Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Flickr’s new interface review: Is it time to leave Flickr?

Posted in botch, cloud computing, computers, social media by commorancy on May 21, 2013

New Flickr InterfaceYahoo’s Flickr has just introduced their new ’tile’ interface (not unlike Windows Metro tiles) as the new user interface experience. Unfortunately, it appears that Yahoo introduced this site without any kind of preview, beta test or user feedback. Let’s explore.

Tile User Experience

The tiles interface at first may appear enticing. But, you quickly realize just how busy, cluttered, cumbersome and ugly this new interface is when you actually try to navigate and use it. The interface is very distracting and, again, overly busy. Note, it’s not just the tiles that are the problem. When you click an image from the tile sheet, it takes you to this huge black background with the image on top. Then you have to scroll and scroll to get to the comments.  No, not exactly how I want my images showcased. Anyway, let me start by saying that I’m not a fan of these odd shaped square tile interfaces (that look like a bad copycat of a Mondrian painting). The interface has been common on the Xbox 360 for quite some time and is now standard for Windows Metro interface. While I’ll tolerate it on the Xbox as a UI, it’s not an enticing user experience. It’s frustrating and, more than that, it’s ugly. So, why exactly Yahoo decided on this user interface as their core experience, I am completely at a loss…. unless this is some bid to bring back the Microsoft deal they tossed out several years back. I digress.

Visitor experience

While I’m okay with the tiles being the primary visitor experience, I don’t want this interface as my primary account owner experience. Instead, there should be two separate and distinct interfaces. An experience for visitors and an experience for the account owner.  The tile experience is fine for visitors, but keep in mind that this is a photo and art sharing site.  So, I should be able to display my images in the way I want my users to see them.  If I want them framed in black, let me do that. If I want them framed in white, let me do that. Don’t force me into a one-size-fits-all mold with no customization. That’s where we are right now.

Account owner experience

As a Flickr account owner, I want an experience that helps me manage my images, my sets, my collections and most of all, the comments and statistics about my images. The tile experience gives me none of this. It may seem ‘pretty’ (ahem, pretty ugly), but it’s not at all conducive to managing the images. Yes, I can hear the argument that there is the ‘organizr’ that you can use. Yes, but that’s of limited functionality. I preferred the view where I can see view numbers at a glance, if someone’s favorited a photo, if there are any comments, etc.  I don’t want to have to dig down into each photo to go find this information, I want this part at a glance.  Hence, the need for an account owner interface experience that’s separate from what visitors see.


This is a photo sharing site. These are my photos. Let me design my user interface experience to match the way I want my photos to be viewed. It is a gallery after all. If I were to show my work at a gallery, I would be able to choose the frames, the wall placement, the lighting and all other aspects about how my work is shown. Why not Flickr? This is what Flickr needs to provide. Don’t force us into a one-size-fits-all mold of something that is not only hideous to view, it’s slow to load and impossible to easily navigate.  No, give me a site where I can frame my work on the site. Give me a site where I can design a virtual lighting concept.  Give me a site where I can add virtual frames. Let me customize each and every image’s experience that best shows off my work.

Don’t corner me into a single user experience where I have no control over look and feel. If I don’t like the tile experience, let me choose from other options. This is what Flickr should have been designing.

No Beta Test?

Any site that rolls out a change as substantial as what Flickr has just pushed usually offers a preview window.  A period of time where users can preview the new interface and give feedback. This does two things:

  1. Gives users a way to see what’s coming.
  2. Gives the site owner a way to tweak the experience based on feedback before rolling it out.

Flickr didn’t do this. It is huge mistake to think that users will just silently accept any interface some random designer throws out there. The site is as much the users as it is Yahoo’s. It’s a community effort. Yahoo provides us with the tools to present our photos, we provide the photos to enhance their site. Yahoo doesn’t get this concept. Instead, they have become jaded to this and feel that they can do whatever they want and users will ‘have’ to accept it. This is a grave mistake for any web sharing site, least of all Flickr. Flickr, stop, look and listen. Now is the time.

Photo Sharing Sites

In among Flickr, there are many many photo sharing sites on the Internet. Flickr is not the only one. As content providers, we can simply take our photos and move them elsewhere. Yahoo doesn’t get this concept. They think they have some kind of captive audience. Unfortunately, this thinking is why Yahoo’s stock is now at $28 a share and not $280 a share. We can move our photos to a place where there’s a better experience (i.e., Picasa, DeviantArt, Photobucket, 500px, etc). Yahoo needs to wake up and realize they are not the only photo sharing site on the planet.

Old Site Back?

No, I’m not advocating to move back to the old site. I do want a new user experience with Flickr. Just not this one. I want an experience that works for my needs. I want an interface that let’s me showcase my images in the way I want. I want a virtual gallery that lets me customize how my images are viewed and not by using those hideous and slow tiles.  Why not take a page from the WordPress handbook and support gallery themes. Let me choose a theme (or design my own) that lets me choose how to best represent my imagery. This is the user experience that I want. This is the user experience I want my visitors to have. These are my images, let me show them in their best light.

