So yeah the new flickr site design is awful

I’ve been a member of flickr since back when GNE closed down and many of us regulars said “eh, might as well try this free photo-sharing site that Stewart and Caterina are doing now”. It’s had roughly the same design ever since, nice and clean and well-balanced between text and graphics, with just the occasional moving of a button or adding of a new fancy feature (without removing the old version if there was one) to keep things interesting.

Until sometime last month, when they messed it all up.

flickr on blackWhich is to say, they imposed an entirely new design, with a completely different look and feel, different content emphasis, and different affordances (in the Donald Norman sense of the term, most importantly), and they did it without any warning to speak of, and (somehow!) without anticipating that at least some users would be upset by it. It was presented in the very XXth century style “here is a great new thing we have done, passive consumers, be thrilled!”, that is a total no-no in the XXIst century web world, where your customers are your collaborators, you steer by real-time user feedback and A-B testing, and so on and so on.

And I wouldn’t really mind, myself (except that they have to spend lots of time doing damage-control that they could be spending on actually making the site better), except that (speaking purely objectively of course) the new design is flippin’ awful.

It’s one of these hideous “infinitely scrolling page” things that break the Back and Reload buttons, and break performance if you scroll down too far; it hides pretty much all the text (i.e. picture titles and descriptions), suggesting that the Proper Experience on flickr is just a big mush of pictures all run up against each other as close as possible; there are individual picture controls (which are coy obscure little symbols) which appear only when you hover over a picture; when you click on a picture it takes you to a page which shows the picture big on black, and sometimes seems to show the title and description and stuff and sometimes not (I still haven’t quite figured that out yet), if you scroll downward.

Basically it’s just like those tumblr designs that I find most obscure and annoying, only without the graphics of emo album covers in the background.

One or more poor flickr schlubs has had to try to keep some order in the milling rioting crowds of protestors in the flickr forums, and one thing they did was to close the original zillion-page thread about the changes and start a new one, summarizing what they are hearing their customers say so far.

I posted a couple of replies in that thread (on like page 64), and here I am posting them here too just for grins.

So I don’t want to bring any hate or anger :) and I haven’t read all twelve million comments above, but I do find the new design offputting, confusing, hard to use, and all that. It seems to be modeled on a very common style of tumblr design that I also dislike (but at least on tumblr I can just use some different one).

On the various updates in the header:

> you want the option to see Flickr in a “classic” view

That would be a good start.

> textual information around your photos (and sets in particular) is too hidden in the new design

I’m not sure why you say “and sets in particular”; the thing I’m most upset about is that my titles and descriptions are basically completely absent from my photostream page. The titles can be seen one at a time, if you hover, but that’s a drag. And the descriptions show up randomly, as far as I can tell, if you click on the picture an even number of times and then scroll down. Or something. Wildly confusing.

I guess the idea is that pictures matter and words don’t, but that’s not an idea I agree with. I put titles and descriptions in on purpose, and I’d like them to appear, not be hidden 90% of the time.

> user’s organizational choices are limited and not surfaced enough, particularly with the Collections, Set, Photo hierarchy

Not a huge one for me.

> loading the justified, infinite scroll views are cumbersome and expensive for many with slower network connections

And also I personally *hate* infinite-scroll pages and tend to avoid any site that has them. They break the “back” button, they break the “reload” button, etc, etc.

> you want more customizability of content and layout in your photostream and home page

Yes. Obviously you have some designers who have real strong opinions about what everyone’s flickr page should look like, and obviously many of your users don’t agree with those opinions. Telling all those users that they are out of luck and they just have to go along with designer-of-the-day’s opinion-of-the-day is not going to help your bottom line.

tumblr is very customizable. wordpress is quite customizable. That’s the standard now. If flickr is for some reason not going to be customizable, it will die. And I think that would be sad!

And then…

Oh yeah, and I would also like my homepage to not feature some random HUGE picture from some random contact. The results can be… startling…

… because they really can. I mean, eeek! :)


2 Comments to “So yeah the new flickr site design is awful”

  1. All things considered I prefer the look of the new Flickr. Other than that, I agree with what you say.

    I use Flickr primarily just to store images so I can use the location for showing the images elsewhere. Still seems to work fine for that.

    I think it works better for seeing the new images of contacts. I can more readily explore those I’m interested in.

    Flickr is as you say not text friendly, but it wasn’t really before, either. My main use is, as I said, to house pictures I use as illustrations in stories, and there still isn’t a good way to present an illustrated story that includes words.

    I do think it’s great that everyone gets unlimited free storage (although I expect I’ll keep my pro account).

    • That’s a good point, it seems to be just as good as it always was for hosting images to be embedded elsewhere, and it’s nice they allow that. I find the thing that people get to when they click on the image to be much less desirable, which is a bit of a downer. The main thing, maybe, is that they unilaterally imposed this on everyone with no way to customize it back. So old fashioned! :)


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