iPhoto for iOS – how can it be so complicated?

Posted on March 20, 2012

At the recent iPad announcement, Apple also unveiled a version of its iPhoto application for iOS devices to much critical acclaim. The iPad, we are told, is a natural device for editing photographs and iPhoto is a powerful application for doing just that.

So I installed iPhoto on my iPad and iPhone and started looking forward to all of this new photographic power. And I was completely befuddled. How am I supposed to use this thing? iPhoto is far from a professional or even a prosumer application – it should be easily accessible to most customers of Apple’s iOS devices.

One of the key philosophies we stand behind here at Digital Possibilities is that mobile applications should be easy to use without having a large learning curve. Now, iPhoto does have many functionalities, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be complicated.

Here are ten things that we noticed in iPhoto for iOS on the iPad:

1. Help! What do those icons mean?

After opening my camera roll, I’m presented with my images and some icons. Now some are familiar, such as info, share, undo and help. Some are even labeled (yey Edit). But what is the sticker being unpeeled mean? Hmm…


So first thing’s first, I want to duplicate a photo so I can test playing around with it. Duplicate function… anyone? Couldn’t find it. Maybe I’ll come across it later.

2. Help! There’s a help function!

So, I actually noticed a help function. It took a few uses of iPhoto as I don’t tend to notice such functions because I don’t usually want to have to use a help function. This one points out all of the key features and is actually quite “helpful.” If I was designing this screen, I’d have this help function appear automatically the first time the page was displayed.

3. Edit Menu – now the real fun starts

Holey cow. What on Earth is all of this? More icons, more and more icons? What do they do? What do they even mean?

What to do now? Run scared. Yep, sounds like a plan. No wait, this iPhoto thing might actually be useful. Okay, let’s take a look at these icons in more detail.

4. Edit Menu icons

Here’s what I think they mean from the images….

Nope, luckily I’ve noticed that help button again because it tells me what they really mean.

Joking aside, is this really the best way to present this functionality? As a coterie of icons that not evident to your average user? It’s a big barrier to starting using the application and should be avoided at all costs.

5. Crop

Hmm, not too bad, not too many icons, but what does that strange one in the corner mean?

6. Garbage Disposal Icon

Well, it could be garbage disposal, or it could mean lens shutter. If it does mean lens shutter, what on earth does that mean to me? Can I change the shutter speed post taking the photo? Nope.

It actually means I can adjust the brightness and contrast – I suppose by sliding my finger along the scale at the bottom. Maybe a photographer would know how that works.

7. Palette

Awesome, clouds, leaves and people. Are people brown? Some I suppose. Why not pink or black or whatever? What am I supposed to do with this screen?

This is a reoccurring theme, options with no clear presentation of what they are supposed to achieve.

8. Brushes

I wonder if I were to just tap the brush, what would happen? Or do I need to do something else with it? Not too clear.

9. Fairy Dust

Awesome, fairy dust! This is the instagram moment. This is where a dunce photographer (aka a normal person) can make something look fantastic with automatic filters.

Uh oh, what do I do now? What’s aura? Artistic sounds cool, let’s try that.

Uh oh, what do all those boxes mean? On Instagram or Path, I get this awesome little label telling me which filter does what, so I know which one I want to pick.

10. Duplicate

I still haven’t found a duplicate function! Holey moses.

11. Additional Extra!

Here’s what Apple should have done….

Just adding in a few labels would make all the difference. It may not look as clean, but makes huge leaps in usability.