Digital Life

Improving photographers’ communication with clients

Teammates

Jeremy Lu, Bea Egner

Time frame

Three week-long sprints

Tools

Sketch, InVision

Role

UX design

Key deliverables

Annotated wireframes, clickable prototype, site map, user flows, user research reports

Challenge

Digital Life is a digital asset management (DAM) and photo delivery tool commercial photographers can use to collaborate with their clients. Frustrated by the scattered communication between photographers and their clients, the Digital Life team created a platform for these two parties to communicate back and forth about photo edits. Digital Life’s beta product offers features in three key areas:

Digital Life Delivery Suite

This is Digital Life’s solution to address communication problems.

Storage

Digital Life organizes assets with folders and tags.

Project Management

Digital Life includes tools to delegate and manage tasks.

Our clients looked to us to fix usability issues and create a pleasant user experience for Digital Life.

Research

Understanding the domain

I explored how the market addresses the platform’s three key features: digital asset delivery, storage, and project management, and was surprised to find that over 100 DAM platforms already exist. However, they’re primary focused on storage, not collaboration.

“There’s no central place for collaboration between photographers and clients.” — Dennis

Understanding the users

We turned to user research to determine whether this opportunity addressed a real problem for photographers and their clients. We collected the following insights:

Nobody has an issue with storage.

“I can’t see myself using anything but Google Drive for a very long time.” — Megan

Timeliness and communication trump skill and creativity.

“Even if my images are not perfect, if I’m timely, I’ll be chosen over the perfect image.” — Kelly

Scattered communication is frustrating.

“I get contacted through too many channels. I prefer email because I like to have proof of what we said.” — Kelly

Email is the primary form of communication, but it can get overwhelming.

“Even if my images are not perfect, if I’m timely, I’ll be chosen over the“It takes anywhere from one to a thousand emails to get that selection down.” — Geoff

Understanding the competitors

I took a look at photographers’ current delivery tools and discovered two groups of competitors: popular photo galleries (SmugMug and Zenfolio) and storage-based DAM systems (Flight, Google Drive, and Dropbox).

Photo galleries

Photo galleries are visual and easy to use, but they lack active collaborative features.

Storage systems

These platforms also make it easy to collaborate with others, but their unfriendly interface runs the risk of alienating users.

Pics.io

Pics.io is clean and visual, but it lacks a client delivery feature.

These competitors are great DAM systems with organizational and delivery tools. However, none of the competitors addressed a primary concern of photographers—a simple way to communicate selections and edits.

Digital Life’s opportunity in this saturated market was to help people communicate photo selections and edits.

Problem

We focused on alleviating the frustrations around communication in the users’ process, especially during selections and edits. This led to our problem statement:

Without a streamlined method to communicate selections and edits, photographers and clients are frustrated by a slower and fragmented collaborative process.

Ideation

Putting ideas to paper

We conducted a groupthink session to outline the overarching photo delivery process. We identified opportunities to improve communication between the photographer and client.

As we outlined the process, we started to standardize a process that’s different for every photographer.

From this exercise, we created and tested paper prototypes. We wanted to better understand users’ process, so we used these prototypes to get them to walk us through it.

Testing our concepts

Each of our four concepts addressed the problem in a different way. Click through the tabs below to read more details about each one.

I created this concept to simplify the collaboration. Users can see which photos are relevant to a comment by clicking on that comment.

Our users liked being able to see all comments in one place, but photographers didn’t want to lose control if their clients could make unlimited comments.

This concept standardizes the delivery process by keeping both parties on the same visual page.

Users liked that it stayed at a high level and showed what happened at each step. However, they also noted the process isn’t always as simple as four phases—there is a back and forth that isn't captured by the timeline.

We incorporated hearts and checks so photographers can mark their preferences and recommendations.

We found photographers didn’t need to communicate their own selections on this platform. They filter out bad photos on their own photography software, and they use star ratings instead of hearts and checks.

Users can pin photos to boards. We used this concept to discover more details about the delivery process.

Our users understood the idea because it reflects their current workflow. However, the layout didn’t provide a clear direction, so users didn’t know what to do.

Through testing, we learned photographers needed control and clients needed transparency in their communication.

Iteration

With these insights, we edited our task flow to clarify our understanding of the delivery process. We decided to focus on the timeline feature to provide the most value to our clients in our limited time frame.

Key client screens

ACTION Dropdown

Users click this menu to interact with the images on the platform. We wanted to create a learnable patterns and reduce the number of buttons so it’s less overwhelming for users.

Update Button

To notify users without being overwhelming them, I incorporated an activity summary. The platform generates a report when users click this button or after a time of inactivity.

Tile-based Layout

We incorporated this layout to combine the two concepts that tested well—the timeline and global comments. We wanted our users to digest information quickly.

Hotspots

The comment box appears right next to the hotspot. This makes it easier for the user to look at the photo and the comment together.

Key photographer screens

Reply to a comment

I imitated Google Docs’ design by grouping comments and adding a “Reply” button. This helps users manage a large number of comments.

Versions

Our users expressed the need for versioning, so we kept old versions visible.

Star ratings

I used star ratings to show the platform pulls metadata from photography software.

Rounds of edits

We gave photographers the ability to select the number of rounds of edits to stay in control throughout the process.

I was excited that users responded well to the features we added. Photographers liked the ability to set the rounds of edits while still engaging their clients. By making the timeline feature fit their workflow, we gave photographers the element of control over a frustrating process.

“I like that it makes the photographer feel in control. It really empowers them and adds a layer of professionalism.” — Greg

In three weeks, we helped streamline communication for photographers and their clients, getting Digital Life one step closer to becoming the industry standard for photo delivery.

Next steps

Because our time frame was so short, there were many opportunities we didn’t explore. We recommended the following to our clients:

Create an onboarding experience

This experience would help photographers establish communication early and keep a paper trail.

Iterate on the timeline

Add microinteractions to help users understand how assets move along the timeline and design for multiple user types.

Test with more agency users

This platform benefits agency users because they juggle communication between clients and photographers.

By addressing these considerations, Digital Life will improve their platform’s understandability. More users will find this tool helpful, especially once agencies incorporate it into their workflow.

Personal takeaways

Through this project, I learned to look for the common denominator among users. We standardized a process that’s different for every photographer, and it was rewarding to create helpful concepts.

Working on Digital Life required significant attention to detail, and I often made tough decisions to make progress in our limited time frame. I also appreciated the opportunity to get direct developer feedback, which helped me design with technical constraints in mind.

I learned to create useful designs in an unfamiliar domain and grew confident in my ability to speak about my decisions to our clients.

If you have an exciting opportunity for creative problem-solving, let’s connect! In the meantime, check out my résumé or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Contact

johnchangdesign@gmail.com