Instagram Stories, first impressions

Instagram Stories

While I have a more in-depth article on the way addressing some thoughts and questions I’ve had lately about the ways in which social media is evolving, I wanted to jot down some first impressions after trying out the relatively new Stories feature on Instagram.

UI overview, constraints and feature requests

Despite Instagram’s super detailed video explanation of how to navigate Stories </sarcasm>, the UI leaves a lot to be desired and makes for an overall poor user experience. Still, I had fun playing with it and will not dismiss it as easily as I had initially. I think with a little effort and creativity, we can do some fun stuff here.


  • Tap on the left-hand side of the screen to go backward.
  • Tap on the (middle to) right-hand side of the screen to move forward.
  • Touch the screen and hold to stop the auto-play.
  • Although the number and sequence of images appears as a series of lines at the top of the screen, these cannot actually be used for navigation, but only show place and give an idea of quantity (beginning, end).

Although not intuitive by any means, once you figure it out, I like that you can ultimately control the speed with which you flip through the images. I think this can make for some really interesting story collections and cool animations. Flipbook anyone? bigsmile

Content creation

  • You can add still photos or videos. Tap once on the camera button for a still image, hold down for a video.
  • You can only add new photos and video, you cannot upload/add anything from your library.
  • Videos can be up to 10 seconds.
  • There is a text tool, and a paint tool available for both photos and videos. The text size and orientation can be changed, but there are no font or text color choices for now. You can also add emojis, though any text is in one block. It’s not yet possible to have multiple, separate text strings.
  • If an image doesn’t load fully before posting the next, it will not fall into sequence, and there is currently no way to change the order of the images. So sequential logic can be lost.

I have zero interest in face-swapping or drawing laser beams shooting out of cat’s eyes, but I do feel like adding at least a color choice, if not only black, to the font tool would be useful. After consideration, simple is better, going full Snapchat filters would be a shame. But it’s this last point that bugs me, and that I’ll pay attention to as I much about with this, because I think it’s the most interesting thing Stories has to offer: sequential images.

Sharing, visibility & engagement

  • Like its precursor, Snapchat, Instagram Stories only stay active for 24h, then they’re gone.
  • You can currently save any “snaps” you take to your phone, but you cannot publish them directly to your timeline. That would require an extra step.
  • Any hashtags you include in your captions are not read as such, so Stories don’t get any visibility outside of your network. You can only see the Stories of people you follow.
  • You can’t like or comment Stories; you can only send a private message to someone from one of the images.

I’ve often felt that Instagram is one of the social media platforms that I enjoy the most, but that generates the least engagement for me. I really do like conversations, and would take a comment over a like any day. But comments take work. Likes are easier and faster. They are also less…commitment. I was surprised by the number of private messages I received on the first Story I posted. I wonder if the private nature of the messages doesn’t help encourage engagement? Or maybe it was just the novelty of this feature and me mucking about, making a big deal of it. Time will tell smile

My first Story

It will probably be gone by the time you read this, but I took a couple of screen grabs for posterity and so that I could reflect on what I thought worked well and what didn’t. My first story centered around the daily walk I take with my husband in our little neck of Normandy.

A Story should have a beginning

Instagram Stories

A lot of what I’ve been seeing on Stories is a succession of images and videos, but that lack some kind of cohesion, something to glue them together. Sometimes we can guess at this, but as a consumer, I don’t want to work that hard. I want to be engaged. I want you to tell me a story. Otherwise, what’s the point? How is this feature different from other platforms? What is it’s inherit value?

Staging, setting the tone

Instagram Stories

Initially I found the hashtag to be kind of fun, even though it served no practical purpose, but it quickly became dull.

Bring it to life

Instagram Stories

I wish I could show the vids I took here – I had a lot of fun playing with sequences, interspersed in a series of mostly still photos, to help draw people in and help them experience this walk along with me.

Context and continuity

Instagram Stories

This is something I mention a lot. It was important for me to connect this story to others I’ve told elsewhere. This is part of my larger story, and this image both confirms and helps illustrate this recurring detail of my life.

Captions are not stories

Instagram Stories

I found myself wanting to caption everything, but in retrospect, this adds nothing to the story. Some images do speak for themselves, and should. While I want people to tell me a story, I also want to be able to use my own imagination and fill in some blanks.

Rhythm and expectation

Instagram Stories

I haven’t posted all of the examples here, but like any story, we want to know where we stand. And because my story was geographical, it felt right to punctuate it with indicators about where in the story we were. Yes, we can follow to some extent using Instagram’s UI, the status bar at the top, but that’s not part of the story. I’m not saying I did a great job of this, but I do find it interesting and valuable for “readers” – and something I’ll be exploring more.

Instagram Stories

Every story needs an ending

Instagram Stories

Because we can have more than one story going at a time, I think it’s important to mark the beginning and end. This ending could have been a bit more powerful.

In the beginning I mention that it’s the same walk we take every day, but that every day it’s different. Of course this is the first time I’m sharing my walk, so I needed to establish some context, but I feel like I could have done a better job at driving home some of these subtle changes, these differences that we notice as the weather and the seasons change, the animals come and go and change fields, new things grow and change color, etc.

I got the most flattering DM that said this was the “best story so far” bigsmile Well that made my day, and let’s me know that as I explore this new visual storytelling, I’m definitely on to something.

I would love to hear about how you are doing creative visual storytelling, and hope that this retour d’expérience offers some insight and inspiration!

Jenny Beaumont

Jenny Beaumont is a multicultural, multidisciplinary maker and writer of things. She works as a Sr. Project Manager at Human Made, organizes WordCamp Europe & WordCamp Paris, speaks at conferences in France and abroad, and contributes to a number of blogs.

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2 thoughts on “Instagram Stories, first impressions

  1. So good to see where you live.I could try a visual of going into the studio every day.Most people have no idea how each day is the same but different as well.All broken stained glass mosaic………

    • I think people would love that – I know I would! Even as, and maybe better as, a video. I’m still not sold on the temporariness of this feature. Life is fleeting enough as it is…I am more drawn to images that last… :)

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