Sunday, January 28th, 2007

Zooomr Popup Icons

Category: UI, Usability

<p>Podtech’s LunchMeet vidcast has done an interview with Kris Tate and Thomas Hawk of Flickr rival Zooomr. Zooomr has a lot of nice features, but one thing that stood out in the demo was the use of popup icons that appear when you hover over the photo. As you hover, they show up in the corner, and allow you to do things like open the photo up as a lightbox or toggle its “Fave” status (i.e. declare it as one your favorite pics).

The neat thing about this popup mechanism is that it’s pretty consistent across the site…whether you’re looking at thumbnails or a detailed view of the pic, you get that consistent set of icons. This means you can mark a pic as your favorite without having to open it up first. In the ongoing effort to build a rich collection of tags, it’s also conceivable that users could tag the photo with a similar popup mechanism.

From an eye candy perspective, the Ajax-powered (or DHTML if you like) portal feature is pretty sweet too. Like Flickr’s popup notes, the pic shows a box outline. With portals though, what you see when you hover over it is a new inset photo and you can actually scroll around the second photo while looking at the portal photo. And of course, clicking on the inset photo opens it up. Hard to explain, but easy to understand if you try it out.

Watch Lunchmeet’s Eddy and Irene talk to Zooomr’s Kris (founder/CTO) and Thomas (CEO) …

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Very eye catching indeed … and that’s the whole problem of doing stuff like this. It’s eye-candy, or webworld bling, if you like. From a usability / accessibility / whateverbility perspective, these kinds of “controls” give the user very few clues to what’s going on. You’d have to accidentally hover the picture, and after that, you have to figure out what the icons / pictrograms actually mean.

Best bit is … I am implementing popup icon-based controls on a site for a client right now … and the client just won’t take my advice of at least supplementing them with text.

Comment by Morgan Roderick — January 29, 2007

Hey, thanks for linking my photo :)
I’ll never have guessed that it could be an example for anything.

Comment by dclagoa — January 29, 2007

Morgan, maybe it’s a matter of taste, but especially for these miniature icons, I prefer suppressing any text until the hover happens. If you open up the image, you’ll have more explicit controls as well, but for these redundant controls, is there any harm in relying on users to stumble upon them? Icons can be harder to understand initially, but they’re less obtrusive. Also, more experienced users recognise icons faster than text.

dclagoa, I think you just highlighted another popular zoomr feature – trackbacks!!!

Comment by Michael Mahemoff — January 29, 2007

Michael, I agree … for more experienced users, most of the icons should be quite obvious, and a nice little addition. Those buttons are not essential to get real use from Zoomr. On the site I am developing for a client, they insist on this type of icons, even though it’s the users primary means of interaction with the data. Not cool.

I guess I’ve just gotten a bit allergic to them, especially when people actually hide the _primary_ controls from the user, when they should make them 200px tall and blinking red! (joke).

Comment by Morgan Roderick — January 29, 2007

Absolutely, trackbacks work like a charm. It comes handy when you stumble upon 500+ views on one of your photos…. :D I’m a zooomr user since last November or so, and i must say i’m quite impressed with all the features, especially with the geotaging/lightmap. And they are constantly adding new ones. I truly recommend trying zoomr, it’s free after all…

Comment by dclagoa — January 29, 2007

Zooomr who?

Comment by JD — January 29, 2007

The icons are useful, but I can see them being difficult to target (with a mouse click) for some folks given the size (16×16 pixels or less?)

They have strictly informational value (public/private status, popularity/rating for example) and the interaction adds to this, but I wouldn’t want it to be the only way to get to that information or modify attributes as I think some people might miss it entirely.

Comment by Scott Schiller — January 29, 2007

To everyone that is lamenting the lack of text next to icons…have you ever heard of a tooltip? If that’s not enough, add a help/tutorial page somewhere to explain the features.

Comment by Andy Kant — January 29, 2007

I’m from zooomr’s official blog and just found my photos here that tag “evening”.
I say “thank you” for choosing my photos up on zooomr screenshot ,although it happened accidentally:)
Anyway, interesting talks here for hoover-over icons.
I agree with Andy for adding displaying short sentences automatically for tips, say, like clips on the top of “Gmail” and “tutorials/learn more” on the bottom of “Gmail”.

Comment by yanz — January 30, 2007

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