Monday, June 25, 2018

What's Your Favorite Mobile App?

One of my favorite mobile apps is Instagram.  I use it on a daily basis to post a photo-a-day.  I love photography, but about two years ago, I realized that I was taking tons of photos, yet I didn’t have the urgency or discipline to cull, edit, and publish them regularly.  My new year's resolution in 2017 was to post a photo-a-day on both Twitter and Instagram (https://twitter.com/aliciapiavis and https://www.instagram.com/aliciapiavis/).  This allowed me to practice editing every single day of the year.  I maintained this goal for the whole year, and after realizing how beneficial having that structure was to me, I decided to continue the project this year as well.  Posting a photo-a-day provides me with the routine I need to regularly work on and improve my photography.

I chose Instagram to post my photos because I wanted to use an app that would easily show a history of my posts.  I felt that my photos would get lost amongst my status posts on Facebook, and I knew that Twitter is utilized more for following celebrities, news, and other media.  I already had an Instagram account that I had not been using, so I simply changed the purpose of my account to solely serve the photo-a-day challenge.  I learned that Instagram is fairly easy to use.  The app can be downloaded from both the Apple App Store, as well as Google Play.  As soon as the user opens the app, they can see the newsfeed of recently added photos from the other users they follow.  In addition, the landing page has a button right in the middle of the bottom task bar with a plus sign, which allows the user to add a new photo.  The user can then choose if they want to upload a photo from their cell phone’s photo gallery, take a new photo, or take a video.

I personally never use the photo option, since 99% of the photos that I upload were previously shot with my DSLR camera and then edited in Lightroom.  I have a slightly unique process of uploading my photos, since I also post the same photo to Twitter.  I post my photo to Twitter from my computer.  Then, I open the Twitter app on my phone, open the photo I just posted, and then save it to the gallery in my phone.  Then I simply open the Instagram app, click the “+” sign, choose “Gallery”, and then click on the photo that I just saved.  Since the photo is already edited, I skip the editing feature on Instagram, and go straight to the “Share” page where I write my comment, and then share it.  Basically, I can post a photo from the Instagram app on my phone in less than a minute-- great usability.

I love the design of the app because the layout is very simple.  When the user open the app, their newsfeed loads first, showing all the recent posts of their followers.  There are only five buttons on the bottom taskbar.  The user can easily go to their newsfeed by clicking the home icon.  They can search content with keywords using the magnifying glass icon.  They can see their notifications for people who have liked or commented on their photos by using the heart icon, and they can see their own feed by selecting the person icon.  In addition, if I user wants to upload a photo and use a filter, there are many filters built in to change the look of the image in the tap of a button.

In regards to functionality, the app has a few functions, but they all revolve around one thing-- photos.  One of the functions that Instagram offers is the ability for a user to edit their photo or apply a filter before publishing it, and the user can also write a comment about the image.  In addition, users can also “tag” their photos to appear in keyword searches or to be placed into a specific category.  This function can allow a user’s content to be more easily discovered by other users.  For example, if I were to search “mountains” in the app, I would receive all results which were tagged with #mountains.  I can also sort the results by “Top” (most popular), “People” (names of users), “Tags”, or “Places” (the location where the photo was taken).  Another function of the app is that it is linked to other social media apps, including Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, so the user can easily post the photo to multiple sources at once.  Another function of the app is the ability to choose who the user wants to follow.  For example, I love travel, nature, and wildlife photography, so many of the users I follow post similar content.  I can also go directly to their Instagram feed to see all of the posts that they have created.

As far as recommendations go, there are three areas for which I see areas of improvement.  The first is that Instagram only allows photos of a certain aspect ratio to be posted.  For example, some of the photos I have wanted to post are panoramas.  They post just fine as a panorama in Twitter.  However, as soon as I try to add the photo to Instagram, the platform immediately crops the image, and cuts off the edges of the panorama.  The same goes for portrait photos.  If I try to post a portrait oriented photo on Instagram, either the top of bottom will get cut off.  Another area of improvement applies to the web version of the app.  Unfortunately users cannot create new posts through the web version of the app.  New posts can only be created through the mobile app.  Lastly, I wish there was a way to get rid of robots.  If there was a robot to get rid of robots, that would be great!  Every now and then I see a notification that someone has commented on one of posts.  I have a fleeting moment of excitement, until I realize that it was just a robot asking me to follow them.  Other than those three elements, I love Instagram because it’s easy to use, the design layout is very simple, and it has the majority of functions that I need.


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