Photo site Tabblo made a number of upgrades today to their service that now combines a wiki ethos with a design tool based on general rules of good layout. Tabblo isn’t a traditional photo sharing site; instead of competing with sites you’re probably familiar with, Tabblo makes it easy to import your photos from places like Flickr (and iPhoto or Picasa) and then lets you arrange those photos with text to make large collage-like posters, called Tabblos, to print.
As of today, Tabblo designers can give permission to other users to not just view and comment on a Tabblo, but to make their own changes to it as well. A sports team Tabblo could be customized by each parent, for example, to easily put their child’s picture in the center of the poster but maintain the same design as the whole team’s posters. It’s like a wiki for visual design, with the original templates preserved.
The template design function in Tabblo is quite usable. It’s in DHTML, not ajax or flash, there’s a zoom, pan and crop function and several other ways you can alter the presentation. It’s interesting to try out and see how the real-time size transformation happens for example. Fidelity to original dimensions is generally good, but not in all cases (my dog there got a bit elongated to fit into the Tabblo). All of this could still produce some very ugly layout but the site offers another service to help. They’ve come up with a list of good design rules and created a button to suggest alternate designs for your Tabblo. You can click through as many suggestions as you’d like and now can go back and undo as many as you’d like as well. Similar to the way fully free-form writing and other types of media creation is being tempered through forms of external, expert control in places like Wikipedia – Tabblo offers total design control to users but also provides some guidance if desired.
The end results are very nice looking sets of images. Accounts at Tabblo are free and the company derives revenue from printing Tabblos as posters and soon as cards and photo books. The posters are really the best format for the site’s products.
There may be far fewer people who want to print posters of their photos arranged nicely with text than there are people who want to put their photos online for sharing, but just like OneTrueMedia is monetizing DVDs burned from photos and video and any number of sites are making self publishing of books easy – it may well be that Tabblo’s goal of being “the print button for the internet” is a viable one. Whether or not that’s the case – it sure is fun to use.