Capturing Moments: The UX of taking photos
This project challenged me to create a solution for a common problem: the way photo-taking interrupts our time with friends and family, causes strife between the photographer and those being photographed, and the overall negative experience of being with that friend or family member who insists on taking many, many photos in an effort to get the perfect shot.
The opportunity to create a solution for photo-taking that doesn’t interrupt people’s time together was was twofold: I could simultaneously help obsessive photo-takers get the pictures they crave while also making the experience of being photographed something that was more pleasant and did not disrupt people’s time together.
UX Research & iOS design
Most people have someone in their lives who is what I call an “obsessive photo-taker” — someone who is always shooting with their camera or smart phone, who photographs mundane events and requests posed photos with multiple takes to get the right one. That this is an unpleasant experience (usually for everyone involved, including the photographer) goes without saying.
I set out to better understand why personal photography is such a popular activity, and what’s going on in the minds of those obsessive photo-takers. I also wanted to know what people wanted out of their smart phones in terms of taking photos, and how the current built-in camera app could be improved to meet users’s needs. I would use this research to create a solution for taking pictures in a non-disruptive way as well as facilitating the actions that people want to take with their photos afterwards.
I already knew the mindset of people who are subjected to time with a friend or family member who is an obsessive photo-taker and interrupts the moment to take pictures. I almost never take pictures with people, but will be the first to ask someone who did take pictures to send them to me. I wanted to know — what’s going on in the minds of people who do take a lot of photos? There was only one way to find out: I had to start prioritizing having photos of my friends and family and then take them. A LOT of them.
Once I decided I needed to have a photograph from every class, work shift and coffee date I had with friends, I started to understand the stress and pressure that obsessive photo-takers feel. I knew that I was impeding on other people’s time, and some of my subjects were visibly distressed at my demands to have a photo of them. I also became anxious trying to squeeze in a round of photos while on the clock at my part-time job, knowing that my time to get the perfect shot was limited but still needing multiple attempts to get it right.
Insight: Obsessive photo-takers experience stress and anxiety around photo-taking and getting the perfect shot.
I also realized that even though I was seemingly making unpleasant demands on my friends, they were usually quick to ask to see the photos, resulting in a group huddled around my phone browsing the images. This was followed by requests for me to text the best photo or two to each person for them to have. Texting multiple photos to multiple friends was annoying and took a lot of time. We’d wasted time getting the perfect shot and then wasted time distributing the photos. I had the same thought over and over again: here has to be a better way to do this.
Insight: Everyone wants nice photos, even those who aren’t willing to spend the time to take them themselves.
Survey and Interviews
A survey of men and women from age 17–60+ revealed:
- 95% of people use their phones to take photos
- 20% of respondents take photos daily, while 39% take photos 3–6 days/week and 34% take photos 1–3 times/week.
- 26% of respondents take “lots” or an obsessive amount of photos, while 50% take photos of specific moments and 14% only take photos when they deem something uncommonly special.
This last question showed me that I am not alone in being annoyed when subjected to a drawn-out photo shoot with a friend of family member — 61% reported mild or extreme annoyance.
Insight: Most people don’t find being photographed to be a pleasant experience. (However, remembering my previous insight, even these people will want to have access to the photos later.)
Finally, my survey included questions about what features people would include in their ideal photo-taking app. 76% of respondents reported they would like to be able to take photos in a hands-free way and not interrupt their time with others to take picture. 75% of respondents wanted a way to share photos taken with others that was easier than texting individual photos to each person present.
I interviewed 7 respondents from a range of ages and included both men and women. My interviews revealed three important factors my survey hadn’t uncovered:
- Women tend to take more photos of people while men tend to take more photos of objects.
- Of the non-obsessive photo-taking women I interviewed, nearly all of them reported wanting to take photos with friends or family but forgetting to do so until it was too late.
- Of the obsessive photo-take people I interviewed, all reported a common pain point around organization of their photos. Taking the photos on their phones and then moving them to their computers where they would get sorted and labeled is a lot of work, and these users craved a better way to caption, tag and organize photos right from their phones.
