Thoughts from Blog-ingham

Facebook: Photos, Tags and Categories – How to Improve the User Experience?

Posted in Current Affairs, facebook, People, Social Networks, Uncategorized, Web 2.0 by adamellis1985 on February 12, 2010

Facebook has been frustrating me recently coming up with rather superficial enhancements to the layout when you log in rather than concentrating of enhancing the core functionality that drew so many users to the platform in the first place. The recent launch of a new layout split into three linear columns of shortcuts on the right hand side, your feed in the middle and suggestions and ad’s on the right, looks nice but it doesn’t make me want to stay with Facebook over another social network. Perhaps the launch of the new layout was to coincide with Googles’ foray in the social networking space with their launch of Buzz this week.

The topic of this blog post is about Facebooks’ core functionality and when I say it frustrates me I am going to talk specifically about its app for photos. Facebook is a great place to store and share photos with your friends who you are connected with. It has a simple interface for uploading albums and a tagging feature to mark your friends are in the photos and then they are alerted that you have uploaded a photo of them. It has been hugely successful having passed 10 billion photos in October 2008

If you’re the number crunching type, here are some other facts and figures from Facebook’s photo vault:

* 2-3 Terabytes of photos are being uploaded to Facebook every day
* They have just over one petabyte of photo storage
* They serve over 15 billion photo images per day
* Photo traffic peaks at over 300,000 images served per second

Source: Stan Schroeder

Photos may be a popular part of the Facebook package but it can still improve. The photos functionality has remained too static and has not progressed to work alongside the sheer volume of photos that some people now have on there. Facebook needs to look to FlickrPhotobucket and Picasa to see how the storage and viewing of photos needs to be made more manageable and accessible.

If I take my Facebook profile as an example of an average twenty-something user; I have 1,330 photos, which I am tagged in on Facebook, 42 albums I have uploaded of approx 50 photos each so roughly 2000 photos on Facebook.

I think Facebook could improve its service in two ways by developing its tagging feature beyond people to categories of the actual photos. Firstly, by allowing users to tag individual photos or whole albums with categories and then browse them and secondly by allowing users who are connected with friends to share tags so they can browse a tagged category of similar photos combined from a number of different connected Facebook users.

Tagging photos and sub-categorising beyond the album structure

As I mentioned the volume of photos on some users’ profile means finding the pictures you want to see can become difficult. I am not proposing this for the Facebook stalkers out there and there are many who would find this service useful. It is quite the opposite. I am proposing it for people who don’t want to flick through hundreds of photos of the same person but want to get to a category where they have a shared interest and/or may appear in some of the photos. There are two features, which cover some of that functionality already. One is the album categorisation where you can upload and label an album with a title and description but albums are too rigid for getting what you want when you are looking for photos. Secondly, Facebook added a very useful, ‘photos and person X and me’ so you can browse them.

But why can’t they extend tagging further to categories? It has worked with tagging individual people in photos so users are happy to manually categorise their photos. For example, I would be interested in tagging some of my photos with #skiing or #football. Then anyone who is interested in where I have been skiing could check those photos out by browsing across different albums through selecting the right tag (as long as I had tagged all the right photos) Secondly, if I play football with someone and they want to check out football photos but nothing else they could work with the #football tag. This would rely on people choosing the right tag. And of course the tagging system for categorising photos would still stick to networks and people who have privilege to see your photos. There is also a second application to the feature of tagging which I think could prove even more useful

Tagging across different connected users’ photos

Once you have the ability to tag individual photos with single or multiple tags building up a catalogue of your photo is categorised not just by an album name, users have the ability to extend that out beyond their own profile. So if a user and a number of friends wanted to use the same tag to share photos which would compile photos from all their albums and make them accessible through a tag then this could be very useful. For example, a number of people like to relive their youth and share photos of when they were at school with their friends. But how they currently do this is not the easiest way. They start by setting up a ‘group’, called ‘Remember the days of School X 1993-1999’ and then they all upload their individual photos for the same topic of when they were at school to the photos section of the group. They could bypass that by having a shared tag of #oldschooldays # school etc and apply it to the whole album they upload to their profile or individual photos. They could then combine their favourite photos of the same topic from as many different Facebook users as necessary to browse them all together. Again privacy settings would prevail.

Open up photos to search

A further piece of functionality this would open up is search. If users embraced the idea of sub categorising their photos beyond static individual albums they could then search to find the photos they want. So a user could go to the photos section of Facebook and select in a tick box or a search box the users they want to search (their 5 best friends for example) or they could search all their 400 (or however many) friends but the results might then be overwhelming. They could then enter in the photo category search box whichever topic they were interested in, be it #nightsout #sport # school # work or #christmas and browse photos in a different more accessible way.

Conclusion

Anyway, just a few thoughts from me as an active Facebook user. I dropped Facebook an email with the suggestion but sure they have already thought of this or someone has!