Photo book UX pains

by Alistair Gray on 23 March 2010

I recently decided to get a photo book for a Christmas present. I’d seen all the adverts, and I thought I’d give it a go. I never imagined what an ordeal it would be. Two sites and several frustrating hours later I was the proud owner of a personalised photo book. Would I do another? Probably not – certainly not without a massive change in their user interface.

Issue number 1 – Poor multiple image upload controls

I can’t lie. The first website was poor. They had me hooked by offering 50% off my first order, but a poor user experience lost my custom.

My first task was to upload my photos. The site offered two options – upload directly online or through some download-able software. I didn’t want to install more software onto my computer for a possibly-one-off-purchase, so I tried the online system.

After several attempts I realised the online system only allowed you to upload one image at a time. Selecting several images made the site hang – there was no feedback to say this couldn’t be handled. In fact, it even looked as through the site was uploading the images when it was actually frozen.

When I eventually realised what was happening I decided to try downloading the software – I needed to upload about 80 images onto the site and it would have taken too long to upload them all one at a time. This is where I encountered issue number 2.

Issue number 2 – PC specific software

The software on offer was for PCs only. I’m a Mac user. After initially getting annoyed, I saw a (very small) link to Mac compatible software.

Success! I downloaded the software, uploaded the images and was being shown the different products I could personalise. The only issue was that I had uploaded to the US site. There was no software that allowed a Mac user to upload their images onto the UK site.

I know as a Mac user I’m a member of the minority, but as of Feb 2010 Mac users compromised of 7.1% of the total browsing population – more than 1 in 20. That’s a large segment to ignore (especially as Mac users are traditionally seen as more money-ed then their PC counterparts).

Issue number 3 – Poor interface on software

I decided to try another site. It all started well – I was able to download software onto my Mac that allowed me to upload and personalise my photo book.

It still wasn’t plain sailing. The software itself left a lot to be desired, with an interface that relied heavily on obscure icons. This software creates a very specialist item, one that may not be used very regularly. This means the majority of users will be new, or will have forgotten what they did last time. The software must be very easy and intuitive to use, to allow users to pick to and use the software with no training, and little to no learning curve. The software just didn’t allow this.

The interface was so poor I was very close to giving up. But after investing so much time I was committed to getting it done… many others wouldn’t have been.

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