Why Digitalmax now sucks, and how they can get better

Natalie at SimpleandLoveable  laments the passing of a great service into a lousy one – after a shoddy website redesign by DigitalMax.

Now I briefly used DigitalMax two or so years back, so I went to the DigitalMax site to see how bad it now is.  Let’s start with the homepage, an ask the age-old question – What do you want me to do?


..and I have no idea. I can find out more about 20c prints, login, join, add add photos and so on but there  is no obvious “Start here” option.

–>add a Start Here button, section or just make it obvious what the main thing to do is

–> Make it easy for me to understand what the website is for. (“Print your photos”) 

So – I first tried to Add Photos, since that seems to be the “start here” option for me.


I got this screen. What is it saying?


It’s actually an error message – written in small blue script beneath the gloss. While the error message should be a lot more obvious, why not show the registration screen for me to login or register? Why do I have to login to try the site anyway? Can’t I upload photos, play around and then decide whether or not to buy? Most online shops let you do this.

–> let me play before registering or logging in 

I’ve been a member before, so I try to login and get this:


–> Highlight errors by using red text and/or shading  

Again – a tiny, hidden in blue text, error message. So I try looking for my old details and again get these useless error messages.


Digitamax has forgotten that I was ever a customer which makes me feel pretty unloved.

–> never lose my details 

–>put the registration details on the login error page so that I can join without clicking away

I am about done with this site. But, I persevere in the name of bad usability science.

The registration page is actually simple and painless, making it even stranger to understand why I have to click to get there – why not put it on the front page (if you insist on me registering, at least say “Register now to get started”).

–> put the registration form on the front page (if you insist on me registering first, which you shouldn’t) 


Unfortunately DigitalMax then accepts my registration (with no click on the email link to confirm), and then compounds this error by emailing my my login address and password back to me. Thanks for showing everyone my password.

–> never ever email me a password that I’ve entered. Send me a generated one if I ask for it or send me nothing at all. 

–> Confirm email addresses to prevent junk account set-up attempts.  


After successfully registering, rather than automatically logging me in, I am invited to manually do so. Did anyone actually test this new site with real users?

–> test and retest. Listen to your users and watch them in real life.

–> log people in automtically after registration. 

It goes on. The login doesn’t actually seem to let the rest of the website know what is going in – here’s the screen after logged in:


The main part of the page is still thanking me for registering and asking me to log in. The first use of red text is not for an error message, but for a success message.

–> Greet me by name when I am logged in

–> Make it obvious what to do next by putting a giant “Add photos” in the screen after logging in

It goes on and on and I have had enough. There are one or two good screens, but generally Digitalmax fails on a number of levels. They do not make it obvious what to do, they have lots of glitz but poor usability, and they didn’t even deign to respond to Web Designer and customer Natalie’s email.

Now DigitaMax is otherwise a NZ success story – Auckland based, and offering a good service and range of pretty cool products. Terabyte appears to have done this redesign, and while they have a large portfolio, the website is a poor advertisement for their ability to deliver a website that delivers  results. Sitting here it is imposible to know whether the client or the design firm should take the blame, but overall this was a giant leap backwards for DigitalMax.

However, a few simple changes could reap dividends for the bottom line:

–> buy “Don’t make me think”, listen to your customers, understand (through the numbers) what people are doing on your website and make constant tweaks to improve the bottom line. 

–> Continue to work on a redesigned website constantly – without assuming a “website redesign” is finished when the site is up. That may mean you need to budget a bit more.

–> Take ownership of your own website – use the designers as consultants, but understand what you are trying to do and what good looks like.

–> Focus on removing steps from the process – minimise the number of steps between arriving at the website and ordering prints. You should be able to do it in three screens.

–> Respond to Natalie. Indeed go and hire her.

Published by Lance Wiggs


11 replies on “Why Digitalmax now sucks, and how they can get better”

  1. Thanks for doing the full review – I was going to but was too busy ranting :) I think all they really needed to do is look around a bit more at who is doing it well – even simple things like copying the photo upload tool that Flickr has – it’s almost like they are discouraging you from buying a lot of photos by making it so difficult – I actually have to write list of the file names then upload them, which seems REALLY dumb and takes forever!

    I think I’m just sad because they were so ahead of their time and I remember initially they had it spot on by offering amazing deals to early customers and moving the site forward quite quickly, responding to feedback then suddenly everything turned… Maybe a management change or something?

