Freeflow for Instagram

Encourage authentic sharing and reduce the pressure for perfection

Screen mockup of turning on Freeflow mode
Mobile mockup of main instagram feed when Freeflow mode is on
Mobile mockup of instagram photo posting flow with Freeflow mode on
Screen mockup of instagram profile page when freeflow mode is on
Screen mockup of in-line alert when user posts new photo in freeflow mode

Project overview


In this speculative project, I wanted to enhance Instagram by incorporating mindfulness and mental health promoting features into their mobile app. My focus was on understanding the goals, pain points, and expectations of Instagram users in relation to mental health and mindfulness features. Additionally, I explored the potential benefits of these features in fostering a supportive and positive user experience.


I wanted to maintain feelings of validation and community interaction while hiding engagement metrics and reducing distracting notifications and suggestions. It was also important to integrate my new features without adding complexity or compromising the platform's aesthetics and user interface.

My impact

By conducting user research and extracting insights through research synthesis, I unearthed pain points users have in the platform and proposed practical solutions to promote authenticity and reduce comparison pressures. My ideation and design of the new Freeflow Mode lead to a prototype that testers found intuitive and seamless.

Instagram (speculative)
80 hours
Figma, FigJam, Excalidraw
View final prototype

01. Research

Research plan

Research goals


Secondary research

Competitive analysis

I conducted a competitive analysis to learn more about mental health and mindfulness features on popular social media platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, and Pinterest. By researching and parsing the spectrum of features, I identified key insights about what other platforms are doing and where there were missed opportunities.


Curated mental health content
Time limits
Comment filters and controls
Content-triggered interventions
Collaboration with mindfulness apps


Curated mental health content
Time limits
Comment filters and controls
Content-triggered interventions
Collaboration with mindfulness apps


Curated mental health content
Time limits
Comment filters and controls
Content-triggered interventions
Collaboration with mindfulness apps


Curated mental health content
Time limits
Comment filters and controls
Content-triggered interventions
Collaboration with mindfulness apps





Curated mental health content
Time limits
Comment filters and controls
Content-triggered interventions
Mindfulness app collaborations

Basic plan

Basic features for up to 10 users with everything you need.
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Business plan

Advanced features and reporting, better workflows and automation.
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Enterprise plan

Personalised service and enterprise security for large teams.
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User access
Basic features
Saved reports
Individual data
Automated workflows
200+ integrations
Reporting and analytics
Export reports
Scheduled reports
API access
Advanced reports
Saved reports
Customer properties
Custom fields
User access
SSO/SAML authentication
Advanced permissions
Audit log
Data history
View detailed competitive analysis »

Primary research

User interviews

I interviewed 5 current Instagram users for my primary research. There was a lot of consensus around motivations, frustrations, and mental health concerns.

Entertainment (3 of 5)
Funny memes, captivating videos, and visually appealing content
Unwinding (3 of 5)
Calming images, inspiring quotes, and soothing aesthetics
Social connection (3 of 5)
Engage with like-minded people and build a supportive network that uplifts them
Frustrations and pain points
Unwanted and too many ads
(3 of 5)
Disrupts the user experience, feels intrusive, and diminishes enjoyment
Too many suggested accounts
(4 of 5)
Overwhelms feed, challenging to focus on content they genuinely follow
Notifications, disruptive sound
(3 of 5)
Distract from their activities, leading to a less enjoyable and focused experience
Mental health concerns
Fear of missing out (FOMO)
(3 of 5)
Feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, and social comparison negatively impact well-being
Unattainable, curated images
(3 of 5)
A sense of unachievable expectations leads to feelings of inadequacy
Negative body image
(3 of 5)
Exposure to idealized and edited portrayals of beauty can cause body dissatisfaction


Using my competitive analysis and user interviews, I created the persona of Olivia Patel, a mindful Instagram user seeking to foster authentic connections through unfiltered content sharing. I broke down her motivations, pain points, and desires, which guided development of features that prioritize mental well-being and promote a more genuine user experience.

