How Instagram Made It

How Instagram Made It

A team makes a cool app. Somehow they made it onto TechCrunch and people start to download it. They have a lot of users now. And things look bright.

Suddenly, less and less people are downloading it. Then they find out that people who downloaded are not using it anymore – or worse – are deleting it! They spend money on ads. They email bloggers and tweet their hearts out. But nothing happens. This is when most apps fail.

So why do the Instagram make it? The secret sauce is simple, yet not many notice it. It comes in two parts.

Part 1 – Instagram is not about making videos. It’s about sharing videos.

instagram user journey

Studying Instagram’s user journey, you can see how users’ default choices are to “share” and nothing else.

Want to save it just for yourself? Nope, can’t.

Want to have it somewhere safe? Nope, it’s hosted on servers that can be compromised.

This is how apps make sure that your video is seen by others, gets onto twitter and Facebook. And eventually gets liked. Which leads us to part 2 of the secret sauce.

Part 2 – Instagram teaches you to come back, again and again.

Instagram Notifications

So you have Instagram on your phone. How does the app take you from a person who “just downloaded it” to “using it everyday”. This is where the magic happens. Instagram literally teaches you to keep checking the app! How? Using the simple ideas of behaviorism. Yes, the same way they teach dogs to do tricks. Here is how it worked for dogs, and how it works for humans too. (I’m keeping the psychology background to a minimum).

habit trick

Doing Tricks Habits For Dogs

checking app habit

Checking App Habit For Humans

Every like on Instagram makes sure that this habit becomes stronger. In Behaviorism this is called “Reinforcement”. And I am not kidding with the dog analogy. You can read more about behaviorism in this awesome book by Karen Pryor. Eventually, with dog training, you can start asking the dog to do tricks without giving it treats. And same for hardcore app users, they don’t need likes to keep coming back and check the app!

What I’ve explained to you in here is also how Facebook, Twitter and other big places on the internet really made it big.

We’ve decided not to do that for our first product, Glance Video. We believe that you should own your moments. They belong to you, not the internet.

But this is our challenge. How can we get our app to be discovered by new users? And how do we get people to keep using it, without using lessons from Instagram?

We want your help.

Share with us your thoughts and strategies on twitter or comment below.

How We Designed Glance

Glance designsWe’re almost ready for launch. And we are both excited and terrified to share with you the simple tool we made. After a lot of media coverage, sometimes people forget that we are a team of just 3 young creatives, juggling this project with other life commitments.

We’re excited because Glance on iPhone is a simple and minimalist way to experience a moment more beautifully. And that’s the result a lot of prototyping – (some of which was pretty funny!)

Glance Prototyping

Here we taped two iPhones together and recorded using the camera, vine and Instagram. We quickly discovered how much potential this has.

Our design process worked around iOS’s limitations when it comes to the camera to create what we have today – a simple and minimalist app.

We’ve worked under a lot of constraints, a limited budget and high stress. The internets went crazy on us. Thanks Reddit.

Here is the thinking behind our design decisions:

1) Old School Privacy

Your videos belong to you. Not the Internet. That’s why we’ve decided to upload anything to the cloud. And not host any videos. Not only that, but if you leave the app, everything disappears forever. Unless you deliberately save to your camera roll, everything is wiped.

2) Record Limit is 10s

You can’t enjoy the moment when you are looking at the screen all the time. That’s something we learned from using Google Glass. A 10 second Glance is more beautiful, precious and interesting than a full length movie.

3) Record from 1 Phone

No one is really living the experience if two people are recording each other. And it’s also ugly when a phone shows up in a Glance. Take a video and pass the phone to someone else. You’ll be surprised to see what they capture.

4) Two Video Streams

We could have done three, four or five! We went for two. It gives a more generous view for both videos. And we’ve implemented a really simple “tap to switch” feature to actually move from one stream to the other.

We’re looking for Beta Testers. Are you interested?

The app is ready, and needs just a few tweaks. Tweet us if you are up for it. We’re excited to hear from you.

From “Sex” to Trending on the App Store

blog posttt

Our website ( is viral. We get hundreds of emails from people asking to try it out. The reason they love it is not simply about sex.

Glance let’s you see two different perspectives, seamlessly. It changes the way you experience something personal. Like sex.

It’s an experiment. We are learning on the fly. And we want to put this in your hands today. That’s why we started with iPhone. But that also means, we need to be smart.

No one wants this in their App Store. Not Google. Not Apple.

Going forward, we need to be strategic, if we want Glance in the app stores of the world.

Join us to see how we go from “Sex with Glance” to trending on the app store. We will be sharing with you our strategy and design work as we go.

Meet the team:

@SataraAchille @SabbaKeynejad @SherifMaktabi


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