Flickr gets a new interface
UPDATE: If you're looking for the February 2012 Flickr update, it's here. Oh, I do like nice surprises! Last night I discovered a preview link on my Flickr page, which takes users to what will ultimately become the new Flickr interface.
The facelift was long overdue. I can't remember any substantial changes to the interface over the last few years, but the latest overhaul is really good - and, more importantly - useful.
The first thing you notice is that the images in your photostream are bigger (the default size is now 650px). And that's a good thing. Services like boston.com's The Big Picture or Pictory prove that large images work better.
Depending on your layout, if you choose to display collections next to your photostream, you can now see usage stats for them and edit the mosaic for each of them from your photostream page.
But the biggest changes are visible when you go to an individual photo page.
Those of you who often post images which require black background will be pleased to know that the third-party "view on black" workaround has been replaced by a permanent 'zoom' feature. It allows users to see a bigger version of the currently viewed image in a 'lightbox' on black bacground with hardly any distractions on the page. Neat.
What's more, it comes with a keyboard shortcut too - just press 'f' to toggle between regular and lightbox views. You can now also use keyboard shortcuts to scroll through images while in the lightbox mode.
The same shortcuts can now be used to browse through the photostream, collections and sets. Alternatively, use the newly added 'newer/older' arrows above the image. I'm also glad that the photostream thumbnails have been revamped - thanks to a wider page you can now see five instead of the uselessly minimalistic two thumbnails before.
The whole page looks and feels lighter now. All the various functions - like tagging, adding notes, adding to or removing from sets, editing, choosing sizes, etc. - have now been grouped under one drop-down menu called 'Actions', just above the image. Right next to it a new 'Sharing' menu appeared, making it easier to share Flickr images elsewhere. The sharing functionality hasn't changed though. Twitter and Facebook integration would have been a nice addition to the new page.
But what has changed is how you add images to groups. Before it was one group at a time. And if your list of groups was long, the whole process was really time-consuming and painful. Now it's just a question of ticking all the right boxes at once and your picture is automatically added to all yourchosen groups. It's a bit weird that Flickr hasn't improved this bit of functionality earlier - a much better solution was already available to Lightroom users. But thankfully Flickr has caught up eventually.
The right-hand column has changed dramatically too. The old version looked like this:
The new, wider page, has space for a short description of when the photo was taken and (if available) what camera was used. There's also a new, permanent map for geo-tagging, plus the revamped thumbnails I mentioned above. If your image has been added to a group, set or collection, you can now preview thumbnails for the group, set or collection on the image page.
When you compare the two screengrabs, you'll also notice that the commenters' thumbnails are much smaller, therefore fewer things in the main column compete with the main image for attention.
Overall, it's not a drastic overhaul, but it's also much more than just 'cosmetic changes'. The whole experience is now much smoother and user-friendly. The pages are more logical and lighter, the most important functionality is grouped together and is easily accessible.
If only they removed the ability to add ginormous badges to comments.