Your Design Manual for Improving Instagram Stories

Instagram stories are fantastic for exploring content and connecting with your audience. Here's how you can crush your own IG stories!

Jay Perlman

It's no secret that a massive portion of the world is addicted to Instagram. Getting into the nitty-gritty data, America alone has 121 million users, and the average Instagrammer spends roughly 28 minutes scrolling the app every day.

That's tons of screen time! It's also why marketers, businesses, and creators love it so much.

The "Gram" has a huge and active audience that's constantly looking for fun and new ways to engage with their audiences, and as of now, people can create with posts, carrousels, reels, and of course, stories.

Colorful and bold examples of Instagram posts with illustrations

Stories are a primary reason why Instagram is so popular; of the half-billion daily users, nearly 87% of them post stories on their profiles. This data is only trending upwards, as businesses and private accounts are creating more strategies centered around this type of content.

Of course, not all Instagram stories are winners, and it shouldn't be surprising that well-designed stories have a much higher engagement rate than those with mediocre designs. The good news is there are easy tips that anyone can use to improve their Insta stories!

Getting Started on Instagram Design

Before anyone can start designing, creators need to know a few things to optimize the process:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What are the main objectives?
  • When is the best time to post?

Brainstorming these goals makes the design process smoother while also increasing the effectiveness of the content.

Instagram story examples with Shopaholics illustrations.
Doodles from Shopaholics

After planning the objectives, it's time to start making super-dope content that hooks viewers to their screens!

1. Dimensions and time matter

There are few things more off-putting than content that doesn't fit on the canvas. The good news is there's only one set of dimensions to keep in mind:

  • 1080px by 1920px (a 9:16 aspect ratio).

These dimensions work for both photo and video, so there's no need to change up the canvas for different types of content. In both cases, working in these parameters ensures that the story fits the screen.

However, to fully optimize the space, the best thing to do is leave 250-pixel padding at the top and bottom.

An example of Insta story dimensions with Shopaholic illustrations
Illustrations from Shopaholics

Leaving this padding ensures that the Instagram icons don't obstruct the crucial parts of the content at the bottom and top of the screen.

Time is also an essential factor to consider. Here are the breakdowns for both photo and video:

  • Five seconds for static images.
  • Fifteen seconds for videos.

Packing too much content or info into these short windows can ruin the flow of the stories. Understanding how to use these allotted times gives audiences the chance to digest the content.

2. Create a style guide

For creators looking for consistency in their designs, making a style guide is an excellent place to start. Each creator should creator a unique guide, but here are some of the stylistic items that anyone can use to make a quality style guide:

Designing along a consistent set of principles like this creates a distinct and memorable feel. It's similar to creating a style guide for a brand, which helps audiences immediately associate the look and feel of the stories without even having to see the handle.

Elements for a style guide: logo, colors, typography, etc.

Along with this, a style guide helps visualize the final version; think of it as a way of ensuring that the finished product is the best it possibly can be!

3. Make a storyboard

The perfect match for a style guide is a storyboard. Having a set of stylistic guidelines and a layout ensures your stories are cohesive, consistent, and visually delightful.

Storyboards also are a great way to make sure there's a quality flow to the posts. Making individual stories can often have a choppy feel when seen by audiences, so it's always in your interest to have content laid out before anyone else can see it.

4. Encourage action

The best stories are the ones that tempt users into taking action. Whether it's exploring the profile more, directing them to a website, or even just tapping an emoji reaction, a response is a good sign that the Insta story has a quality design.

The simplest way to encourage engagement is by making text readable, CTAs noticeable, and using illustrations or icons to coax users into action.

Insta stories that promote action.

In this example, the text is legible even from the tiniest of screens, the colors are bold and enticing, and the message has value for all users. It's stories like this that rack up reactions, clicks, and those other sweet metrics that everyone loves.

5. Use templates to improve workflow

Templates aren't only great for finding inspiration, but they also drastically cut down on the time it usually takes to create original content. Since stories are short pieces of content, working ahead with templates is a great way to ensure you're not making last-minute changes.

Instagram story templates with the colorful and proud doodles from Happy Pride!
Templates featuring Happy Pride! doodles

Templates also have all the elements ready to be quickly and easily customized. Having editable assets at your disposal puts the design process into hyperdrive. It also eliminates those annoying extra steps of creating the canvas, selecting the colors, choosing the elements, and everything else that adds time to make a quality design.

Customizable Story Templates

What kind of monsters would we be if we didn't have some sweet story templates ready for you to use? Thankfully, we aren't monsters, and there are a bunch of Figma templates you can start customizing today!

1. Go Green by Edward Tapia

Social Media Templates with customizable doodles from Go Green.

This Figma template has a bunch of pre-made canvases that are perfect for creators who want to design with Mother Earth in mind. So if you're going to make a statement about environmental and climate activism, you'll love creating stories with 'Go Green'!

2. Pride social media templates

The Movement social media templates by Jorge Margarido.

A great way to show off some pride is by designing stories with this loud and proud Figma kit. Featuring the beautiful doodles from Jorge Margarido's 'The Movement', these customizable stories are ideal for social media creators who stand for social justice

3. Women Pride Stories

We Are Women doodles for social media templates

Another bold template for those who want to engage their audiences with striking visuals with a message. Mariana Gonzalez Vega's customizable doodles are bold and clean and come with multiple pre-made canvases to help creators get ahead of their design schedule.

Start Creating Your Own Dynamic Stories

While these pieces of content only appear for seconds on the screen, Instagram stories are one of the best ways for both businesses and individuals to connect with their audience. With this manual in hand, making this type of dynamic content is easier than ever.

Are you a fan of Insta stories? Did we miss some fantastic tips that everyone needs to know? Let us know!

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