Rich User Experience: Pixlr.com

This week I examine Tim O’Reilly’s fourth Web 2.0 pattern: Rich User Experience.  So firstly, what is a “Rich user experience”? I think James Ward explains it better than most in saying it is a “more natural – more connected, more alive, more interactive, and more responsive” user experience.

It was not long ago that in order to enjoy a graphically intensive, immediately responsive experience when connecting with the internet a user would have to install a heavy and often very large desktop application and point it in the direction of the corresponding internet server.  This desktop interface model was utilised so that most of the complex processing involving large amounts of data could be carried out at the client end and not take up precious band width.

Today, with faster, higher bandwidth internet connections, more intelligent and sophisticated programming techniques such as AJAX and HTML5, and global user demand for a truly ubiquitous internet experience we have dispensed with the data laden client side application and moved completely to an online interface.  Rich Internet Applications or (RIA’s) are the web applications designed to give users desktop like functionality through a web browser and are the same applications that make the Rich User Experience possible.

Since the dawn of desktop computer time graphics manipulation has been heavy on resources, so, how about a paint/photoshop style Rich User Experience?

pixlr

Enter Pixlr.com. 

Pixlr.com can be accessed from your web browser and is compatible with all of the popular varieties. Pixlr offers a fully functional picture editor that looks very much like a cross between Photoshop and Paint at a glance. Cut down varieties of the editor are also available from the main page for simple photo effects. So lets look at how it stacks up against the best practices for a Rich User Experience.

The Pixlr Editor:

pixlr editor

Combine the best of desktop & online experiences 

One of the best features of Pixlr is the fact that it feels like you are using a desktop application, and that is exactly how you want a photo editing suite to feel. It responds instantly and provides all the tools you are used to. There is seamless integration with both online and desktop based images as well as webcam, smartphone, and devices using both iOS and Android operating systems.

Usability and simplicity first

You don’t have to learn to use Pixlr, it is actually intuitive in it’s design and follows established convention for photo editing tools. It is essentially minimalist in design without flashy ‘additions’ that some other sites offer, this is a good thing. The options that are presented on the home page: Open Pixlr Editor (Advanced), Open Pixlr Express (Efficient), and Open Pixlr-o-matic (Playfull), quickly dispense with the need to annoy the user with superfluous information or features. If you aren’t familiar with exactly how Pixlr works it is designed to be intuitive enough to give it away for most users. Almost unbelievably, no registration required! Dive straight in!

Match the technology usage to the requirements

Pixlr.com harnesses technology well, in that it matches it to its user requirements. Through utilising predominately Flash, Javascript, HTML, & JQuery Pixlr delivers a photo editor that responds instantly and is truly ubiquitous in nature (smartphone, online, iOS, Android). Some might say the technology is lackluster or underwhelming, I say the fact that it intuitively delivers on what it promises to it’s target audience every time makes it smart technology usage.

Preserve content addressability

Pixlr delivers again here, providing desktop features within its environment including undo, redo and save. The user is always in control of the data they are manipulating and seamless integration with Facebook and other online libraries ensures pictures can be accessed, saved & restored from anywhere.

Deep, adaptive personalization

The thing I appreciate most about Pixlr is the fact that it is no nonsense and delivers exactly what is promises to its users. Pixlr does not ask for a registration, nor a login like almost every other site does and I found this refreshing. I think Pixlr has an excellent idea of what the average user in their target audience expects, and delivers a catered solution for that expectation. It has effectively pre-personalised the website around its target audience.

References:

http://www.jamesward.com/2007/10/17/what-is-a-rich-internet-application/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTML_5

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajax_(programming)

http://searchsoa.techtarget.com/definition/Rich-Internet-Application-RIA

http://w3techs.com/sites/info/pixlr.com

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11 thoughts on “Rich User Experience: Pixlr.com

  1. Hi Adam,

    Thanks for a great post! Does Pixlr allows you to save images online like an online cloud service or database for storage? And does Pixlr auto saves images just in case of a sudden network down situation. If it does, it’s an AMAZING app to use! Is there any downsides on using Pixlr than to Photoshop/Paint?

    Cheers!

    • Thanks for your reply 🙂

      In answer to your question yes, Pixlr does allow you to save to their local Pixlr library but in order to do this you need to sign up. Pixlr (thankfully) does not *force* you to sign up like so many other websites to use it, the only time you have to sign up is if you wish to save to the Pixlr library. But fear not! Pixlr allows you to save to Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, imm.io AND you are able to sign in to Pixlr using your Google account if you wish. I am a fairly regular photoshop user and I have not experienced any downsides when using Pixlr, in fact I have found it more convenient.

      It really is extraordinary that this program is completely free! Enjoy!

