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Five UX Lessons Learned from Dropbox’s New App, Carousel

| April 16, 2014
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On April 9, Dropbox released its new photo gallery app, Carousel, for iOS and Android. Branding itself as a home for a lifetime of memories, the app allows users to view photos and videos from both their phone and their Dropbox account in one place. We tested Carousel with a pool of 20 testers to see what real users think of the platform.

carousel header

Carousel features a clean, simple interface.

1. Navigating through photos was intuitive and fun, but users wanted more control.

Pictures within Carousel are organized by date, which pleased most users. They found the interface very easy to use (they rated it 4.7 out of 5) and many of them expressed that they were having fun scrolling through the pictures. However, frequent Dropbox users were disappointed to find that there’s no instant way to jump back to photos from a previous year — you have to scroll through the timeline to find older pictures.

It’d be nice if there was a way to be able to pick a date… especially when you have 12 years of photos in one place.

-chris.montone, United States, member of UserTesting panel

Though none of the users in our study commented on it, Carousel automatically identifies pictures that have smiling faces as the focal point and displays them as larger thumbnails than other pictures on the timeline. It’s unclear whether our testers picked up on these smiles consciously, subconsciously, or not at all.

2. The ultra-simple interface might be too simple.

Some folks were thrown off by the minimalist controls, thinking they had missed something because the app was just too simple. Several users were surprised that there was no complicated menu with options for different ways to organize and view photos.

Others wanted more control and customization, such as the ability to sort photos by location, folder, or tag.

3. Sharing photos with friends was easy… mostly.

Most users enjoyed being able to share photos with a simple gesture and figured it out quickly. Our panel rated the share feature a 4.5 out of 5 on ease of use.

Several users, though, didn’t catch the instructions for sharing photos, and they quickly got confused. Perhaps these users would have seen the instructions if they had been displayed on the screen longer or required the user to acknowledge they had seen them.

Another user pointed out that he didn’t know how the photo was shared – whether via text message, email, or another type of notification.

It was easy, but I didn’t like it. It oversimplified it to the point where I didn’t know what was happening.

-HyruleHero57, United States, member of UserTesting panel

4. Users didn’t understand how to get rid of a photo.

Since one of the main purposes of the app is to back everything up in Dropbox, Carousel makes it easy to hide a photo from the timeline, but not to delete it forever. While some users in our study thought that hiding a photo was the same as deleting it, others understood that they could still access their hidden photos. But only one user in our study actually figured out how to permanently delete a photo from the account through the app.

This was also a common complaint in the App Store and the Play Store. Several reviewers brought up the fact that they will frequently take the same picture multiple times, intending to keep the best version and delete all the others. They were frustrated that these duplicate photos would take up their limited free Dropbox storage.

5. People had some privacy concerns.

The app automatically uploads photos and videos from the user’s camera gallery into their Dropbox account. Several people disliked the fact that the app didn’t explicitly request permission before doing this.

I’m a little weirded out by the fact that it’s just uploading photos without my permission.

-wryservices, United States, member of UserTesting panel

There are also plenty of grumblings from online reviewers who are suspicious about their photos’ and videos’ privacy in the wake of Condoleeza Rice’s appointment to the Dropbox board of directors.

Final thoughts

Our users were divided about whether they would continue using the app (average score of 3.6 out of 5, where 1 is very unlikely and 5 is very likely) or recommend it to a friend (average score of 3.7 out of 5). Many mentioned that they wanted more functionality from the app, and they came up with some creative ideas for improvements Dropbox could make to the next version of Carousel, such as social media integration, editing capabilities, advanced organization options, and more clarity about Dropbox storage capacity.

What about you? Have you used Carousel? What’s your opinion on the app?