File Under: Multimedia, Web Apps

New Flickr Is Bigger, Wider and Uncut

The new Flickr photo page

The grandfather of online photo-sharing sites is rolling out a revamped design. Photo pages on Flickr have been redone to feature larger images, maps, and a much cleaner, more intuitive interface.

For now, the new look is opt-in, but Flickr plans to make the new page design the default some time next month. To see the new photo page in action, log in to your Flickr account and visit any photo page. You’ll see an option to test the new look. You can also use links provided by Flickr to switch between the two experiences.

Flickr's old look: Click for larger.

It’s been a long time since Flickr did anything major to its main photo pages. Flickr started with a limited set of features and has been bolting new features onto the old design ever since. The result has been a slightly cluttered collection of buttons, tools and bits of data that can distract from the main point of the site — your photos.

The new look changes that, streamlining the navigation and tools while “embiggening” your photos (as Flickr refers to it).

The first thing you’ll notice is that the primary image is much larger. The long edge of your image is now 640 pixels across, a 30 percent increase. If that’s not big enough for you, just hover your mouse over any image and you’ll notice the icon changes to a magnifying glass. Click the image (or the new button between the Newer and Older buttons) and you’ll enter what Flickr calls the Lightbox view.

Similar to popular JavaScript slideshow tools, Flickr’s Lightbox view enlarges the image and overlays your screen with a slightly transparent black background. The nice thing about the new Lightbox view is that you can browse through photos without closing it, as well as leave comments and favorite photos.

Perhaps the single most-useful enhancement to casual viewing found in Flickr’s redesign is the addition of new keyboard shortcuts — yes, left and right arrow will now flip through photos just the way you’d expect. The keyboard navigation works in Lightbox mode as well.

The new look consolidates all the tools previously scattered around the page — adding notes, viewing EXIF data, editing images and a dozen more — into a single Actions dropdown menu. The result is a far less-cluttered page that still offers easy access to anything you’d like to do with your photos.

The new Flickr sidebar shows a map and EXIF data.

The sidebar has been similarly cleaned up and widened. The thumbnail filmstrip preview is now five images wide, allowing for faster browsing through photostreams, groups or pools.

The filmstrip has dropped in priority though, moving down below the new top billing — the who, what, where and when of your images.

Assuming you uploaded your images with EXIF tags and geodata, the top portion of the sidebar will now tell viewers where the image was taken, the camera and lens used, and the date the photo was taken.

Just below that is a very slick map that shows a country-level view of where the photo was taken. Hover your mouse over the map, and it will automatically zoom in to a city-level view. Hover the mouse over the actual map pin, and the map will zoom in again.

If you want an even more detailed look, just click the map, and it will bring up a larger map that overlays the current page and allows you to zoom and pan around the area. It would be nice if the overlay showed nearby photos as well, but it doesn’t, though there is a link that will take you to the Nearby map page.

Beneath the map you’ll find a quick overview of your image — how many times it has been viewed, the number of comments and how many people call it a favorite.

The reorganized thumbnail preview area is now context-sensitive. For example, if you land on a photo page while browsing a user’s photostream, then the photostream thumbnails are shown. If the photo is part of any sets, groups or pools, clicking on those will bring up a filmstrip of the next photo in the group. However, if you land on a photo page while browsing through a group, the group’s thumbnail filmstrip will be shown by default. It’s a subtle change, but it makes browsing images much more intuitive.

Flickr “favorites” have always been a sort of quick-comment feature, and Flickr is embracing that use even more by moving Favorites inline with comments. Comments have also been revamped, so that posting a comment no longer requires a page refresh. (That it previously did gives you some idea of just how long Flickr has been around.)

While Flickr’s redesigned photo page is a vast improvement, it’s not without a few quirks. For example, some of the links on the photo page bring up inline overlays — like Lightbox view and the map — while the rest do not. In testing the site yesterday I found myself sometimes hesitating, trying to decide if I was about the leave the photo page or if an overlay would appear. The varying behavior might make the new page a tad confusing for those not familiar with Flickr, because you never know exactly what’s going to happen when you click a link.

For those using Flickr every day, such quirks will quickly fade and there’s no doubt that the redesign is a vast improvement. Flickr also claims that page load times are faster, though we didn’t notice a huge difference while previewing the test site. Still, loading a larger photo without slowing down the page will likely be good enough for most users.

Flickr’s official blog post has more details if you’re curious.

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