A fresh take on photo management.
The brief was to redesign the photo management application on an iPhone. Photo management on a mobile device has always been cumbersome. There are too many photos and finding a specific photo is never easy.
A lot of people have already tried to solve this problem. Apps like Flavyr were already doing a good job of automatically grouping photos into events, making it easy for the users. But, when I installed the app on a couple of test devices, the result wasn’t great. Sure, it looks perfect on their website. But, it didn’t work with real life galleries.
We went to a bunch of smartphone users to observe and understand how each of them managed photos on their phones. Each one had their own way, but sure there were some patterns:
The inference was that users didn’t really manage or organize photos on their mobile device because it was too tedious a task. This explains the popularity of simple apps like Flayvr.
After sketching and fiddling with a few different ideas came the eureka moment. What if I could provide users the right way to find the right photos at the right time. There would be no need for any albums. Just a clever little search/filter interface. This is what it looked like:
Then I made a rough prototype of the app and went back to the users to test the UX.
Once I validated the interface, I went ahead and made the screens. It had a nice dropdown on the top bar, from where you could look for stuff like “Show me photos of Sachin Tendulkar from Mumbai between the dates Nov 14 & Nov 18”.
After it shows the results, you can even create a smart album so that you can get back to the query any time.
Sounded good enough. Except it was not.
Though I was done with the then classroom project, I was not happy with result. It somehow didn’t feel right. Whenever I started simulating the app in real-life, I started doubting the idea. Was this the right solution? Does this solve the real problem?
So, I went back and revisited the problem. Only, this time I went deeper than user research and competitive analysis. Before the digital cameras came into being, photo management was not a problem. But, now it is. Why? Isn’t “digital” supposed to make things simple for people?
After a bit of thought, it began to show. It’s not “photo management” any more. It’s “information management”. It was more of organizing the information captured by your phone camera. Analog cameras were used only for capturing memories. That’s why physical albums are still so beautiful to look at. But today, phone cameras are being used for quick scanning, photo reminders, taking notes etc.
To validate this hypothesis, I went to the users again. Instead of asking questions or asking them to perform any task, I just took their permission to look into their gallery. There lied my confirmation. Most of the photos in the galleries were not “photos”. They were pieces of information captured by their camera.
Now it became clear. The solution was to separate the photos which mattered from those which didn’t. I made a list of different types of photos in a typical mobile gallery:
The photos which mattered were memories. The other photos - I called them fugitives - were fleeting, transient, short-lived, impermanent. There were photos which if deleted after a few days would matter much.
In my app concept called Ninive, the separation of memories and fugitives happens in the camera stage itself.
Fugitives and Documents will be tagged accordingly as soon as the photo is taken. Any photo with a “fugitive” tag would be deleted after a set number of days.
You could also create custom camera modes, if required, for better organization of your photos.
Once all the noise is filtered out, all that’s left are beautiful memories.
Photos are also organized according to the people you shared them with and the application you shared them through. This makes it easy to find that specific photo your buddy sent you on Whatsapp a couple of days ago.