Evan takes the time to set up a really great photo gallery and (for the most part) no one uses it! What gives?

I'm not sure folks aren't using it as there seems to be quite a few photos added after the implementation of the gallery software. IOW there are more photos than just the ones that existed on the site before the software. If people aren't using it, I'd guess that the perception among the users of this forum is that the new photo software and process has reduced the overall usability and usefullness of posting photos. In short, it makes a formerly simple process a lot more complex and it somewhat dissassociates the photos from the discussion forums.

The new photo gallery software is powerful and feature laden. It addresses issues such as controlling server space, categorizing images, keeping titles and descriptions associated with images - all things that were needed. However, there is now a separate place to go to on the site to look at photos. There is more effort involved in getting the URL of a photo to add to a forum post. There is a facility to comment/discuss each photo, but it does make discussion of a category a la "whatever photo de jour" with immediately referenced images more difficult. Folks may not like this change.

Before the gallery software, you could start / reply to a thread by posting "Hey, check out this photo of <really cool route> at <great area>.", hit the "attach file" button, select a file to upload, and be done. Now, for a person unfamiliar with the new software & process, like temporarily absent Lester LeBlanc was, the task flow is:

While reading the Non-Gunks Photo De Jour thread, LLB decides to reply to a post with a new photo. He clicks on "attach file" and realizes that the size limit is now 5K. What to do? He cancels out of the reply screen and sees the "Photo Gallery" link and tries that. So....

Click on Photo Gallery
On the gallery page, click on Upload Photos
Select a Category via a drop-down list box
Select a photo from his local drive by navigating it's tree structure
Click on the Upload / Submit button
View the Add Photos Select / Configure Properties screen (and possibly realize that a list of photos can be uploaded at once)
Check and/or reselct the Category
Optionally select Optional Category 1 and Optional Category 2 (all three categories have the same items in the drop-down list - it's unclear how the main category and the optional ones interact with each other)
Add (apparently optional) Title, Description, and Keywords
Click the Process button
View a message screen that states "No more images found. Click here to return to the main menu."
Arrive at the main Photo Gallery menu screen

OK, now that the photo is uploaded, time to return to the original task - replying to a forum post with an attached photo. So LLB clicks either Main Index or Discussion from the site header, re-navigates to the correct form and topic and locates the post he wanted to reply to. He clicks on Reply, enters some text, and.......wonders how to find out the url of the image he just uploaded.

LLB navigates back to the photo gallery, clicks on the catagory he uploaded to and sees his photo there. There's info listed with the photo, but no url. He tries clicking on the photo and gets the original image which he notices has additional info and (currently empty) comments, including a UBB [img] tag with a url.

So now he copies the url to his clipboard, exits the gallery, renavigates (this would be the third time) to the discussion section, correct forum, proper topic, correct post, reenters his text (if it was extensive, did he remember to save it in a temporary doc somewhere to make the clipboard available to copy the url into?), and pastes in the UBB image reference. Finally he posts his reply.

All in all, a miserable user experience compared to what it had been. Even if a user knew the new task flow, there's a lot of extra work involved. This is NOT a matter of "user training" or "reading the instructions". It's a matter of sub-optimal design.

Given the constraints of using packaged software that can't be modified, and that this site may not even be breaking even let alone actually making money, I don't know if an improved solution exists or is worth the effort (= time = money) and I'm certainly not taking Evan to task over this. But it would sure be nice to be able to have a discussion topic that easily attaches/references images and isn't in a place separate from the disucssion forums (like the current photo comments feature).
- Marc