Redesign of the Album Creation Process in Google Photo

Introduction

Lukas Eiermann
Jun 13, 2016 · Unlisted

For this project I wanted to work on one of my favorite applications: Google Photo. I became a big fan of Google products when I started using Gmail for the first time more then 10 years ago. I admire their focus on the core functionality of the product and the simplicity of their design that is always focused on the user.

I had my latest Google Aha moment when I started using Google Photo. Google Photo is a free online application that allows users to store all of their photos for free and unlimited in the cloud. Searching and finding pictures is super easy and incredibly powerful. Google Photo can be accessed through the browser or through a mobile app and both of them contain all of the functionalities and features.

The following video gives a good overview of the capabilities of Google Photo.

Problem Definition

I have been using Google Photos almost every day during the last year but I realized that I was never truly satisfied with the way Google lets you creates albums. Google Photos doesn’t allow you to have folders or anything like that so albums are the only way to “group” pictures. I mostly use shared albums which allow users to create a collection of pictures and then share it with others so that they can either add their own pictures or download the whole album. Unfortunately this process is not as smooth as I would like it to be and so I set myself the following design question:

How can we improve the mobile album creation process on Google Photos?

Research

To get a better understanding of the problem space I analyzed the current workflow (task flow analysis), looked at existing photo sharing solutions like Flickr/iCloud (competitive analysis) as well as interviewed and observed five current Google Photo users (qualitative user interviews).

Current flow of creating an album

This flow diagram shows the three current possibilities to create an album with Google Photo.

Main problems

Overall Google Photo is amazing at getting the pictures into the system. Searching & viewing them is also extremely intuitive in the mobile version. Picking the right images to share however is a little bit more difficult. Through the research I was able to identify the following four main problems:

Secondary problems

These are additional problems that I discovered during the research but that won’t be solved as part of this project.

Ideation

Google Photo allows users to search for pictures based on four questions:

Additionally all images are always presented through a timeline view which adds the date as an additional dimension.

This makes Google Photo great when you search for a particular picture or a series of pictures, but when you create an album these methods are not satisfactory. Rather then searching & finding the goal is to filter for a specific subset and then select a group of images which you would like to add to the album.

Early sketches

Based on Google’s Material Design principles I focused on addressing the problems without complicating or cluttering the UI.

Material Design also is very restrictive when it comes to the Search Pattern. I wasn’t able to just change the search pattern (by simply adding dropdown filter menus) because it would break the existing conventions that we see across all Google apps.

Implementation

Based on the sketches I made a rough paper prototype and then tested my ideas with three users. Afterwards I created the User Interface with Sketch and made an interactive Prototype with proto.io.

Design Solution for Problem 1: Uncertainty about how albums are created.
Design Solution for Problem 2: Filter pictures to correct subset.
Design Solution for Problem 3: Add filter options during the album creation process
Design Solution for Problem 4:
Select huge amount of pictures.

Evaluation

The interactive prototype can be found here:

Scenario:

You just came back from a two day biking vacation on Bainbridge Island. A couple of weeks before that you took some pictures of the UW campus and in March you went on a snow shoe hike with some friends.

Analysis and Reflection

I tested the interactive prototype with 3 participants and got very positive feedback. I will continue to work on this and add more functionality and more animations. I am planning to actually rebuild the prototype in Framer.JS so I can make it even more interactive.

It was actually super fun to work on all the small interactions, menus, details and the IA! This way you don’t have to start from scratch but take something that is already very good and try to make it better by changing small details.

It was a lot more challenging to find good solutions because there are a quite some restrictions through the Google design guidelines and also through the way the app works. A lot of really smart people already thought about these problems and came up with good solutions and so it was fun to see if I could find an even better ways to make the user experience more smooth and enjoyable.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store