A discussion regarding PhotoPost PRO 8 interfaces
I've been working on PRO 8 features and I'm at a point where it's time to setup a site from which to work to pan out some of the various items I've been working on. But, I find myself at a crossroads with some concepts and am looking for some feedback.
Specifically, around the layout.
Right now we have two formats - forum and gallery:
Forum: - ExtremeFitness Photo Galleries
Gallery: Michael Pierce's Photo Gallery - Main Index
Now, each of these formats has its own benefits - the forum layout on my extremefitness.com website is a great example of a forum layout that blends well with my main forum, but allows me to have galleries sorted by subject. I am the only one who posts to this gallery and, honestly, I can't think of a better format for what I am doing there.
The Gallery layout works great in its own right - collects of photos (again, that I manage), but allows me to display the photos as more of a gallery for my friends and family.
But moving forward, what look does it take on? And to that, can another layout be supported or do I end up doing a redesign that eliminates both the forum and gallery layout in favor of something new? Supporting multiple formats comes at a cost - the templates are harder to follow and the code has a bunch of stuff that isn't always necessary depending on which layout you use.
I've been doing some proof of concepts for possible layouts at Adult Wide Screen Wallpapers (this is a NSFW website!) where the front page can be designated to show just all the recent uploads with deeper links to subcategories using the drop-down menu (similar to the old deviantart.com menu structure) OR, again using deviantart as an example, a menu structured down the left side without any indications of last photo uploads or even number of photos.
Another area you'll see some changes are on the showphoto page where I've changed the filmstrip preview to a scrolling window and removed some options to clean up the page. I'm adding more ajax interaction on here and will be even making the comment viewing paging work via ajax.
But I'm not here to talk about features; I'm more interested in a discussion about the interface itself. The vast majority of people use the forums layout; while we've done allot to add content boxes and give allot of flexibility on these page, but is this the right format going forward? Or is it simply that the gallery layout is the one that needs restructuring (considering is likely so infrequently used?)
I'm interested in hearing your ideas/suggestions regarding that actual layout (again, not a debate about features at this point).
The interface on the adult site is interesting.
I have been reviewing various galleries on social networking sites, with your question in mind.
The first thing that comes to mind when I see your examples is that they all have to much unused space that should be used for images.
Use a navigation tree on the left, and recent images on the right. The navigation tree would cater to those who want a category structuring. Those who do not want this would simply turn off the navigation tree. Consider to use GWT.
The right side of the page would have images only. No text, no categories, only images. Hovering could show title and category. Showing a small round icon in the image, depicting the number of comments would be a nice function I have seen here and there.
What concerns me is "clutter"; effective use of white space to highlight what is most important seems to be the first priority. We current just have too many things on a page and most of what is there gets missed because its all over the place.
Thats why it would be useful to stuff all functionality(search, categories) and navigation together in a logical menu and leave the rest of the page for images. When you allow admins to set the number of images that are displayed, then the clutter depends upon that.
I'm going to assume that most Photopost users run Photopost in a community setting. What's the first thing a user needs to do in order to use your site?
Register! But when a normal internet user looks at Photopost, they are left dumbfounded.
After they register, they want to upload photos.... but the upload link is very small and almost impossible to see. After they upload photos, searching is the most important thing.
The other problem with the interface is the fact that the text is way too small. With high resolution monitors, you can barely read it.
1. Register, join, sign up etc. needs to be big and easy to find. The purpose of the site needs to be clear.
2. The upload photo link needs a big button that's easy to find.
3. The search button should be large and easy to find.
4. The text links need to be at a readable size for modern monitors and older users.
I have same issue with users on my sites. The bar which has the upload link, is really USELESS, especially so when its integrated with vbulletin. The upload link should be in where vB users look the most, navbar and areas around that.
Another useless feature for me is the filmstrip... its there but you can't do much with it. Its not flexible enough.
I would also like AJAX being put to use in more place, more often in PP's next version.
Photobucket has really improved from what they use to be few years ago. Another good interface is webshots, really well done both of them.
