Usability... Lulu way

This will get long. So let me preface the rant that is to follow by saying that all in all, the usability of Lulu.com is fine. Not awesome, but fine. I am a spoiled brat begging to be flamed, but hey, whatever.

I realize that I am by no means the typical user Lulu.com had in mind when designing their user interface, but since they opened their platform to photographers and artists to sell their work, one would assume that content management would have been made easy. Not so.

I remember vividly the three nights this May I spent uploading the 200-odd photos I took at the British car show and assigning them all to projects. Individually. Each requiring a number of clicks. No way to process batches of pictures unless you wanted to sell them all in bulk was offered.

Now, some five months down the road, in a fit of user-friendliness I have made some changes to my lulu.com storefront and decided to take down about a third of all pictures from the car show to clean up a bit.

There is no way to set up categories or photo sets, so that should I give the link to a fellow autocrosser, they might have to click through many pages of photos to get to the pictures they want. I worked around this by adding a hard-coded link to a detailed search returning pictures from the set, since I name all pictures by the event they are from. It is only one "set" right now, but the list will grow as I will shoot at more events. The search is fuzzy, quite to my chagrin, but this is the closest approximation to an architecture I could find at this point.

Now onward to the task at hand. Deleting some of the less interesting shots. I began in the "My files" section, because it offers a thumbnail view and a preview, both easy to use to figure out which shots are keepers and which aren't.

First setback was swift: If a file is associated with a project (a condition for it to be published and available in the storefront), it cannot be deleted from the "My files" interface.

Okay, that's fine I guess, though it would have been nice to just be asked whether I wanted to either a) disassociate the project from the file; or b) delete the project with it. But there must be higher reasons for this behaviour, so I obediently traipsed over to "My projects" section only to find that it offered no thumbnails or previews.

Alrighty. What next?

I still had all the files from that shoot on my hard drive, so I thought I could simply scroll through them and select projects to be deleted based on the file name.

Oopsie! Turns out the Projects view does not list file names, just project IDs. Now what?

Well, I don't give up so easy. So what I did was use my file browser to scroll through the pictures (yes I do use a Mac for this stuff, along with a RHEL laptop at work and a Fedora box for play). Whenever I'd find a shot I deemed unworthy, I would copy its project ID from the Files view...

...and use the ID to find the project I want to delete in the Projects view.

Thankfully, it takes mere three more clicks after that to delete the project and to return to the Projects view where you can search for the next one to remove.

As noted earlier, I must be spoiled by all the usable stuff I deal with on a daily basis. I also intend to continue using Lulu because I agree with their business model, but I hope that this gets fixed.


  1. and hopefully you're sending this post to lulu as feedback?

    bad user design is so common these days, i think people just don't expect anything else. i like to complain about the rock band UI - it's like a 1980s menu-driven system, and it's so frustrating to see in 2008. and the options aren't even very good.

    i think maybe it's just that the people who could design a good interface, and the people who would implement the interface, never seem to get together early enough in the project to do anything useful.

    there's really no excuse for lulu, though, being a content-focused site and having had several years to work on it.

  2. @luke: I did post on the community forum, could not find a bugzilla or some other tool to log a ticket. We'll see how that goes.