Google Photos

I worked with the Google Photos team to address key product challenges and design for their next billion customers.

Launched in 2015, Google Photos is the critically-acclaimed photo sharing and storage service made by Google. Customers love the ability to search their library by people, places, and things.

By 2016, the product had grown to a billion customers. I designed and tested a plurality of solutions to address their top user issue at the time–ironically, people couldn’t always find the photos they were looking for!

The Challenge
Looking at the data with the Google support team, we were able to focus our efforts on the top five root causes.

  1. Device folders were not backed up (Android only).
  2. Google drive sync settings were not enabled.
  3. Search was still indexing.
  4. People didn't understand the deletion model.
  5. Third party digital cameras didn't always display the correct date and time stamps.

The Work
My team organized a series of design sprints.

We made sure to validate our understanding of each use case with our product, engineering, and support stakeholders.

We brainstormed each opportunity first with our internal team, then with our client (Google Support), then lastly with representatives of the entire Google Photos team. Each iteration of the brainstorm helped us reach an equal footing with our colleagues, and build on their ideas. 

Product Concepts


Communicating Context
I organized a quick brainstorm with a writer to reposition device folders, an Android-only concept within the app. These users love the ability to control how third-party apps like What’s App store images on their device. 

Our strongest idea was “Apps and Screenshots” which we thought communicated this content more clearly. I also proposed bringing the sync toggles from the settings page to this page of the product, so people could make those decisions more contextually. 

Setting Expectations for Search 
Here’s an example of a product design iteration.


Original Design
In this design, people trying to search weren’t able to understand when they should check back. With the static image, they weren’t confident that the processing was not stuck and was still occurring. But exactly how long does indexing take?


Initial Wireframe
Speaking with the engineers,
I learned that indexing is a tricky problem that varies based on the size of your library, the specific network upload and download speeds of your device, and the overall volume of image processing and computer vision that Google is doing in the cloud.


Refined Wireframe
After striving for technical transparency, I simplified the design to a progress bar as part of the search input field. This real-time expectation of approximate completion status also prevents the need for the error page.


Final Design
I incorporated the progress bar idea into a dismissable in-product education card.

Anticipating Inconsistencies


I love helping companies differentiate themselves by unlocking competitive advantages.

Google knows a lot about you, including a lot about your trip chronology.

I was able to leverage Google’s unique understanding of trip context along with the engineering team’s interest in machine learning to propose the following timestamp batch edit concept.

Marketing Concepts


Many Google products have a welcome email. This email can be triggered based on engagement, but it often comes a few days after starting use a new product.

Google Photos did not yet have an email, so I pitched the idea to the marketing team. The email proactively educates new users about the positive benefits of Google Photos including search.


Visual Design

Support Concepts


Human call center support is expensive, especially for free products. This is a wireframe of how Google Support could leverage conversational AI to increase customer support while decreasing costs.


This is a quick exploration of how Google Photos Support can be proactive by making help content simpler and more engaging.

At the time, Google’s help center was mostly text-based. Given that there are seven different types of learning styles beyond verbal, I pitched Google Support to consider new visual and interactive methods.


These concepts are more familiar and build on the existing strengths of the help center.

They present cross-product support content (such as cloud storage) together, include personalized recommendations based on usage, and bring multiple support channels (chat, video, and the community forum) together.

Collaborative brainstorming across Google’s product, support and marketing teams helped create integrated solutions across channels.

Bringing Google Support into the product design process allowed us to address top user issues proactively, rather than just reactively. The teams gained empathy by experiencing how rigorous the product development process is and how difficult product and support issues are to solve.



Google Photos
(Executives, Creative Leadership, Product Management, Engineering, Marketing, Support, and Content Strategy.) 


Product/UX Design
(Problem Definition, Journey Mapping,
Brainstorming, Wireframing, High-fidelity Mockups, and Interactive Prototyping.)

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