Persona image for 'Olivia Patel'; young woman of color looking into camera

Olivia Patel, 26

Self-conscious creator

Olivia is a recent college graduate living in a metro area. She’s a full-time barista and also takes contract jobs as a content writer. She often feels overwhelmed by the pressure to maintain a "picture-perfect" profile and struggles to find a balance between social media and offline experiences.
“I try to focus on connections that really matter, but end up comparing my life to curated ones that don’t show the full story.”
Needs and Goals
  • Showcase her creativity and personal style through visually appealing posts and stories.
  • Have positive interactions with people with similar interests
  • See content that feels genuine and relatable
  • Uses Insta as a creative outlet for her personal style, interests, and hobbies
  • Wants to find a career path by following influencers in her field
  • Enjoys being part of a community that shares similar passions
Frustrations and Pain Points
  • Bombarded with sponsored content and ads that disrupt her experience.
  • Overwhelmed by the pressure to maintain a curated and "picture-perfect" profile.


How might we ensure positive experiences and enhance users' well-being when they use Instagram?

How might we incorporate well-being, positive self-regard, and mindfulness into existing app flows?

How might we prevent users from leaving the app in a worse mental state than they arrived?

02. Define

Ideation & prioritization

The project constraints included the difficulties of integrating new features seamlessly into a complex platform, conducting rigorous testing for the feature's effectiveness and potential bugs, and also attempting to meet an exceptionally short timeline.

I prioritized the highest-value features:

Information architecture

Instagram app sitemap

User & task flows

From the sitemap, I predicted that finding where to turn on this new feature would be its own challenge. I started by diagramming a user flow for turning on this new "freeflow mode," and another mapping the altered flow for posting a photo.


Legend for freeflow task flows

Scenario 1: Olivia is feeling a little down and would like to turn off some of the noise and enjoy the most calm and uplifting version of her feed, so she turns on Freeflow mode.

Diagram for turning on Freeflow mode

Scenario 2: While in Freeflow Mode, Olivia wants to post a photo.

Diagram for post a photo user flow

03. Design

Low fidelity wireframes

Having diagrammed the user flows with the highest value to the project, I created low-fidelity wireframes of the Freeflow mode activation process and photo posting experience.

Turn on Freeflow mode

Post a photo in freeflow mode


I wanted to make sure the icon and logo for Freeflow mode was in keeping with the minimalism of the Instagram brand, so I kept it very simple with a “water flowing” motif and used the Instagram brand gradient for my color palette.

Full color logo

Freeflow logo: three wavy lines with the instagram brand gradient applied

Icon version

Freeflow logo in black and white: three wavy lines that resemble a symbol for water
Mobile mockups of freeflow mode

04. Prototype & test

High fidelity wireframes & prototype

With a clear vision of the user flows, I transformed the low-fidelity wireframes into high-fidelity mockups. These refined wireframes integrate seamlessly with the existing user interface while adding opportunities and encouragement for spontaneity, authenticity, and mental health resilience when sharing and browsing on Instagram. I then prototyped both flows for user testing.

View prototype

Usability testing

My metrics for success were mostly met:

Three users felt that the existing Instagram UI makes it difficult to find settings, but because they knew where to find setting already, they could find Freeflow Mode easily.

Expected results

Unexpected results

Neutral or negative feedback I received was either about the limited scope of the test or about the existing platform — two commented that if Instagram didn’t push so many ads and suggested content and would let you have more control over the algorithm, there wouldn’t be a need for a separate mode.

Changes made based on feedback

None of the user recommendations for revisions were within the scope of the project, as they weren't directly related to the two user flows:

While there wasn't much I could do to address these within my existing flows, I did revise the prototype to include more paths that lead users directly to the Freeflow mode setting: clicking on the Freeflow symbol in any location, whether on a Freeflow "ad" in the feed or on the Freeflow badge next to a user avatar, brings the user directly to the Freeflow setting screen.

05. Final thoughts & next steps

Final thoughts

Through user research and creative design, I crafted an interface that prioritizes mental well-being and authenticity. This project allowed me to demonstrate my ability to address real-world challenges and incorporate mindfulness principles into digital product design.

Next steps

I would have loved to create additional content for the feed to show both how the feature might be found via promoted content and the kinds of content that could be incorporated into the feed when Freeflow Mode is turned on.

Band Together