As part of the dConstruct 2007: User Experience Design Conference I had the opportunity this morning to speak with George Oates the lead designer behind Flickr. George describes herself as an online application designer fascinated by the human condition and is a founding member of the team that built the Flickr photo sharing web site. You know you’re going to get a colourful spokesperson when you read someone’s bio and among her interests she lists ‘sunsets’. Mine merely lists my interests as Robert de Niro movies and crisps – go figure.
George is very much a champion of the inexorable march towards the web 2.0 world. The new world of the web will be about designing for and WITH the community. This is the living web then, where static web sites no longer exist. New world web citizens are actively engaging, collaborating, sharing and mashing in entirely new ways. Such constant activity requires close collaboration of both back- and front-end developers to build robust scalable systems.
Her experienced gained as lead designer of Flickr (officially described these days as a web services suite and an online community platform) have given George an enviable grasp of how we need to progress with web 2.0 technologies and design in a way that will engender activity from the community.
So why has Flickr been so successful? “We were kind of naïve of the industry in general which allowed us to take a fresh approach. We initially approached the solution in hand from an offline perspective and thought about how people used to enjoy viewing print photos,” said Oates. “ It works well because the look and feel is almost bland – and that is why it’s so useable. Every photographer is presented on an equal footing and there is no class distinction between professionals and home enthusiasts.”
Flickr itself was born out of real-time photo exchange tools created for a massively multiplayer online game called Game Neverending by Ludicorp. It was designed to enable interaction and control within its community as well as for interoperability with other applications and now boasts 30 million monthly unique visitors worldwide, over 1 billion photos and over 10 million members. They kind of got it right, didn’t they?