Broken Experiences, Vol. 1: Less Than Picture Perfect — A Flickr UX Review

Flickr is one of the largest photo sharing sites, but it hasn’t been significantly updated in years. While it is a great value for storing photos ($25/year for unlimited storage) the user experience of browsing, sorting, searching and viewing photos has lagged drastically behind other offerings.


When a user who is not logged into Flickr loads the site for the first time, the initial page hardly leaves an impression. There are no community photos displayed other than a few tiny thumbnails at the bottom of the screen, and more importantly, there is no call to action to actually view and explore photos.

flikr old homepage

Compare this to 500px, which leads with one immersive photo filling the browser, or imgur with its scrolling feed of images.

500px screenshot

tumbler screenshot

Then there’s Tumblr, which uses a layout that alternates large and small images to draw users in, along with easy-to-find tags beneath each image.


And that’s just the first Flickr page. Rather than building a photo community by encouraging visitors to explore content on the site, Flickr instead spends most of its efforts trying to convert visitors into paying members. While there are valid business reasons to do this, it diminishes the value of the community. Give me easy access to exploring photos and photographers on Flickr, and I’ll more than likely want to become a member.

However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. One way Flickr has responded to lack of user engagement is through a feature called “Explore”. It provides small thumbnails of photos to pique users’ interests.

While this view is a step in the right direction, it still runs into issues. First, it’s not on the homepage. Something like this should be the core of home—not living in a different section. Second, clicking on any photo takes you to the individual photo’s page. There is no intermediate lightbox or way to view the image larger without leaving the Explore page.

flickr old explore screenshot

When you land on an individual photo page, often times, the photo itself is eclipsed by other elements on the page, mainly metadata and comments. This photo was featured on the Explore section of the site, and right in the comments the photographer had to mention how to view the photograph in the right way.

flikr old photo page

Unlike Flickr, see how the showcase site Jux makes the photograph the hero instead? They’re really living up to their motto, ”Your life should fill the screen!” No question, Flickr needs to let the photos do more talking.

Jux screenshot

After your eyes have done all they can on the individual photo page, where do you go from here? Well, let’s take a look at the action bar that displays an odd collection of items. The first option is to favorite a photo, pretty straightforward. Can’t say the same about the second option. What does “Actions” mean?

flickr old actions screenshot

Clicking it reveals a menu with three items. The top item, “View all sizes” is unclear because if you look to the right side of the bar, next to “Newer” and “Older” items, you’ll find a magnifying glass. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the “View all sizes” control to be near the icon that is meant to display the image at a larger size?

The “Share” button next to “Actions” is equally confusing. Immediately beside the button are icons for email, Facebook and Twitter. Are users supposed to click “Share” or are they supposed to click the Facebook/Twitter icons? Turns out, you are supposed to click the Facebook icon, and not the “Share” link if you want to share it on Facebook. Clicking “Share” just displays the URL to the photo.

flickr old share link

Sadly, the interface doesn’t even help by automatically selecting the URL for the user, defaulting to the short URL, or providing a Copy URL button. For example, imgur provides a copy button next to each URL which, when clicked, will automatically copy the URL for easy sharing on the web.

imgur direct link ux

Next: We take a closer look at Flickr search.

Stumbled upon a broken experience in your everyday life? This series is a collection of digital interfaces that we wish were done differently. Join us as we break apart (and sometimes put back together) the things we love and loathe.

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