The frontpage of PP should be like a CMS, something that gives the user overview of what was recently uploaded and updated as well as comments/categories which are popular.
I would like to see some type of slider being put to use on the frontpage (see here). Take the random/recent and other blocks OUT and replace it with a slider to give the homepage a CMS type of look.
As far as category layout, mainpage should be flexible, like homepage of vBulletin is with mods, etc. so that LONG list of categories could be shown in COLUMNS thus reducing amount of scrolling a user would have to do to get to bottom of the list.
Make the code easier to deal with and understand. I am NOT a programmer but I taught my self how to work with mambo then joomla, then I converted my websites to wordpress and LOVE working with wordpress. I converted my forums from phpbb to vbulletin and love working with their templates and easy to use and understand tags (at least it was easy prior to 4.0 version)... so make the code easy to understand so basic stuff can be done without asking for support.
As far as the general layout is concerned, the MEDIUM PHOTO area needs to MOVE UP, closer to the navbar, just under it. The PP breadcrumb should go where vB's does. If you look at modern template and theme designs, one sidebar (usually 300px) with one main area for content has become a norm... utilize the web2.0 techniques.
Have sidebars but they should be flexible as well and should go on either LEFT or right, depending on the settings.
Allow option to embed galleries (of thumbnails linked back to original gallery/pictures) on remote webpages and websites and not just medium or thumbnail images.
Make SEO more flexible as well, allow the admin to pick how they want their SEF urls formatted.
When on upload page, show the user WHICH category they can upload. See screenshot.
Focusing on the interface and not specific features right now; I do like some of the new photobucket look. I don't really care for their gallery pages (with share links on thumbnails?) and the nav on the right I can't seem to really like. There are some sorting options, but we offer more flexibility on sorting than they do.
Although with PhotoPost we have to keep in mind integration with multiple forum styles and their own header/footer combinations. I don't think adding the PRO menu options into the vB navbar will reduce any confusion - it'll just bury everything and really thats a vB mod handled outside of PRO.
If I was only building for my own website and didn't have to be concerned with how it would look across different platforms it would probably look very different.
Another consideration is that some people use fixed layouts and others fluid. This also limits some design elements.
It's quite the feat to create an unlimited number of style options yet have easily modified or readable code. Unlimited levels of parent/children, huge categories of images (with hundreds or thousands of images), etc.
Dual columns of categories only works with the top level of categories - otherwise its awkward to show relationships to parents. I've always felt deviantart.com did a pretty decent job of displaying its layers of categories, but some of our users have hundreds of parent/children relationships.
I'll explore photobucket more and see what elements would be potentially usable.
I agree that the nav bar for PRO can be confusing to people unsure of where to look for stuff (like uploading). There needs to be a better way to show users what their options are.
Some interesting things here.. the category jump is nice at photobucket,
but I would suggest to take into consideration some techniques used on another gallery site: deviantART: where ART meets application!
The advantage they have, is that they are (in the newest version) very concious about saving ressources.
Example: images and categories on home page are strict minimum
Only that instead of generating a semi-transparent overlay it overlays a real page. whitout using ressources, taking the previous / next links from the images on mainpage etc...
They also have a similar category jump. showing only top level cats on mainpage and subcats only where you are: this also saves a huge amount on ressources.
thats my 2 cents
I'm a fan of the deviant art interface; although a couple things about it stand out to me - the lack of any previews of whats next or back or any breadcrumbs. Are these really things we would want to do away with?
If we did a navigation similar to deviantart then the index and showgallery pages would have navigation on the right side (with no last photo/comments or photo indicators) and would simply expand/contract depending on where they were. This in itself wouldn't be difficult at all.
(all the different sortorders a a real performance hog in vbgallery)
and they do have previous / next links..
as to the comments, its ok if they are under the pic, but I think picture comments are not the same as threads.. in 99% of the cases it only people writing: cool or nice pic.... or keep up posting.. thats all..
so pulling a preview should not be difficult, but IMHO completely useless.
Cutting previous would most certainly cut down on resources significantly, but its also a decent feature. (PRO is supposed to follow sorting, but was missing a couple lines of code.)