My research revealed that along with hands-free, non-interrupting photography, users would like to see a range of other features in their ideal photo-taking app, including ways to easily organize and distribute photos.
I created 3 user personas to encapsulate the trends I found among users. Since I found that the average American takes 150 photos per month with women under 25 dominating in photo taking (they take closer to 250 photos/month), I created two main female users and one edge case male user.
Nina is the female Millennial who has a booming social life but forgets to take photos and feels that even if she could remember, she wouldn’t want to interrupt time with her friends to do so. Jen is the mother of two who wishes she could be in the many photos she takes of her family, wants to have more advanced options for organizing photos from her phone, and often creates physical objects out of pictures that she keeps for herself and gives as gifts. Howard, the male edge case, is a chef who needs photos of him preparing food but doesn’t always have someone around to take pictures of him. He also needs to be able to easily share all the photos he takes with his boss, who chooses the best photo to post to the restaurant’s social media account.
After conducting research and creating personas, the features I was looking to create were clear and needed to include ways to:
- photograph moments with loved ones in a hands-free way that does not interrupt the activity going on
- quickly and simply share all the photos taken during an event with others
- tag and organize photos to be easily found and used later
- remind the user to take photos during certain events
- create physical items, such as prints and gifts, out of the photos
And finally, as I began to dig more deeply into why people take photos, I decided to create a final feature that would address what’s at the heart of why we take pictures — to remind ourselves of the love of our friends and family. There’s nothing like glancing at an old photo stuck to your fridge with a magnet, and there’s a reason we plaster our homes and work spaces with framed images of our loved ones. Photos are instant reminders of the people in our lives who matter the most. After a lot of brainstorming, I came up with the idea of a feature that could send the user’s favorite photos to a wide variety of “digital frames” — spaces around one’s virtual world that could serve as holders of the best images. While this concept needs more work, I imagine that users of the Moments app could send their photos to all sorts of digital frames, from obvious places like the slideshow played as laptop screen savers to small panels in their email inbox. In this sense, we could “carry” the best photos of our loved ones with us everywhere, and not be constrained to physical photos on our desks to feel that little jolt of happiness that a great photograph brings us.
Testing and Iterations
I used affinity mapping and a design studio session with my classmates to think of all the ways that the user’s problems could be solved.
Now that I had some solid ideas of how specifically to create an app that would include the features each user needed, I created paper wireframes and tested them out on several users. I learned that people found the features somewhat confusing and I would have to give them specific names as well as create a walk-through of the app that users would go through when first opening it in order to teach them about how it worked.
Testing my low fidelity wireframes showed me that I needed to tighten up one of the most important screens of the app, which was the screen showing the user the variety of options they could take with the photo. I needed to make each one go directly to the action, rather than having to click a checkbox and click “next” for some while merely clicking others to go to the next page. I also realized that some of my buttons were being confused for actions that there different from what they were performing, and changed the placement and color of several to make them more clear.
The first visual version of the prototype I created received a slew of strange feedback — one user said he thought he was entering an app for obituaries while another said it made her feel very peaceful and zen. None of the reactions I received were inline with what I wanted to evoke from a photo-taking app, and next I tried a photograph of people having fun, using an organic, unposed photo, just like the sort of photo Moments would produce. No matter how many photos I tried, each was simply too busy and took away from the word “Moment” that I wanted users to focus on upon opening the app. I settled for a photo of a party before the attendants arrived, evoking the potential for a fun event — and all the photos that could come out of it.
You can view the clickable prototype of Moments here. It begins with a walkthrough of the app, and includes a flow of creating a Session, naming it, tagging a photo, and creating an ornament with it, based on the needs of Jen’s persona. It also includes a flow of creating a Session, inviting friends of collaborate, upvoting and commenting on photos and sharing to social media, based on Nina’s needs.
There is no such thing as a unicorn — this project pushed me in my visual design skills and I came to a point where I recognized that I needed help withe finding the best colors and fonts and received some from a very helpful classmate. I in turn helped others navigate some of the more complex parts of Sketch as well as setting up InVision sync. In UX, giving help freely and knowing when to ask for it yourself is extremely important.