Suggestions for @Yahoo/@Flickr

Reimagine. Rethink. Redesign. I’m glad to see that Yahoo is trying new things. But, the designers need to be willing to admit when a new idea is a failure and redesign it until it does work. Don’t stop coming up with new ideas. Don’t think that this is the way it is and there is nothing more. If Yahoo stops at this point with the interface as it is now, the site is dead and very likely with it Yahoo. Yahoo is very nearly on its last legs anyway. Making such a huge blunder with such a well respected (albeit antiquated site) could well be the last thing Yahoo ever does.

Marissa, have your engineers take this back to the drawing board and give us a site that we can actually use and that we actually want to use.

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10 Responses

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  1. Albatz Gallery & Blog said, on August 7, 2013 at 10:59 am

    The big change in Flickr means I’m no longer sure of its usefulness as a point of entry into my social media world. The new look makes it easier to view photos BUT almost impossible to see what the photographer has written about their photos, and also any links to their blogs etc. So that even though my number of views has gone up (way up) I suspect that nobody is linking through to my blog.

    I really like your idea of being able to create a gallery for people to show off their work the way they want it to be seen, especially for Pro users. Right now I’m feeling, why the hell should I bother to pay for it?


    • commorancy said, on August 8, 2013 at 1:37 am

      Hi Albatz,

      You write, “Right now I’m feeling, why the hell should I bother to pay for it?”

      I think this may have been Marissa Mayer’s point. Since few people were really paying for Pro, she decided to do away with the payment entirely and just give the service away with a lot more storage. Of course, there’s a cost to everything. The new cost of that freebie is being forced into use a rather horrible interface design to display your work. So, to accept the freebie of Flickr means accepting the incredibly poor interface to show off your work. Personally, Flickr’s poor redesign is to image display as Apple’s horrible iTunes 11 redesign is to music.

      I’m not sure what’s going on in innovation today, but we’re taking some huge leaps backwards in functionality, design and usability. And, it’s not limited to Apple and Yahoo. This also includes Google, Microsoft and Amazon and others. The day Apple started ripping pages from Microsoft’s book of graphic design is the day Apple’s innovation officially died.


  2. John Owles said, on July 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Flickr has made a fatal mistake and it looks like they will pay the price as far as photography goes. At best the site will become repository for “what we did last night” type pics. It is already happening.

    I have moved to Ipernity and a very pleasant experience it is. Many, many serious photographers have moved away from Flickr to Ipernity and the quality of the work there is stunning and the groups are welcoming.

    Move over here to http://www.ipernity.com, you will be pleasantly surprised.


  3. Dave said, on June 28, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Don’t bother waiting. I bailed on Flickr within a week of the redesign and have only looked back once or twice. It was WORK to move my pics over to another site (the actual import was done over a couple days – had just over 2000 pics to deal with). I’m also of the opinion the “Dear Marissa Mayer” website was an elaborate sock puppetry scheme and the only real warning of the upcoming Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.


  4. Tony said, on June 13, 2013 at 11:55 am

    The new interface is terrible. It is incredibly slow, a pain to navigate and just plain ugly. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. I haven’t used flickr much lately, but was starting to regain interest, this may have just driven me away for good.



    • commorancy said, on June 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m personally giving Yahoo 2 months to come up with a solution. If the Yahoo devs are unwilling or unable to provide at least one more alternative interface, after that time I will have to move on and find another image hosting service. If this interface becomes the permanent interface, I will move all of my images to another image hosting service. In fact, I’ll probably begin prepping for that move as it doesn’t appear Yahoo is being at all responsive to the complaints.


  5. Safiyyah said, on May 27, 2013 at 1:13 am

    Are you leaving FLickr, or do you think they’ll listen to how unhappy we are? :(


    • commorancy said, on May 27, 2013 at 1:39 am

      Hi Safiyyah,

      I’ve presently adopted a limited time wait-and-see approach. It’s a hassle to move and set up my entire archive somewhere else. I’d rather stay at Flickr. But, if Yahoo has no intention of listening to the users and this interface stays as it is, I will leave.

      How long will I wait? At most, two months. This is maximum length of time it should take the developers to roll out an update to address the interface in its current state. If after two months nothing has changed, I’ll move my image archive. To where exactly? I’m not sure. I’ll use that two months to do some research to find the best place to host my images.

      As to whether the Flickr developers will make any changes, only time will tell. Oh, I’m sure they’re listening to what we’re saying. Whether or not they care or will make any changes is an entirely different matter and that’s up to the managers at Yahoo. However, bad PR is bad PR. If Marissa is smart, she’ll definitely have the developer team make changes. If she doesn’t, well, she’s not as smart as I thought she was. And if that happens (rather, the interface doesn’t change), I hope the Yahoo board will also see this and locate and hire someone better equipped to run Yahoo. After all, she had to have approved this interface revamp project.


  6. nandonando said, on May 26, 2013 at 1:59 am

    man, flickr blows now, it’s horrible!


  7. Suzanne said, on May 23, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    flickr blew it – beyond belief!


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