Flickr in the Age of Instagram – 5 UX Lessons From a Decade-Long Flickr User

A montage Image of British photographer Kevin Meredith, taken in the ocean

British photographer Kevin Meredith has been using Flickr for over a decade. And he credits the platform as being a lightning rod for his career.

Meredith joined Flickr in December 2004, when the platform was not yet a year old. At that time, according to Meredith, because “photo editing was not as easy as it is now… the majority of content on Flickr was unedited digital images,” which looked flat and muted in comparison to the “highly saturated film photos” he began to post.

A month later, Meredith’s Flickr account led to a paid gig — shooting album art for Imogen Heap’s second solo album, Speak for Yourself.

Photo taken by Kevin Meredith of Imogen Heap wearing a long, red coat, riding a bicycle

Photo of Imogen Heap riding a bicycle – taken by Kevin Meredith.

Afterwards, the commissions and licensing requests kept rolling in, making Meredith a very happy lad, indeed.

In a recent blog post, Meredith recounted his experiences and observations as a decade-long user of a social platform that some people are now touting as “dead.”

As I read his post, I was struck by the UX lessons and principles one can glean from a long-term social media user’s perspective on Flickr in comparison with the Social Big Boys, including new-er kid on the block, Instagram.

Below are 5 UX lessons inspired by quotes from Meredith himself…

LESSON #1: As digital evolves, so will your users’ behavior

Flickr and the way people use it has fundamentally changed over the years, that is undeniable.

Flickr groups are no longer popular; the type of interaction that happened in groups is far more likely [to] happen on Facebook.

The conversations that take place around photos used to really be engaging, now people tend to favourite an image and then move on.

People are still having conversations around images, it’s just that these conversations have moved elsewhere.

LESSON #2: As your users’ lives and priorities change, so will the frequency and depth of their digital interaction… but that doesn’t mean they’re any less avid about your brand

My personal circumstances have also changed; being a father means I can’t spend the (sometimes) hours a day on the site as I once did.

Now, I will probably post once or twice [a] week and spend a few minutes looking through other people’s photos.

LESSON #3: Don’t get so caught up in what your competitors are doing that you lose sight of what your users love about your digital product

One of my more popular images of 2014 was this photo of a murmuration of starlings in front on Brighton’s West Pier.

Photo of a murmuration of starlings flying over the ocean, one of Meredith's most popular images on Flickr

© Kevin Meredith

On Flickr, it had about 66k views in the first week and it still gets views and favourites now.

By contrast, the same image on Instagram got a lot of love but after 24 hours, activity ceased; it’s almost as if Instagram images have an expiry date.

This makes Flickr an ideal place to archive images, as it has more tools for adding meta data to images and making images searchable; whereas Instagram is more about posting in the moment.

LESSON #4: High-quality content never goes out of style

Even if I have not posted anything new to Flickr, my account still gets between 20,000 and 30,000 page views a day, and that tells me that people are still using Flickr and that there is definitely still an audience there.

LESSON #5: Less Is More

Being a good photographer is more about the pictures you don’t show than the pictures you do. Be selective.