Image Relay

Can unique UX be a differentiator in a commoditized industry?

Image Relay was a young company in a young industry (DAM Systems). With about 30 major competitors in this new market, the services were becoming quickly commoditized. Our team redesigned the brand, interface, and service offerings. Differentiation came as we prototyped and asked ourselves constant “what if” situations. One problem that was difficult to test was, “Should the experience be the same if a user is downloading 10 megabytes opposed to 10 terabytes?"

UX, UI, Business Modeling, Systems Thinking

Image Relay Projects - 2010 to 2014


Image Relay came to us with a request to redesign their interface. They existed for 10 years as a common competitor amongst a large sea of similar products. Although IR was adept with adjusting based on their client’s wishes, it was difficult to truly sift through which features would truly create the most value.

After a quick audit of their current product and consumer requests, my project partner and I took the asks and simplified them down to a handful that would create the most value.

Preliminary Analysis

The findings presentation was the starting point for listing preliminary insights and opportunities to improve on the product experience.

Findings Preso

Task At Hand

My partner and I established rules as we thought through the process - all based around the hypothesis that the interface should only show necessary options for the task at hand. As our client’s consumers were asking for more features - we were attempting to keep the experience simple. How do we offer all the features that consumers want without flooding/crowding the workspace? The tasks were broken down into four parts of a mental model:

  • Seek - Users are looking for an asset/folder. We broke this down to browsing and searching types.
  • Select - User select or engage with an asset, groups of assets, or section.
  • Review - User looks at the collection of assets to upload/download/edit.
  • Finish - User completes the action.

The interface, architecture, and flow of the product followed this, almost literally.

Sample Excerpt from IA (Information Architecture/Sitemap)
Sample Excerpt from UFD (User Flow Documentation)


Throughout the designing process, we modeled the experience after principles that allowed us to keep a action-oriented interface without compromising the constant request for more features that would only satisfy a small population of the client-base. These principles were:

  • Combine - Some features had very similar functions and could either be combined or put into a deeper menu of similar tasks.
  • Conform - For some features, we conformed to existing industry standards, or found parallels in other product types that could inform us.
  • Omit - Really looking at analytics, we were able to omit or hide features that were not being used for particular tasks
  • Organize - We would look for patterns or recognizable standard behaviors to model the interface after.
  • Enhance - We looked at the high-traffic features and built them up. For example, the DAM system houses mostly visual assets. It made sense to us that the search feature should be able to search by asset color.

The interface, architecture, and flow of the product followed this, almost literally.

Redesigned interface (in-browser)
Desktop App Login

A Moment of Ambiguity

Throughout our research/discovery process, we continuously looked at our competitors’ products. In them we couldn’t find the answers for one particular problem. We searched for instances of the problem in other industries and it was difficult to find parallels. Should the experience be the same for users who are transferring small assets (e.g. 10MB), opposed to user who were transferring large assets (10TB)?

With no precedence, we role played the scenarios in an attempt to make the experience scalable. Some findings were:

  • There should be some sort of warning to show that user is about to undergo a large undertaking - to manage expectations - we designed a color-coded meter to show load size.
  • A load bar for a 20TB moved too slowly to show progress - we needed another method of visual queues to show constant progress.
  • A user is not going to sit idly by as they wait for this upload/download to be finished - so some sort of alert was needed, and/or the function of being able to input meta data for the files while they waited.
Download UI - A Scalable Download Experience
Mid-download UI


After implementation of the flagship product redesign, the company customer-base grew exponentially. The revenue growth for the first year was about 400% from the previous year. Our work with IR continued for several years with maintenance, new products, and a rebranding. Today, Image Relay’s DAM service is ranked amongst the top 5 in their industry.

There’s a ton more screens of our work. If you want to see more, please contact me.

Sample Excerpt from FRD (Functionality Documentation)