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Friday, April 07, 2006

Zooomr - so much promise, such a way to go...

It's hard to heavily criticise a brand-new product which is far from being fully developed. But a little constructive criticism never hurt :-).

Zooomr is recieving a lot of attention at the moment. I hope this doesn't go to creator Kris Tate's head - who's just seventeen - and results in him over-looking some things that need to be sorted out.

First up - the log-in system. Zooomr doesn't have it's own log-in system (like, well, 100% of all other websites), instead it depends on an odd system of using other ID systems, for example e-mailing a "temporary password" to your Gmail account (if you haven't got one of those, you need to use one of the other, even less well-known, options).

Once that hurdle is out of the way, you discover there's no bulk uploader, unlike Flickr's or 23's. So it's just one photo at a time... there is, hidden away on the website (not publically linked), a Java uploader client, but it simply doesn't work. Ah well.

Now, once you've got your photo uploaded, you'll notice that on rolling over a picture icons will appear. Well, sometimes they will, it doesn't always seem to happen, which is confusing - consistent behaviour is vital in usable websites. There's also no key to explain what the icons mean (and they certainly aren't self-explanatory), so it's a case of trial and error to work what they do. One function is to pop up a little "Inspector" on the EXIF data which isn't really very helpful, but is cute. Another more useful function is bringing up a large version of the picture with a dark background ("Lightbox"), and some other features...

One of those is supposed to be GeoTagging, which would display on Google Maps where the photo was taken, and show the location of other photos nearby ("Lightmap"). Nice idea, but I can't see where to add the location information. Perhaps you need to have a GPS connected to your camera when you take the picture? Regardless, there's no explanation on the site. Further more, the Google Map also has a Google ad floating in the middle of it when you bring it up. That ain't cool.

Another feature - and this is a good one! - is uploading a "Zooomration". Stupid name, good idea - you can upload those little audio files some cameras record to go with your picture. But the name is so weird it's difficult to tell what it actually is, unless someone tells you. Why couldn't it just be called "Audio Note" or something obvious?

A final nice touch is "People tags" - yeah, you could just add people's names as "normal" tags, but this is a neat way to clearly ID people in a picture. I like.

One thing I haven't figured out though is if there's any way to group pictures into albums/galleries/sets/whatever. That's something really quite important - tagging is nice, but I just want to be able to say to my friends "hey, check out my album of our trip to the beach last weekend" instead of "hey, check out tags beach April 1 me you the dog..."

And, to be honest, there's quite a few nasties. The name isn't too clever for a start Zooomr. OK in text, but try telling someone about it "it's got three ohs and no e between the m and the r". Mmmmm, memorable... The colour scheme of the site itself is also too gaudy - it distracts from the pictures themselves. There's no back/foward buttons (a la Flikr) for navigating one's "photo catalouge" - you must instead click on the small pictures, and wait for the whole page to reload. There's a del.icio.us style "bread crumbs" series of navigation links across the top of the page (e.g. Photos/fred blogs/) - but when you click on an image, the last one is always "Photo View" instead of the name of the picture - what gives? On the Upload page, there's options for "making visible to friends only", but there's no explanation of what a "friend" actually is... I think that's enough for now!

Zooomr has huge potential. It has a healthy upload limit of 50Mb a month and isn't crippled like Flickr (only the last 200 pictures visible on free accounts). I hope Kris keeps working on it and it improves - I'll certainly be keeping my eye on it via the Zooomr blog.

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