  2. Hi Adam,
    As a photographer, I find this really application really interesting and the possibility of it’s expansion even more. Do you think one day sites such as Facebook will adopt functionality similar to Pixlr? There is often times when I upload a photo and then realise I forgot to edit something in it… or forgot to watermark it! At this point, I don’t want to take it down as I might already have a few likes/comments on it… so despite something about it bugging me, I leave it. It would be great for these features to be integrated into social networking sites…

    On the other hand, there is no way I would use an online photo editing tool for my photography work. Not only would it take forever to upload/download 10MB images, but also I don’t think I could trust it to have the same level of features and quality as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. Perhaps this is true at the moment, as I am guessing it is a relatively new application, but do you think that the perception people have on the limited capabilities of web-based applications needs to be changed as applications like Pixlr undoubtedly develop overtime? What can these apps do to change these perceptions?

    • Hi Monique,

      I think with regard to your question about Facebook – anything is possible, but I would say they would probably limit it to the “fun” part of Pixlr, ie quickly editing photos with friends and giving them a different ‘feel’, I doubt whether Facebook would ever encompass a full featured photo editing suite, I think this would steer them away from their “fun” direction. Your point about uploading photos and having forgotten to edit some element is a good one but why not just using Facebook as a login to Pixlr and save it directly back to Facebook ?? 🙂

      I think the gap between desktop photo editing suits and online photo editing suits will lessen even more given time. Lets face it, the average speed of a Japanese internet connection is FASTER than our universities internet connection. Once faster speed like that is mainstream I think considering the size of file uploads will no longer be a primary concern. Although, when online photo editing suites are exactly as good if not better I would not be surprised if they start charging for usage 😦 Or even worse, start bombarding you with advertisements 😦

      I don’t think in general that people have negative of limited perceptions of online photo editing like Pixlr, I think you will find it is only the pro’s or at least people who use photo editing suits *a lot* that will be concerned with the elements you describe. Pixlr does not claim to be a replacement for your high end photo shopping programs but I am fairly sure when they are actually a legitmite replacement (higher bandwidth, more expansive set of tools) they will be letting users like you know in no uncertain terms. I just hope, as above, you don’t have to pay for the privilege.

      Cheers for your comment,

      Adam.

  3. Really nice post, Adam. It looks like we found the same ‘jamesward’ reference – but I really like what you did with it to draw out the components: “more natural – more connected, more alive, more interactive, and more responsive” experience. Fabulous!

    Your post has got me very impressed with Pixlr and I will have to check it out. Are there any downsides or disadvantages that I should watch out for in my ‘rich user experience’?

    • Hi Bronwyn,

      Thank you for your comment, and very good work on our Wiki 🙂

      The James Ward reference is great is it not? It is clear to me that good minds think alike. I have used Pixlr quite a bit and the only thing I would suggest is even though it does not demand that you register (which I find extremely refreshing) if you do register you have a chance to save at the Pixlr.com library. However, even if you don’t you can sign in through Google, Facebook, Picasa etc and save images to those locations.

      Advantages – all of the above, the fact that it is completely free and that it feels like you are using a photo imaging sweet on your desktop at home, it is truly that responsive 🙂

      Will comment on your blog tonight, and no doubt be in collaboration with you re the Wiki, it’s starting to look quite good isn’t it 🙂

      Cheers Brownwyn,

      Adam.

  4. Hey Adam, I wanted to recommend another photo-editing app known as LunaPic, which is similar to Pixlr. To add to Monique’s comment, the gap between desktop photo-editing suites and cloud photo-editing apps is closing. This gap would close further with faster internet connections and more efficient code driving cloud apps.

    • Hi,

      I agree with you completely. Faster internet access overall would further close the gap and more sophisticated and intelligent programming would even better utilise the available bandwidth. My concerns are as programs become as comprehensive as their desktop based counterparts it is going to become increasingly difficult to be able to find them to use for free.

  5. I am using pixlr for more than a year now, almost every day (during the week). It is a very handy online service !!
    You can even enter urls to edit images, so no need to first download and then upload again

    • Hi Remco,

      Thanks for your comment. It seems quite a number of people are actually using the Pixlr program which I don’t find surprising at all. The fact that you can login without a registration, from practically anywhere with any device and actually have a fully fledged editing studio is phenomenal. I think it is only a matter of time until more people realise this. To hear that you use it as often as you do is excellent, do you find it serves as a complete replacement for a desktop based program? Cheers!

  6. Adam, This is indeed such a good piece of information. Installation of various applications which are heavy and large often reduces the speed of the system and productivity factor is not being ensured through it. But this is really good to have such editing tools online and we don’t have to make systems heavy. Do you think that providing an insight into such applications would really work out after an introduction of new technological products such as tablet devices and laptops? There is a high concern of privacy, I need to know what steps users make in order to ensure for the security and safety of their data?

    Thanks

    Ps. I wish to see your comment on my latest blog post

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