Wednesday 19 August 2015

How to improve mobile user experience to simplify creating: the example of iOS Photos

As part of the exploration that Marek Pawlowski and I have been conducting around the user experience at the intersection between consumption and creation, we looked at how various services handled the transition. This is part of a series of articles that we are publishing here and at

The iOS Photos app now delivers a more fluid UX for photo editing. The editing functionality in the app itself is quite powerful and will fully meet most users' requirements. For those, like me at times, who want more tools or are used to tools available in desktop software, iOS now enables easy access to the editing functionality of third party apps. For example, I use ProCam. What is particularly striking here is that the app functionality appears to load directly in the Photos app.

1. Tapping on a photo within the Photos app brings up the top and bottom frame elements, which show where the picture was taken and options for returning to an album, editing, sharing (actually quite a bit more than that), marking as favourite or deleting.

2. Tapping on Edit loads the editing interface. In the bottom left is an icon, a circle with an ellipsis within it.

3. Tapping on the icon brings up a menu of apps that have access to the Photos app for editing. Tapping More will reveal further app options that can be switched on to appear in the menu. I have other photo-editing apps, like Lenca and Hipstamatic, but they don't have access to the Photos app.

4. I then simply tap on the ProCam icon and the ProCam editing interface loads immediately - no switching between apps. There is some loss of functionality. Within the ProCam app there are various options for cropping, realigning and altering perspective, which don't load in the Photos app.

Video editing works in a similar way. Since there is no video editing functionality in iOS, one step is removed. Instead of Edit on the first screen, there is the circle icon, which on tapping shows third party video editors. For me, that means 8mm.

There are some slight differences to how iOS handles photos and videos that are edited within Photos as opposed to being accessed through third party apps. For one, the editing interface is streamlined, without some of the app designs. Also, the edited image is then stored 'on top of' the original rather than as a separate entity. With regards to the latter, there is some benefit to this approach, in that it is possible to re-edit the picture or to revert to the original, taking up less 'space' in the app. However, it is not possible to keep the edited version and to make a new version from the original. Ideally, edits versions could be kept in a set, as is possible in desktop software.

 The trout was delicious.

We'd very much welcome any comments or thoughts around this exploration.