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BETA REVIEW: 500px iPad App (30 minute review)

September 23, 2011

I was fortunate enough to be one of the beta testers for the as-yet-to-be-released 500px iPad app, currently in beta form.  I am going to give you just my initial thoughts and then will likely do a follow up post once I have lived with it for a while longer.

NOTE:  At the time of writing this, I was asked NOT to include Screenshots, thus there are not here.  But since then, they have lifted that restriction.  Please see THIS POST FOR SCREENSHOTS.

500px is a fairly under-appreciated photo portfolio site on the internet… in my humble opinion.  There are dozens of great articles telling you about the site, what it offers and why it’s superior to most other portfolio offerings out there.   But I’ll give you my quick list, just to add some context to the iPad app.

500px has successfully prevented you from ever having to login and see a given user’s 423 vacation pictures of Disneyland.  This alone it what makes them a great home for photographers and photo-related artists.  They do this by either charging a very reasonable fee for unlimited uploads, which scares off the majority of dump-loaders (those who dump their whole memory card into the service)… or limiting the number of images that the free users may upload to 10 per week.  As a result… at least 75% of the images uploaded are worth a solid look.  It’s my absolute favorite way to find new and interesting artists… hands down.

They also have a very unique rating system that successfully gives EVERY member a shot at the spotlight on the “Popular” images page.  Over time (and by time… I mean… daily) ratings vastly change and you rarely see the same thing at the top of the Popular page.

In short… it’s not Flickr.

iPad BETA APP REVIEW:

Okay… on to the reason you’re here.  I am going to cover mostly features and what I think (although I can never be sure) the product is going for.  Minor bugs or things that I’m positive will be worked out will be sent to the developers but don’t need to be covered ad nauseam here.

LAUNCH:  A splash page starts the software off.  500px is holding a contest to find an image to be the “cover image” for the app.  From here, you flip into the app itself.

*** FULL REVIEW AFTER THE JUMP ***

MAIN SCREEN:  The main screen is very user friendly.  The app itself works in either portrait or landscape with nothing being sacrificed by choosing one or the other.  Along the left side are your various menu options.

The app launches with the most recent “Popular” images occupying everything to the right of the menu bar.  12 images appear in their traditional square-thumbnail form.

The options along the left are:

  • Popular – The most popular images at a given moment
  • Editors – Editors’ Picks
  • Upcoming – The Fresh images that are quickly making a name for themselves.
  • You – Your images (provided you are logged in)
  • Friends – Your “Friends’ images” in cronological order
  • Favorites – Your Favorite Images
  • Settings – At this point, the only options here are Login & Logout
  • Slideshow – Not available for testing yet.

Thoughts:

Interface: The interface is spot on.  As with any photo software… the focus should be on clear, crisp images… not on the software.  Other similar offerings like Flickstacker do a lot… but have a lot of overlapping menus and tiny thumbnails that take the emphasis off of the images.

Lack of “Fresh”:  Immediately, I am stuck by the lack of a “Fresh” option.  The “Fresh” page on the website is where the newest images are.  It’s my favorite, frankly.  It’s where you get to see everything before others’ ratings begin tainting your objective view of things.  It’s also where you can get new content… really fast.  It’s always changing so you can see new images every few minutes.  With the available options here, it’s possible that you may not see new content for quite some time.

No Refresh:  I know I can just reselect the page type I’m on (I can press the “Popular” icon if I’m on the “Popular” page) to bring up new content but I’d rather see a Refresh button on the page.  Just sort of an expected feature.

Clarity: The crispness of the images is wonderful.  As I said before, this is where the focus should be… and this is where it is with this app.

Load time:  I am actually impressed with the load times.  For loading 12 decent size thumbnails simultaniously, it’s very quick. Less than 2 seconds for me.  (This will depend on your network connection, obviously).

Image Navigation:  One simply swipes left or right to bring up a new crop of equally quick loading images.

FULL IMAGE SCREEN:  

When you touch an image, the image expands to reveal a nice, clear, quickly loading full screen view.  By default, you see nothing else on the screen.  This is fantastic… only the image.

If you want to interact with the image, you simply touch it.

If you want to see a new full size image, simple swipe left or right.

Image Data/Interaction:

When you touch the full screen image, across the bottom, the image title and photographer appear.  Also the 500px metrix including Rating, Views & Votes.  Again… clear and unobtrusive.

Across the top you have the ability to go back to the thumbnails or send the image out via Twitter, Facebook or E-Mail (no Google+… booooo).

In the bottom right corner comes the big interaction:  Like, Favorite or Comment.

  • Like: A thumb icon allows you to Like the image
  • Heart: A Heart icon allows you to make the image one of your favorites
  • Speech Bubble: Brings up the comment screen.  Notice I didn’t say “allows you to comment on the image”… because you can’t… and yes… I’m logged in.

Thoughts:

There are lots of possibilities here that I hope will make it into the final version.

Comment – At this point, I can’t write a comment on an image.  This is a must.

Link to other users – While the comments page does show me all the comments from other users, I can’t “click” their names to access their profile.  Come to think of it… I can’t access any one specific users’ images or profile by “clicking” their names anywhere in the program.  When I see an image I like, I immediately want to check out the whole portfolio from the artist.  I can’t get to anyone’s portfolio.  This is a major oversight.  I have to believe they are planning this.  But it reduces a major “social” aspect of the product.

Friends??? – There is no way for me to begin following someone so that they become my “Friend” anywhere in the app.  Again… something that takes away from the social experience.

Google+ – A think I read that Google+ recently released their API… hopefully this can be incorporated so that Twitter, FB and Email aren’t the only export options.

OVERVIEW:

THREE out of FIVE stars (for now…)

I am very, very happy with two of the three most important aspects of this photo portfolio software: Interface and Image quality.  The interface is easy to figure out, but doesn’t get in the way.  The image quality is top notch, which I’d expect from 500px.

Where I feel this software needs to improve GREATLY… is in the social interaction between users.  If I can’t comment or begin “following” another photographer, I am going to probably just end up using 500px via Safari.  This is something that the site touts as one of it’s strong points — social interaction between artists… but it’s almost totally lacking in the iPad app (except being able to see and “like” images by the folks who are already you friends).

Lastly, I really need to be able to access a single user’s profile/images.  Deal breaker.

All in all… I think there is a lot here.  But I am looking forward to seeing where this goes in the future.

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3 comments

  1. […] IS A FOLLOW UP TO PART 1 (read […]


  2. […] BETA REVIEW: 500px iPad App (30 minute review) and BETA REVIEW: 500px iPad App (Part II) […]


  3. […] BETA REVIEW: 500px iPad App […]



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