Facebook tests photo viewer designs

Facebook is testing a new way to display photos that puts captions and comments to the right of the image rather than below.

The new format takes advantage of horizontal space so that photos can be presented larger and the information and conversation are still visible, instead of forcing users to scroll down to see comments as they do currently. The team at Facebook also appears to be talking to professional photographers for feedback, according to public status updates and comments from employees.

We’ve seen screenshots of two versions of the new display. [Update: 2/7/12 2:35 p.m. – We’ve now seen four different versions of the photo viewer.] All are lightbox style, meaning the image is shown in an overlay rather than a new page, which Facebook first implemented in September 2010. One version uses buttons similar to the design used on Timeline and the activity log. It puts the “Tag Photo” and “Edit” options above the image.

Another version makes some calls to action more prominent by putting them on top of the image when users hover over the photo. A user with the new photo viewer says the display adjusts to the size of the browser, but we have not been able to test the responsiveness ourselves.

On one screenshot we’ve seen, two ads were very prominent. The other screenshots we received were of photos that had several more comments, pushing advertisements down or away completely. Currently most ads are not visible in the photo lightbox unless a user scrolls down.

Both designs offer a cleaner interface than Facebook’s existing photos product, which includes more than a dozen buttons, some with repeating functions (see image below). The new format seems to put all of these options under a single drop-down menu. Some users might not realize all the actions they can take, but this way the focus is mostly on the photo and the conversation around it.

[Update 2/2/12 10:08 a.m. – We’ve now seen a third version of a possible new photo viewer, thanks to a tip from Anthony Parrott. This design darkens the background of the page rather than making it transparent.]

[Update: 2/7/12 2:35 p.m. – We have found yet another iteration of the photo viewer. See below.]

According to Facebook, more than 250 million photos are uploaded to the social network each day.

Thanks to Zoltán Faludi, Ivan Brezak Brkan and Rehman Abdur for the tip and screenshots.

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