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I was wondering about How people know to Double Tap To Like in Instagram? I'd like to know what Instagram did to make that UX decision.

I have even asked people who use Instagram "how did you know?" The answers are:

  • other people told them
  • by mistake (they thought double tap to zoom picture but it wasn't)

But no one answered that "they knew that from instagram's blog or reading update from Instagram".

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Good question. I don't recall how I learned it. But I am now frustrated when I use a different app and the double-tap DOESN'T favorite it. :) –  DA01 Jun 27 '13 at 18:05
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I had no idea about that feature. –  Cécile Boucheron Jun 27 '13 at 18:07
    
It could be that it was simply a non-essential feature. So why clutter the UI with it? It then becomes a nice 'aha!' for those that find it. (Pure speculation, of course...but Apple has been known to do this as well...neat features that aren't explicitly made obvious at first) –  DA01 Jun 27 '13 at 18:14
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There's something to be said of the instructional value of product commercials/videos that show people performing various touch gestures – Apple does that frequently for their devices, I believe. Great question though. –  ewittke Jun 27 '13 at 18:17
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I saw when i had to download the new version and it was written "new! Double tap to like!" –  user33303 Jul 4 '13 at 10:19

3 Answers 3

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I think Instagram relies on the concept of accidental discovery to try and get users to realize that double tap leads to Liking. IOS uses that extensively to show features and options to users which are often discovered accidentally .

With example to why Instagram went for the option of double tap to like, I believe it is because the tap is the common action associated with most interactions with Mobile and a double tap is quite easy to do and can be done quickly and also addictive. To quote this article on why double tap works :

It comes down to a matter of psychology. It’s human nature to enjoy receiving a response from our actions. As simple as that may sound, it’s a subtle but important part of the reason why Instagram is so wildly popular and growing every day. We love the “double tap”. When scrolling through pictures on our smartphone on Instagram, there’s a “like” button and a “comment” button just as there is with nearly every other social media application. Few people click on them. Sure, there’s the occasional comment when a particular image strikes us, but for the most part users do the easier and more rewarding double tap on the image. Our reward? A flash of a heart. That’s it.

Before naysayers hop in the comments and say that it’s not a big deal, it is. This is a fact. I have no scientific data to back it up nor do is there any way to prove or disprove it, but instinct tells me that we unconsciously love the action and the heart reward so much that we like more pictures than we would if it was only the simple button. The percentage of likes to views of an image, any image, is much higher on Instagram that Facebook, Flickr, or any of the direct Instagram competitors. It’s not because the pictures are that much more interesting.

I also recommend looking at this article which talks about double tap acts upon the concept of discoverablity to inform the user about a feature.

One day, a few months ago, I was watching @jymmysim use Instagram and he double-tapped a photo to “like” it. I asked why he double-tapped instead of tapping the heart, but I can’t remember what he said. I’ve been subconsciously doing it ever since.

It’s easier, really. There’s a gigantic image, nicely filtered, so why wouldn’t you double tap it? Why would you try and pinpoint a finger towards that tiny button instead?

Today I was wandering aimlessly and I finally asked myself, how the hell did he discover it?

“I would usually tap the like icon, but was scrolling too fast through the images and accidentally double tapped on an image to stop it scrolling.”

I then asked on Twitter, and got back two responses along the same lines of accidental discovery, one of replicating the double tap to reload a failed load of an image, and the last, “my 11 year old daughter.”

Not scientific or a vast sample size by any means, yet it really does reinforce the playful, exploratory nature of mobile interfaces, and the application of previously developed behaviours. There’s no overlay or suggestion anywhere in the Instagram app to like a photo in this manner. I wonder what percentage of Instagram users discover it over time though, and what frequency of photos is liked in this way.

The explicit affordance exists with that tiny button, but the double tap is so much more delightful to use. I wager that the little heart that pops up conditions us too, with Instagram patting us virtually on the heads.

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I'm a bit concerned by the reasoning in the first quote: "This is a fact. I have no scientific data to back it up nor do is there any way to prove or disprove it, but instinct tells me [...]" –  Joe Dreimann Aug 22 '13 at 7:32
    
Funny, since double-tapping on a photo has been "zoom" since the beginning. Seeing as how all the photos are too small by virtue of being on a small device, I think that double-tap to zoom is a pretty good assumption. But now I'm a stalker. –  Adam Robertson Oct 22 at 2:33

With many of the new Touch and gesture based interactions, there is a common trend with all new interactions. Due to the nature of the platform, visual cues and affordances are not available. What you need to focus on in such a case, is make the interaction as fluid as possible. It should 'just fit in' the existing user interaction flow. Bonus points for something which is delightful.

Look at pinch and zoom - nothing like that existed prior (in mainstream). But the interaction is so fluid - 'It just makes sense!' that you do not even think about it as a separate interaction.

As with how do people discover it:

  • It all starts with the promotions and the beta testers and bunch: The advertisements of new products try to touch on the various new interactions so as to implant the interaction in the viewers mind. The early adopters and reviewers who follow the launches and read the documentations re-publish the stuff in main stream media in an easy(er) manner for consumption - reviews!

  • Then it goes down the social vine. Facebook posts, tweets, etc. on how cool the new interaction is. Offline (hah!) social network - face to face, seeing others do it, etc.

  • Finally, the accidental discovery. The thing to be kept in mind here is, even though the affordance is missing, the feedback should be clear enough to link the trigger to the action eg: double tap to like should bring up a nice temporal modal showing you liked it.

There are also examples of some not so intuitive gestures which are still not know to everyone. The most common one which I still run across is iOS users not knowing there is a screenshot functionality. For one, it was never advertised or reviewed as such. So, it's only means of promotion were accidental discovery/social vine. Same story with 'Caps Lock' in the iOS keyboard - double tap the upper case toggle to lock it in upper case!

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When one discovers a feature which seems hidden like the case you have outlined with Instagram, it feels like a connection between the user and the app. The user will have a feeling that he is getting to know the app and this will make him use it more frequently.

Nowadays many apps with touch and gesture interactions show a tutorial when they are launched for the first time. Most of the times this is a translucent overlay highlighting the widget and telling the user to swipe/double tap/pinch it. Of course the user always has the option to skip this tutorial and go through it if he wants to in the future in a help or settings screen/menu.

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