A brief rant about Flickr’s redesign

Tech Life

What a mess. Really, I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s say that since Flickr launched the new site redesign yesterday, I don’t even want to load my photostream in a browser. This new graphic makeup is bloated, counter-intuitive, unnecessary, and a perfect case for the old recommendation Don’t fix that which is not broken.

The new banner (the area with an image between the two menu bars) is just a waste of space. The Flickr menu bars have grown to an unnecessary large size (wasting some more pixels in the process). Navigation itself is possibly more confusing than before, and what was accomplished with a single row of menu options once, now it’s scattered in four different places: Flickr bar top left corner, Flickr bar top right corner, User bar left, User bar right. When you point to your top right corner avatar, the mouse-over effect revealing the additional options is counter-intuitive. I don’t know you, but I end up clicking it all the time, landing in my Account’s settings page, while I was actually trying to access my Flickr Mail.

Presenting a photo at full size is nice, but now everything else — comments, conversations, and all the accessory information related to the photo — feels choked and drowned down at the bottom of the page, piled there like an afterthought. Perhaps someone thought that a photo sharing service should be all about the photos (this is the message I think the new visual redesign is trying to convey), but if you’ve been a Flickr user for at least one year, you’ll know that Flickr has never been just about the photos. I’ve been on Flickr since October 2005, and what I’ve always loved about it was the great balance between the ‘photo’ sphere and the ‘conversation’ sphere, on a conceptual level, and the great balance between visual design and functionality, on a usability level. Navigating Flickr, using Flickr, had increasingly become a fast, efficient, intuitive and overall pleasant experience. I can’t help but feel that this redesign is a significant step back.

Perhaps the most annoying change is the disappearance of layout preferences. Flickr never offered much flexibility in layout customisation, but before the redesign I could at least decide how to present my Flickr landing page. I could choose to show only a few photos (big thumbnails), or more photos (small thumbnails), with or without a sidebar with selected sets or collections. This way I could decide to have a specific group of photosets to appear along the last updated photos, so as to direct visitors towards the photosets I deemed most interesting or worth browsing first.

With the new redesign, even that bit of layout customisation freedom is gone, and users are forced to accept that their photos will appear as some sort of ‘photo wall’, and that all photosets are only visible separately by accessing the Sets page. I find this design decision to be rather disrespectful towards the user (or customer, given the large amount of paid accounts). They’re my photos — I would like to have a part, however small, in deciding how to present them.

Overall, past the extreme annoyance of having a lot of interface elements arbitrarily rearranged, much of the new design feels still half-baked to me, rushed, not thought through, like some sort of unfinished beta version. There are pages with a mix of new and old visual elements, there are little bugs here and there, the general navigation is slow (my Flickr landing page takes three times as long to fully load than before)… Speaking of bugs, here’s one I just noticed while writing this piece: if you have added some notes in the lower part of a photo, the new design cuts them:

newFlickr bug

These are simply some initial reactions on my part. Judging by the activity on the Flickr help forums, I’m definitely not alone in my dislike of this redesign, not to mention the new account structure and pricing, which is one of the most confusing I’ve encountered in recent times.

Again, this new look feels gratuitous and favouring eye candy over actual functionality. It feels like a change for change’s sake, not a change that brings improvements. As a recurring Pro (= paying) member since 2005, I’m really dissatisfied with the imposed changes (knowing Flickr’s attitude in similar past circumstances, in fact, I don’t expect they’re willing to reconsider and revert to the old layout, no matter how many users they manage to annoy) and when my Pro account expires next August, I’m not sure I’ll renew it. Ironically, creating a photoblog in Tumblr now looks like a cleaner, cooler option.

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