    And just so you know, you lost pretty much all your data when they re-designed the site – I had heaps of albums that are now gone and when I asked how I could get them back, they told me to click a non-existant link. So you weren’t the only one who got forgotten (does that make you feel better? ;))


  2. I think it is even worse than you’ve both described :-(

    If you get through to upload files there is an “intelligent” upload decision that allows IE users to use an ActiveX control for multiple files, versus everyone else that gets to do it one by one. It doesn’t even tell you this directly… I thought “this is crazy, there must be some multiple upload thing for IE or this is commercial suicide” and I was right.

    A huge backward step.

    I assumed the changes came about because the old software client was licensed from overseas and must have been licensed on terms that were not scaling too well. No inside information to back that up though. I had issues with that client too, but

    I asked them, ages ago, for simple integration with online gallery software. A RESTful shopping cart interface would give them the ability to make money from people who want to reprint photos from other places. I don’t believe there is a NZ photo printer that does this yet, so there is (and has been for 2+ years) an opportunity there.


  3. Bwooce
    – aha! I was wondering why there was a “choose your upload method button”.
    Natalie – nice to know I am not alone in losing everything. Yu have to wonder what these guys where thinking, and wonder more at their lack of response to date..


  4. Yup, we stopped using them after their upgrade. It’s know just easier paying through the nose in town for the few we print. Recommend any photo printers (hw)?


  5. I have had literally thousands of photos developed by digitalmax and am relly cheesed off with the upgrade. I agree with everything else mentioned here but have you ever tried to crop your pics? Absolute disaster! Click the button and the whole thing goes into some kind of spastic fit for minutes on end – I left it once for about 20 minutes and it was still jitter bugging when I returned. Ended up with some old family photos in a laughable state. Have rung them and emailed them and nothing has changed. The only reason I stay with them is that they do the special size I use for making my photographic cards. Frogprints are dearer but much better quality and postage not as dear.


  6. Very disappointed with Snapfish upgrade. Site is difficult to navigate. Too much time wasted getting where you want to go. Photos which could previously be enlarged to 122cm now being rejected for 50cm x 40cm enlargements. Can’t produce books that you want, no option but to accept their layouts.

    Site is now rubbish.


  7. I am doing a photobook at present and am designing the whole thing myself. you don’t have to accept their designs there is a button to click to do-it-yourself. the new page layouts are better than before. havent finishes this one yet so hopefully the quality is good.


  8. I have be a long time user of Digitmax but since the change to Snapfish, their whole service is crap.
    Three times after uploading my photos the site cut me out and this cost me $120-00 in extra internet charges. There have be several other problems in navigating their site. Then to top it all, have you tried to contact them. Snapfish send you an automated reply that usually makes no sense with regard to the original query you had. Emialed their account section as hoping a person was there, but refered back to Snapfish. Pleaded with them to give me a contact number and name of a person in charge so I could tell them about being a customer of theirs at this end, referred to 0800 Snapfish.
    Does no one at their company care what is happening.


  9. Hello All, I have used DigitalMax for quite some time now and I always had a 48 hour turnaround with NO delivery charges. After about an hour trying to figure the new site I am convinced that any 12 year old in New Zealand could produce a far better result.
    1. It took ages for me to “register” again- they had forgotten me.
    2. I have a prepay account but this was not acknowledged.
    3. 12 cent a print? BUT $3.95 delivery to a pickup point.
    4. Minimum time for delivery 14 days.
    It seems to me that photos emailed to Digitalmas are sent to America, then to some cheap place to be processed then sent on to New Zealand.

    Answer to Peter Whitehead: try phoning 0800 885 012. Note that this operates 10am to 7 pm New Zealand (Noo Zeelaand) standard time. We are on Summer time.
    Recommend that that Snapfish be boycotted.


  10. I too have been a long time user of Digital Max. I found navigating the old site quite easy and found uploading and cropping of photos etc fantastic. I also found it incredibly handy being able to pick the photos up at the local pharmacy and it was great that this was free.
    Since the upgrade to Snapfish I have found that photos I receive back are cropped incorrectly, rather than a 3-4 day turnaround in receiving photos it is approx 9 days and that is after I have complained on about the 6th/7th day. The cost to pick it up from a pharmacy also seems unreasonable. So now not only am I paying what seems unreasonable to pick the photos up, the quality of the photos seem poorer and there is a lenghty delay. I have complained to them and received a pathetic response (written in poor english). Maybe they are being printed in India or something.

    Are there any other sites that anyone can recommend?


  11. I just got some photos from them and the quality is poor. Dull colours, loss of sharpness and I could even see some aliasing on some photos! Wouldn’t recommend it any more. (probably since they becom hp/Snapfish?).



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