Flickr’s vanishing whitespace

I was really pleased to see Flickr make changes to their website as it had stagnated for many years. It took the Yahoo owned business years to finally produce an iPhone app and an iPad version is still nowhere to be seen, so to see a major site redesign was a positive.

Even a few moments into exploring the new design I could see problems – little issues here and there and a feeling that only certain areas of a page had been updated whilst others were left pretty much as before. This carried over to other parts of the site that still look and feel like the ‘old’ Flickr, so I can only assume they are making changes gradually rather than a total revamp site-wide.

I’m not expecting perfection, especially as the changes appear to be ongoing, but in some ways it actually feels worse using the site now, with the lack of whitespace being a major factor. Take the users homepage or photostream for example, images are tiled together with hardly any whitespace around them – which is great for quick scanning of photos, or adding favourites in a batch, but just feels too busy, not allowing individual images to stand out.

Flickr photostream page showing many different images tiled together.

Flickr photostream page layout.

You can of course click on any photo to be taken to a single page featuring that image, but this is probably my biggest gripe of the redesign - photos in landscape fill too much of the browser window’s width , with no whitespace either side allowing them to breath. It would be like going into an art gallery and rather than having each piece of art hung on the wall with plenty of whitespace around it, to just having the artwork take up the whole wall, it would simply be too much. In most cases what surrounds the image is just as important as what is being shown, without the right setting the image cannot be truly appreciated.

Also in relation to single photo pages, I’m not keen on having a black background behind the image, it would be nice to have a choice between black, white or grey. To me it feels like Flickr have seen what other photo sites have done, many of which I might add are far less popular, and have used similar design and layout decisions without necessarily focusing on the best ways to actually view those photos, as well as taking into account the reasons that made Flickr much loved in the first place.

Flickr single photo page, with image taking up full browser window width.

Flickr single photo page layout.

And while I’m having this rant, what is up with that Yahoo navigation bar? It’s such an eyesore that follows the user down the page, there’s just no getting away from it. The colours don’t compliment the new theme and the inconsistent padding above and below the text is dreadful - making it totally unsympathetic to the updated Flickr design. I would hate to think this is true, but its introduction suggests Yahoo are more interested in pushing their other products than giving Flickr users a visually pleasing and focused environment to enjoy photography.

About the author

Paul Galbraith is a logo and brand identity designer, working with startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs in the UK, USA and beyond.