Orkut and Flickr has different objectives I know. Orkut is a friends networking application and Flickr is a Photo management and sharing application. But when we see both the applications’s community building and sharing features there are many things in they have in common. Keeping that in mind I decided to do a comparative study between Flickr and Orkut User Experience. Another interesting fact which motivated me was that Orkut is from the google camp and Flickr is from Yahoo, the two internet giants.
The idea of this comparison started giving brith in my mind, when Nicky, Anjali, Arun and I had group and separate discussions on how to use Orkut effectively. The topic around the discussions happened was ofcourse about the most happening scrap-book in Orkut. I was a late entrant to Orkut and I was quite puzzled when I read all my friends’ scrap books - the posts made no sense to me. As scrap book was made public by all of them, my view was that anyone visiting the place should have an idea about whats going on there. They were all using the scrap book as a way of communicating each other ie, if friend1 posts a message on friend2’s scrap book, f2 replies for it in f1’s book. So only the owners of the book knew what was really happening and no one else.
That’s when I posted some messages on my scrap book just for making the place more meaningful for others. According to me my scrapbook is not a place where my friends can communicate with me. It’s a place where they can put some tidbits, comments on me or may be I can put a statement saying "I got a new job" or "I’m getting married" and my friends commenting on it.
I expected an outcry on this act of mine anytime and it happened when Anjali posted a message saying I’m not supposed to post on my own scrapbook. That was something new for me, because Orkut gives me the ability to post messages and now the community has an unwritten notion that we r not supposed to. I also overheard Niki telling Pradeep about the shortcomings of the scrapbook feature that there is no ‘reply’ link on each posts which could be used by him to easily reply to the post on his friend scrapbook. Also he wondered why on earth has Orkut provided a text box on top to post message on one’s own book. I tried to explain and argue with them about the functionality of scrap book and if his expectation is for a one to one communication he should use the "send message" feature.
The next question from them was that how to find out whether their friend had replied to their comment if he is posting on his own book. That was a good point because there is no way in Orkut to keep a track of my friend’s scrap book entries where I have posted something. So the users found their own way of making others know that they replied and made the notion that one is not supposed to scrap on his own book.
A search on ‘Scrap Book’ in Orkut help says "The scrapbook feature is another way for you to add tidbits of information to your profile. Share a funny story or reveal a little known fact about yourself." I took this as a serious usability bug in Orkut that it made a situation where a feature is not used the way it is supposed to be.
Real Life Scenario: The other day I saw a post from Anjali on my scrapbook saying "I have done with my exams". Out of curiosity I went to her friend’s scrap books and saw that she has posted the same message in most of them. Ideally if it worked the way it was supposed to, this should have happened the other way. Anjali should have posted the message on her scrap book and her friends who visit her scrap book would have left comments on it; which made more sense in terms of a meaningful scrap book and user experience.
This is when I started comparing Flickr with Orkut. In Flickr thanks to the simple UI design, it is more straight forward to understand that I can post comments on my own photo as well as others. It also gives me the ability to keep track of all the new comments on my photos as well as other’s photos on which I have commented. In one shot I can see all my contacts’ photos where I have commented and also I can see if there are other comments after mine. This is a real usable feature in flickr. Orkut could come up with something like this so that the "how do I know that someone has posted message on my friend’scrap book" issue could be solved.
In Orkut, when I’m viewing one’s profile and if I want to add this person as a friend, I can click on the ‘Add as friend’ link. The page refreshes with the link still there and I’m clueless about the outcome. There is no way to know if the person has been added as my friend unless I go and check my friends list. The friends list strangely shows the list of the people who haven’t accepted my invitation first and then the people who accepted. So if I have quite a long list of people who haven’t accepted my request I have to move through two pages to see my accepted friends. Again when I’m on a friend’s profile I can in no way rate him/her. I have to again go to my friends list for that.
Once a user has been added to my friend’s list, when I click on his name it could take me to his scrap book directly beause I wouldn’t be interested to his profile all the time and scrap book is the place where some change is happening.
Compartively in Flickr when I’m viewing another person’s photos, I can do everything which I can do with my friend without really coming back to my page. When I add one as my contact, next time I view his photos, it shows that he is my contact and if I would like to change the relationship. I can even see his profile, contacts, photos, albums, groups and I can comment and rate their photos. I have to come to my page only if I have something to do with my photos and that navigation is also pretty easy. In a community website this kind of navigation ease is key. In short on an average the things we do in Orkut in 5 clicks can be done in Flickr in 2 clicks.
Why does Orkut change our photo to give a white feathering on the sides???
Orkut also has its own share of good things. If I land up on a contact, Orkut shows me if at all I’m in anyway connected to this person through my network. The second best thing is the feature which shows who all visited you lately. Both these features are very useful in a community building site. Flickr can think of implementing the second feature so that I know who all are visiting my photo pages.
Its clear that the Orkut development team has no one doing the user experience design. I’m not sure how much is google’s role in the development. But I’m sure that once google steps in with the newly acquired designers at the user experience team at google, Orkut would come out as a wonderful product. But till then the scrapping will continue.
Overheard at a get together: Hey dude, I will scrap you tomorrow…!!!!