Flickr web page ReDesign is a disaster for contextual image creators and archival users

Flickr web page ReDesign is a disaster for contextual image creators and archival users

There are two levels of critique on Flickr ReDesign:
1) the design itself;
2) the way the redesign has been introduced.

1) the redesign is made in disrespect of the wide variety of uses and users that have come over the years to choose Flickr, it’s target seems to be just one section of users, that of the non-contextualised digital snap-shot photographers.

The importance of the old contextualised picture interface consisting of (reduced size) images and their main headline and further descriptions in one view, has not been recognised as an important feature of Flickr. Those who have formulated the Flickr redesign criteria have chosen to disregard many of their users/paying pro- clients who use Flickr for publicly sharing archival and other historical material with a wider audience than regular visitors to their own web-sites. There are many major collections – both from private persons and institutions – on-line on Flickr that have now literally been ‘blacked out’ by the new interface. This new lay-out does not display anymore the needed short contextual by line with each picture.

NO knowledge of screen-perception-standards for multiple images has been available within the Flick redesign team. The only criteria must have been ‘being competitive by being trendy’. A shake up to get rid of the before mentioned group of contextual image creators and collectors and to serve and attract a more trendy audience. Thus the idea of maximising image previews on a black background must have come up – not only for what is supposed to be a visual index, but also when moving from an index image to a full or bigger size image. Picture size of the visual index maximised without concern of the actual function (giving an overview of several rows of images to be purveyed by the beholders eye as separate items in one screen view).

The idea that an image (just on its own) speaks for itself, or should do so, is even common as untrue. Museums do have paintings and captions, newspapers do have photographs + headers and captions, television news does so also with sub-lines of text and synchronous spoken captions or headers. All this has escaped the Flickr-redesign commissioners and their design team.

The first complaints one did read today frequently by Flickr users, pointed to too narrow margins between the pictures, but that is too simple. A visual index needs separation of elements, of the index objects (thumbnails small or big and textual sub-lines) by having a constant tone dimmed background colour that does not merge in any way with the pictorial content. A very light grey mostly does the job. A black background certainly not, as many pictures do have big black areas that – when appearing at the edges – will blend with the background and thus hampering their observation as separate index objects.

Intermezzo to summarise the Flickr/Yahoo corporate view:

"Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer, maintaining that her ambition was to make Flickr "awesome again," said the new site will showcase "bigger images" and create a user experience that is "more immersive, more expressive."…

Vamping up a social-networking service is the last what was needed. Interface re-design of social media is first of all about ‘what not to do’. Social-media are used by a widely differing audience… and over the years a once designed (and sometimes slightly altered) interface will be inhabitated by users that may find comfort at some point with the lay-out offered and in other cases will adapt their content to the lay-out in several personal ways. Users with hundreds and many with thousands of images have thus created over many years something what the feel belongs to them, in spite of small type corporate agreements nobody but lawyers who are paid for it, do read.

It is NOT the interface, the lay-out that needs to be ‘awsome’ it is the content of the users in ways they have developed within a given structure. Remarks that changes of lay-out in social media always come with complaints, are too general, once a structure is set it means users have learned over time to have some movement of their own within the straightjacket that each lay-out or template is on the internet. "Awesome" internet design can be compared with some modern museum architecture that tries to impress us more with a new packaging than their content can do.

Flickr is social-media, so there must be some sense of democracy in the medium to keep functioning. Now this last important element, has been slammed away by the owners of Flickr. This brings me to point 2) the way the redesign has been introduced.

2) For most users – who do not follow the inner rumblings of the corporate social-media sector – the change in design came as a full surprise. Not only for the non-paying free accounts, also for the pro-users who do have some sort of contract with Flickr for services they pay for.

It has become rare such a thunderclap from a bright sky change of webdesign. Normally there is some sort of announcement. Normally there is a try-out for those who want to accept a suggested new design and others that prefer to stay with the old design. None of this with Flickr. It was like a coup d’├ętat in this part of social-media land. One morning you wake up and you suddenly find out that the front door of your house has been painted with a colour and a design which is not yours, certain rooms are missing and windows you sued to look through do not exist anymore. Worst the whole sky has been painted black!

I did find an image strip with seagulls as the header of my Flickr page yesterday, added on by Flickr. My pages do give political visual comments on the news in the form of what I call ‘news-tableaus. (*) I was shocked. Especially because this was according to some pop-up that appeared something I was surely going to like and greet. A totalitarian way of managing accounts of so many,so many thousands of users the world over.

Need I detail my dismay of finding my series of subject ‘sets’ thrown out of my photostream page. Need I to explain in all detail the wrong doing of automatic cropping to a square format of my crafted emblematic pictures that represent each of these picture-sets?

Last, I did find a Flickr forum with hurah announcements and 7000 or more reactions, both positive and negative, and users starting several new topics on the same subject without anybody attending to give some order to this outrage and praise, like a sudden bank run crowd mixed with people who praise the bank, all shouting their opinions, and the bank employees having no idea what to do with such a mob.

Tjebbe van Tijen

PS who knows what should happen when one clicks the third button from the right below the new photostream header (two rectangles with a righthand pointing small arrow)… I do see nothing else than the hated loading black screen with a red and blue ball bouncing for ten minuets (while I have both a fast computer and connection).


There are several initiatives demanding that (an option) to bring back the old lay-out.. like this group:

Posted by Imaginary Museum Projects: News Tableaus on 2013-05-21 10:20:56


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