Viewfinder

Role: side project

Duration: In Progress

Viewfinder is a project that I wanted to experiment with developing this sort of experience where I can simplify an onboarding experience for a user to find a camera. I wanted to make something that could prompt the user a series of questions ultimately leading to suggestions of specific cameras that suit the user. I wanted to experiment with providing small steps to a user to help them accomplish something; in this case, find a camera.

Problem

A problem I faced as a growing photographer during my college years after doing various shoots and meeting people was that people would always ask me for camera suggestions. It would always be "what camera should I get?" To me, I felt like I could spend hours consulting with a person to find the right match with whatever knowledge I picked up about certain technology that came out or certain features people look for. However, I found that most people starting out into photography did not really care about the technical details about cameras: they just wanted a camera to get the job done without much care for all the bells and whistles. I found that in such conversations, I felt the need to reduce scope and try to simply things so that people could either understand or care about them. I felt that I would go through roughly the same set of questions over and over with different people.

Solution

The goal with viewfinder was to just ask the "right" or most important questions, almost creating a script to reduce the amount of technical knowledge or overhead to cameras. Furthermore, I felt that most users would spend too much on a camera with the misconception that if they paid more for a camera, that means it will be good.

Viewfinder was at first just an idea that came out of necessity: what can I do so that I can spend less time answering the same questions that revolve around “what camera should I buy?” Now, this is a very broad question, but most of the time people just want to get into photography, so they aren’t looking for something very specific. I typically found myself asking the same questions like “what is your budget? What are you trying to do with your camera? Do you like small or big cameras?” and others. With that, In my early years of college, I was brainstorming a sort of dialogue system that could help almost “automate” (with the use of some sort of decision tree or something) to help guide people through the same type of conversation that I typically have.

A user would follow a typical flow for using Viewfinder:

  1. Go through list of questions:
    1. How much are you willing to spend?
    2. What type of photography are you interested in?
    3. Do you care about size and weight of the camera? (form factor & ergonomics)
  2. Browse list of camera suggestions
  3. Select Camera or go through self exploration of suggested cameras + lenses

Process

This project first started off as an early exploration of me attempting to try different things, and one of them happened to be some sort of dialogue system. I never really got around to implementing the whole thing, but my goal was set out to be to make an application that would ask you relevant questions, and based on what you answer, it would give you a suggested camera. It should be noted that it would be a pre-curated list of cameras at the time, and it would be rather small.

Key Features:

  • Progressive like workflow, guiding the user through a step by step process
  • Q&A based interaction to help the user find the right camera
  • Other features include: a “deal finder” and search function for cameras
  • Various parts were created and multiple revisits

Creating a Logo

When I first started, I was really into making logos and stuff like that, so I first made a logo. I based it off of a just the name of this project, and I thought it was fitting: i’m helping someone find a camera, similar to a viewfinder (how cheesy). This first step was an early exploration of me trying to combine an illustration with words, and have them fit together nicely. I based it off of an actual DSLR viewfinder (from my trusty Nikon D600 at the time), and at first I just wanted to draw out the viewfinder and see how I could make it work with text. I counted the letters and tried to fit each letter as the focus points.

Now, for what it’s worth, I was pretty satisfied with this first attempt, however there are two problems I can see arise: the gridlines could be kind of annoying when placed around or near text, and the one focus point between the “view” and the “finder” can be distracting. I tried removing the gridlines, but, to me, it gives away the context or visual hint that the logo is a viewfinder. The same goes with the actual focus point. This is an example of a design that could sit by itself, but not so well with other elements, so it it quite tricky as to where to place it.

Web explorations

After the logo was designed, I did a quick “test” as to making some sort of form. This was short lived as I did not spend too much time due to school, but it was worth an exercise to keep the dialogues short. I wanted to make an experience that would help a user step by step: I wanted to focus on breaking down something that could be easily done with a (huge) form of 5+ questions to something step by step and more bite-sized. I did not want to overwhelm the user, and I wanted to guide the user. This was also a time where I did not have too much experience with web design, so I just wanted to play around with input forms and styling.

My goal with this experiment as well as ViewFinder in general was to simply such an experience to a series of inputs recieved by the user so that a response would be given to the user. I wanted to structure each question to retrieve only critical information, and with a curated list of cameras, I could try to index or rank the cameras to then present to the user.

Stumbling upon Airbnb

Fast forward a year, and I sat down in a class where I had to prototype something: and I thought I could develop the project in a mobile sense. I only had a few days to do this, and it was one of my early attemps to “design” something in illustrator and string it together with Invision. I mainly tried playing around where I could fit the logo I made earlier in the designs, and I tried to keep each question to one page. The main influence was Airbnb’s step by step flow.

With each question, I wanted to show the progression of the steps with the dots on the bottom of each page. It’s not shown through these screens, but I also wanted to make these steps act like “cards” so every time a user advanced or went backwards, there would be some sort of swiping animation.

Knowing that the preferred route for the user would be to go through the rigid set of questions, I felt that there needed to be additional or flexible routes of discovery and exploration for cameras for the user. I assumed that most users would go through the questionnaire, but I wanted to make sure that there was not one way of getting information to the user. I wanted to give the flexibility and freedom to the user so that they can explore their options, especially if they have more background knowledge of photography or cameras. Thus, these were my potential ideas to expand viewfinder: allow for searching of cameras (from my curated list), a help screen to give some background of the application, and a deal finder that would probably involve some google API or web scraping.

This is essentially where I left off, and I currently plan on revisiting this and improving it to something that I can possibly prototype and test out with Framer, and then bringing it to life. The meat of this project revolves around the questionnaire presented to the user: refining and testing out the effectiveness of the questions is necessary to not only understand what the user wants but also ensure a proper user experience.