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Summary

Despite the criticisms in this case study, Ofoto stands as one of the Web’s most thoughtfully designed and well-implemented online services. There are obviously problems, but many are the natural outgrowth of providing this type of functionality in a Web application. In terms of lessons learned and ideas worth borrowing, the following represents the highlights:

  • Importance of the conceptual model. The type of functionality offered by Ofoto presents an almost unsolvable problem for the conceptual model. Although the photo album model is practical for a Web application, it results in a number of unfortunate consequences in other layers of the interface. From a pure interface perspective, the conceptual model of a storage system for negatives would give users a superior experience, although it would probably require a dedicated desktop application.

  • Interrelationship of navigation and selection. The method of combining navigation and selection in Ofoto’s Viewing and Navigation layer is an unavoidable aspect of the conceptual model and its container/object orientation. Because the Web does not provide any direct selection methods, inferring selection from navigation is a reasonable alternative. However, any implementation built on this mechanism should ensure that the relationship between selection and navigation is consistent no matter what navigational path the user follows.

  • Visual simplicity, clarity, and order. With few exceptions, Ofoto’s Presentation tier reflects the core design values of simplicity, clarity, and order. Despite the temptation to crowd and complicate the interface, Ofoto has taken the road less traveled and produced an experience that places users’ needs at the top of the priority list.


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