I know it would sound cliché but indeed ‘A photo is worth a thousand words’ and few technologists know this very well. Just look at the success of photo sharing apps and sites like Instagram and Pinterest. I remember my first camera was a Kodak, not the digital one, but the one where you need to load the film (a great task in itself) and in those times, it was the only point and shoot available. I still treasure those photos and love showing them around.
And now I don’t even carry my P&S digital camera, because it’s the phone camera which does all the trick and I still show them around, but now it’s using the power of social media. Instagram took it a little further, allowing me to add various filters to the photo that made them look better than they actually were!
Now that I was latched to taking photos and using Instagram, I still desired to use it’s search and tagging feature and that took me to Instatown.in, a great site by folks from Graffiti Collaborative.
What is Instatown?
I would say it’s a very small, niche site lying out there and waiting to be found out by others. Why I say niche is because they cater to a very unique perspective of Instagram, which is searching photos based on locations and hash tags. Though there are very few places that they support as yet, it’s an app that deserves worthy attention.
For me, it’s one of the site which has leveraged some of the powerful features – geo tagging, hash tag of Instagram to present you with an amazing collection of photos in real-time.
It has one of the best landing page I have seen for a while. All the pages have been divided in 2 parts – the left part shows your options and right side shows you the collection of photos or a full size view of the photo. Simple and intuitive to say the least.
Features of Instatown
Instatown presents the information in 4 creative ways: 1) Gallery, 2) Map, 3) Contests and 4) Tag.
1. Gallery- Unless you are logged in (just use your Instagram credentials), you’ll see a gallery with top #20 ‘Most Popular’ photos of Instagram. Otherwise, the gallery will show all the photos that you’ve uploaded to Instagram. I loved how easy it was for me to have a look at all my uploaded photos on the web, which otherwise was not possible until the Instagram web version came out recently.
2. Map – The map feature leverages geo-tagging element to the core and a click leads to the map of the country showing places from where the images are getting uploaded based on Instatown tags. The thumbnails are tied to the places where they were tagged from.
3. Contests – Yes, they have ‘contests’, but don’t be mistaken, they do not organise any contests, but instead list down all the Instagram contests happening around in India. This is a great idea, since you can participate in those directly from Instatown.
4. Tag – Instatown Tags as they call it, leverages the power of hash tags. While they list down the hash-tag they are currently getting feeds for, you can also submit the one of your choice and enjoy related photos.
What is cool about Instatown?
For a change, it was nice to see an app that is not either Facebook or Twitter dependant. It was a refreshing experience to review Instatown since they captured the essence of photographs through Instagram. Firstly, kudos for thinking differently!
1. Simple Interface – I personally like to see a minimalist interface as it’s the only way I can easily locate content that I was searching for and Instatown has nailed it.
2. ‘Contest’ Feature – Loved the feature. While I say that, the disclaimer is I was unable to test it since no contests were found. Hopefully it’s not a bug!
3. Live Uploads – A small live stream that shows some recent uploads.
How can it improve?
Tough, but there were some niggles and I assume they will soon address those.
1. Home Page – The moment you view the homepage, you see there are 3 features. Aha! Move the mouse over to the features and you see the space grow and reveal the 4th feature. Why hide it guys? I would have loved to see all of them on the page and not require me to do a mouse-over to reveal the last one.
2. Tag Feature – On the Tag page, it’s written that users can submit their own tags, but then you never know how? A tool-tip or a link would have made it much easier for the user to find that place.
3. Contests – Didn’t I just ‘like’ that feature! Indeed, but what I missed is probably a message saying there are no ‘active’ contests. I just stare at a blank space which would really scare off someone.
4. Live Updates – Again, while I loved the feature, it the location of the feature that matters. I, for one, would have surely missed it if not for a closer look.
5. Social Sharing – Folks, if you’re listening, your social sharing buttons are too small and hard to locate. And you know, they are not visible when I expand the ‘Features’ area on the homepage. Maybe a little bigger and at a place where everyone can notice should make it easier to share (because I want to).
While I am sure they are looking to add few more cities to the maps, it wouldn’t bother a user unless he’s living in a non-metro city. Overall, it was a nice experience reviewing Instatown and wouldn’t mind recommending the readers to utilize this pretty little site.