3-Dimensional Photo Organization

I have just viewed some photos on Facebook. They were of a friend's trip to Malaysia.

  1. Facebook has a limit of 60 photos per album; meaning you have to split photos up into albums with names like "Malaysia 1", "Malaysia 2" etc if you want to upload more than 60 photos in total.
  2. Each album, as is current practice in web design, is divided into pages with "page next" buttons to get to the next page.
  3. Each page of each album, as was introduced with windowing systems, has a scroll bar (vertical only, unless one makes the window really small)

OK now fundamentally a set of photos from a holiday are one-dimensional. I can think of many ways to lay out photos but I'm sure these three dimensions would not be the dimensions I would choose.

The scroll bar is quite a good device. It was well thought through. It was specifically developed to solve the problem of "you have more data than can fit on the screen". You can move slowly up or down using the arrows at the end which are deliberately easy to understand even for novices unfamiliar with windowing systems. You can see how far down the available data you are. You can drag the bar with your hand/mouse to move either fast or slow in a natural motion.

I have heard that some web novices find "next page" easier to use than using the scroll bar. But this wouldn't be the case if there were no "next page" links. And knowing how to use scroll bars is non-optional, if you want to use any other system other than photo browsing websites. For example when using the compose interface of an email website, there is no "next page" button once you've typed text equal in length to the size of the window the user interface designers assume you are using.

Scroll bars are so much better than "next page" links, and even if they weren't, displaying 1-dimensional data using 1 data navigation tool is better than displaying 1-dimensional data using 3 different navigation tools.

This article is © Adrian Smith.
It was originally published on 3 Sep 2007
More on: FAIL | Requirements & UX | Web