Yes there are several weeks until 2008, but I can't allow that fact to ruin my chance for yet another bad pun. The topic is image resolution and the way our system evaluates user submitted photos.
The way that digital photography has overtaken the world is truly extraordinary. I think of my parents who still won't use an ATM, but both are on at least their second generation of digital camera. Being a strong advocate of using technology for everyday life, this should warm my heart. But as it turns out, it creates a whole new set of challenges for a Web to print publishing company like SharedBook.
Though you'd be hard-pressed to find a camera today that takes a picture with less than 1M of pixels, there are so many ways that an image can become degraded. People e-mail them, upload and download on file sharing sites, embed them in their blogs and any number of other things that can alter them from their original high resolution. The problem is that it takes a keen eye to see the difference and browsers were built to make sure that images can be kept at a low resolution without the user seeing a difference.
As a publishing company we know that once a low resolution image gets printed, the eye will see it very differently. So our application is built to monitor this and warn the user whenever an image falls below a set standard. Such images are marked with a warning sign and the whole system is quite smart and dynamic.
But how do you set a standard? This will always be a matter of opinion so we try to set our standards within a range. And these standards are always under review to make sure that we are balancing the wants and needs of our customers.
But I'm finding the issue is even more difficult than just setting the right standard. From a user experience, I'm struggling with a broader question: What do you tell a user who has a substandard photo? Suppose that the image is a treasured one and there is no other copy? Do we scare away a sale saying that the image isn't good enough?
This is at the core of the complexity of Web site design. There will never be a perfect answer that satisfies every user's need. Instead it is more a matter of straddling the fence and hoping that the most users will derive the most benefit without sacrificing the experience of everyone else.