Instagram is changing: how much does a 4th column really matter?



The majority of those reading this post will be human and as such we all know that for the most part, we don’t like change of any form, in any way, by any amount.

Social media platforms know that humans are full of contradictions. We complain about someone who has wronged us one day and then obsess over them until we’re BFF. That’s part of what makes social networks so addictive, the dopamine fuelled highs and lows driven by our interactions, make for an intoxicating experience.

Another very human trait is that we get bored easily. It’s why we couldn’t stand to be in that cave for long, we had to wander outside, across the prehistoric, ancient savannahs. Instagram knows we begin to loath anything that is the same day in and day out, so every now and then, a tweak is made to the visual look and feel of the platform.

Typically, these tweaks are enough to keep things feeling new but not so much that it feels like a meaningful, fundamental change. Like that last bowl of porridge, it’s just right for us fussy Goldilocks-type users. Until now…

For years Instagram has had a three-column format known as The Grid. Many brands and power-users have taken this format and applied fantastically creative ideas so that when you view their profile page, it’s not just one thumbnail but a mosaic of carefully curated photos that can be consumed holistically.

The proposed change to a four-column format has enraged some Instagrammers. But should it?

On the face of it, an additional extra column shouldn’t make that big a difference in the long term. It is worth bearing in mind, that this 3×3 grid has been the status quo for years, to the point where The Grid is now synonymous with Instagram.

For a community where the visual is everything, this is a huge upheaval. No small amount of planning goes into ensuring the layout is leveraged to augment the overall impact of the profile. This planning will now have to be undone.

Where your view lands with this change will of course depend on how invested you are in this layout and how quickly you feel you can adapt. Ultimately, with mobile handsets getting larger, perhaps a four-column layout best utilises screen real estate. No doubt Instagram feels that, the more images in your face, the better. But is less more?

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