Today at the Future of Web Design in New York City, Instagram founder Kevin Systrom took the stage to unveil his secrets to the app’s success.

Instagram launched in October 2010 and one year later, we reported that Instagram was adding 25 photos and capturing 90 Likes per second. In the past year, the company has raised $7 million in funding, attracted 12.6 million users, and is now adding 1.5 users each second. There are over 250 million photos on Instagram’s servers, which generates a pretty significant hosting bill from Amazon- about “two really nice cars per month,” says Systrom.

Just yesterday, Instagram’s main site received 6.2 million uniques, which is more than Reddit and Digg receive on an average weekend. So, how did Instagram reach the success it’s achieved today? Systrom says:

  • Have a vision because it explains what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t be doing. Systrom’s long-term vision for Instagram is more than just a photo sharing app. His vision being:

     Instagram is a disruptive entertainment platform that enables communication through rich visual content.

  • Make it fast and simple. Be an editor. Trim down your product to the most important stuff. Instagram did this by compromising high-resolution images for faster uploads and removing less popular filters. Did you know that Instagram starts uploading your photo the second you take the picture?
  • Make it magical. Make it addictive. Systrom compares getting Likes on your photo to receiving quarters back from the slot machine. You think to yourself, “Ah, that was worth the effort.” Then when you upload that one photo that receives 75 Likes, it’s like hitting the jack pot.
  • Make it grow. One of the reasons for Instagram’s massive growth is that it solved a user problem (wanting to share) with a business distribution scheme (marketing across multiple channels) by simply letting you upload your photos to nearly every available social network.

Screen shot 2011 11 07 at 9.25.11 AM 520x360 Instagrams hosting bill? About two really nice cars per month

It being the Future of Web Design conference, Systrom also spoke about how design is shifting to a mobile and app focused context. “Web design is no longer just about the browser but it’s starting to be more and more about mobile products. And I think this is the way that design is moving on the web. We’ve spent a long time thinking about how to take the mobile experience and design it to be just as good to be a web app,” he says.

First, New Devices: We’re seeing smaller screens with limited processing power, but we’re getting additional functionality, GPS and camera features. Second, New Places: You’re no longer sitting behind a desk. You’re at a bus stop, a conference, or walking to and from lunch. And these different places change the way we interact with products. Third, New Needs: Sometimes we need to get rid of 30 seconds, sometimes we need to kill 30 minutes. Being on mobile, means we have different needs and a web app should take all of these three new contexts into account.

Systrom also hinted at his interest in adding video content again, but says after the uproar from blogs yesterday that he’s learned not to announce a product before he starts working on it.

Also, read our interview with Systrom from the Future of Web Design in London.