little something like this:

  • Step 1: Discover an account you want to follow
  • Step 2: Make a note (mental or physical) of the target username
  • Step 3: Switch over to your preferred account
  • Step 4: Get directed back to your main Instagram feed
  • Step 5: Navigate to the search section and input the user name
  • Step 6: Follow the account
  • Step 7: Switch back to your original account

I don't know about you, but that seems pretty clunky and long-winded to me.

Another option is to share a link to that account to via a message to your preferred account but again, it's not ideal. You still have to switch over to those accounts and follow that profile with each of them.

A more elegant solution…?

Why not give users the ability to follow an account from any of their own accounts from one interaction.

It's obvious, right? Why not display a lists of all the accounts you have registered, along with an option to follow this particular account, when you long-press on the 'Follow' button?

Similar functionality already exists in Instagram. Swapping between accounts requires you to long-press on your icon in the bottom right and select an account to switch to, so it's not exactly an alien concept.

I've mocked up the interaction as a video to demonstrate the basic functionality:

This solution has the following steps:

  • Step 1: Discover an account you want to follow
  • Step 2: Long-press the 'follow' button
  • Step 3: Select the accounts you want to follow that account with
  • Step 4: Close the modal and continue using Instagram

What I don't like about this solution

The main issue I have with this solution is that the ability to long-press the 'Follow' button isn't clearly signposted to the user. Much like how you switch accounts, this functionality is essentially hidden and relies on the user either discovering it themselves, or requires on-boarding/prompting from the app itself.

Another possibility is to show the account list whenever the follow button is tapped, but ONLY if the user has multiple accounts. However, this essentially changes the established functionality of the 'Follow' button and splits the functionality between two user groups.

I can also imagine getting very frustrated with these extra steps when I want to rapidly follow multiple accounts from just one of my own.

In this instance, I think the former option of leaving the multi-follow interface as an optional interaction and prompting or on-boarding the user about it is better.