Same kind of goes for the breadcrumbs - the processing of the nav tree for some configurations is cumbersome.
I don't have the time right now to read through and give detailed feedback. But I did want to mention that in the next release, I would like to see the templates simplified. Please use WAY less tables in the layout. If possible, use CSS positioning.
I second swanny's suggestion and as I mentioned, templates need to be simple.
I would like to see photopost supporting and using TAG system like all modern galleries, websites and CMSes use today. So, if you take a picture about "aircraft" it should pull all pictures tagged with that keyword (regardless of the category).
I would also like to see enhanced RSS feed support. I know, rss feeds for categories was added, it needs to go step further and have support for feeds based on tags.
The "LATEST" shows last 4 or whatever # of pictures uploaded... there should be an option to change that to last 4 or whatever # of CATEGORIES which were updated so the pictures shown in the "LATEST" area are from different categories and not just one... same goes for the rss feeds, latest galleries updated, not last 50 pictures from ONE category. We had to get that custom coded!
Also, the admin controls when viewing medium image are little out of place. Admin/mod/user controls should be shown around, near the picture for that user.
Improve error notification and detection... for example: If a picture being uploaded is too small, the script should just delete that and continue with the rest of the uploads!!! Right now, this is really broken as PP detects picture size is too small, it stops with a dumb error and no information about which file is causing the error or which file is too small so the user can at least go back and delete/uncheck that in the bulk upload page.
Some design inspirations with jquery/ajax
30 Trendy AJAX, jQuery And Image Galleries You May Like
jQuery Image Galleries & Sliders – Best Of
Users need a ONE-TWO-THREE approach. Big buttons. Register. Upload. Etc.
PhotoPost is too geeky. Most users don't know where to begin with it. Also, they compare it to the other free image hosting galleries available today, and there's no contest. Why should they bother?
Also--and this is VERY IMPORTANT--the new PhotoPost must be made extensible. What I mean by that is that users need a way to upload to a PhotoPost gallery from common image editing applications: lightroom, picasa, etc.
Ideas and thoughts from me
I am with the CMS idea easy control.. contend every where, widgets and advertising, big visual buttons. I actually like the simple new vB4 text buttons and the layout and widget system in vB is nice.
I would like to see
- It should be easy... Your mother should have the feeling of, I can do this!
- send in your photo... user see's how to do this right away!
- social networking... Users want to share, and let others know what they are doing on your site
- participate in our site... some things that makes the user want to take part.. better contests, and more user 2 user options like: internal like buttons for users or reputation system, promote a photo to Pp front page for users (photo of the week or month)
- advertising spaces
- RSS support for feeds based on tags (sounds good)
Integration with vB4... option to pull/share info with vB like Promote photo to CMS front page, Single profile
All these fields with text... Why not use buttons for..
Linked Thumbnail and other text fields (copy to clipboard)
Treat categories like cms pages, You choose what you see in each category..
Like, put more control of blocks into the categories... Like how many random photos are shown in x category and what side pals etc..
Users usually don't want big changes right away, but they want to play .
Administrators want to be able to control everything, always and easily.
Not more for now :)
I'll admit that it's difficult for me to focus on anything but the amount of table code being used in the templates. I'd like to see PP-Pro 8 beta versions without the use of table html at all.
Make it so people can upload pictures from their phones, or Photopost is done.
Actually, for a long time I did offer a plug-in for mobile uploads; the issue was around keeping it updated and Sprint was always changing their emails to try and prevent people from being able to directly access their own images.
If PhotoPost was a single service, it would be easy to put something together - an iPhone app even. But the only method we can use for our customers is email and many people had trouble getting even email access setup properly or scheduling the cron job. Couple that with the requirement that all mobile uploads get processed into a single category (considered just putting them into a person's upload queue).
I'm open to the idea of bringing the mod back (I still use it and the code to support the category is still there), but supporting it can be difficult.
I follow many of my users on facebook and I see they like the mobile option there. This would be very nice to have.
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