*All assets are the property of Stanford Graduate School of Business. This case study and prototype are used strictly for educational and instructional purposes* 

Stanford Photo Database 

SALLIE (Stanford ALL-Image Exchange) is Stanford's campus-wide system for managing and sharing digital assets. The database houses over 50,000 photos and is used by faculty, staff, and students across all departments and groups at Stanford. The database serves as a daily resource for many users but is also used as the primary digital archival system for the visual history of the University. 

In this case study, I have highlighted some of the main challenges we faced. To see the entire project, please visit the links below.

Stanford Selects
Filter 5
Search 3
Photo detail
Download 1
Upload 1

Business Goals

1. Reduce the amount of time employees spend searching for and managing photos. 
2. Centralize photos across all of Stanford University Departments and improve photo metadata. 
3. Provide an organized, easy-to-use photo database that will be used by all Universty Departments.

We created a survey to discover what users thought about using Sallie. The survey results revealed that 86% of all participants (59) would not recommend Sallie to a coworker, and 65% of the participants prefer using a different photo storage database

Additional survey results revealed what users did not like the most about using Sallie.

1. User interface (navigation and layout)
2. Time it takes to find photos
3. Organization 

We created a sample project timeline that illustrates the existing photo process, which is time-consuming and requires many resources.

Project timeline


After reviewing the survey, we were able to establish several problems with the current database.

1. Search and Filter - Users were spending too much time searching and filtering photos
2. Metadata - There was a lack of centralization across campus. Many departments were independently managing photos on other storage sites
3. Usability and User Interface - The University's brand was at risk because of a diminishing image

1. Search and Filter

The old search and filter functionality required the users to complete many steps by filling in description rules and reapply new rules every time they wanted to change their search. The users found the search functionality to be complicated and offering very narrowed or irrelevant search results. 

before after 1

Through our research, we found that users use many different search patterns when looking for a photo. If a user were looking for a specific photo, they preferred entering keys words but if the user had no idea what photo they were looking for, the user preferred browsing through a genre of photos.

The example below illustrates the flow of a user looking for a portrait of a specific faculty member by only entering her first name. 

Search 2

Search suggestions

When the user begins a search, they can see suggestions and popular tags related to their search.

Search 4


The user can narrow their search even more by applying related quick tags that appear at the bottom of the search bar. 

Search 5.5

Quick filter 

Once the user completes a search, they can refine and edit the results by using the quick filters. 


We conducted user interviews to gather insights to prioritize filter options. The filter options are designed to narrow the user's search without overly skewing the results. The filter options narrow the results by focusing on file attributes rather than subject matter.


2. Metadata

The old database did not support a photo upload process. The task required a specialist to upload all of the photos and manually tag and categorize each image. The goal for the redesign was to allow administrators from each department to bulk upload groups of photos and through, a series of steps gradually refine the information tagged to each image. 

Upload 1

Bulk uploads

The Bulk Upload allows the user to upload an entire photoshoot. The user can name photos by applying a series of tags and generating individual ID cutting down the time it takes to organize and upload shoots. 

The user can also apply usage settings, information about the shoot, and copyright instructions. 

Metadate 2

Auto tags and customized tags

Image recognition will be used during the upload process to add tags to the photo automatically. The user will also have the option to apply additional tags. 

3. Usibility and User Interface

Landing Page
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Photo Detail
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