The Story Behind Shutterstock for iPad

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As head of the Mobile team at Shutterstock, I’m excited to announce Shutterstock for iPad is officially live in the iTunes App store. (You can download it for free, here.)

After six months of researching, planning, developing, and fine-tuning, we hope customers find this application makes browsing for images a more seamless and beautiful experience than ever. With the simple swipe of the finger, you can:

  • Scroll through thousands of images, seamlessly tiled together in a unique Mosaic View that doesn’t compromise image quality or aspect ratio by cropping or distorting;
  • Save images into your existinglightboxes, or create new ones; and
  • Share them via email, Facebook or Twitter.

As I’m sure many of you know, getting to the point of app launch can be a challenging, yet exhilarating, experience. Since this was to be our first venture into the mobile space—and because understanding the customer and their workflow is always central to product development at Shutterstock—this initiative started with a bit of research.

About six months ago, we began noticing an increase in mobile usage of our web site. Specifically, people were coming to Shutterstock from an iPad, and they were doing so on the weekends. As we dug deeper via a mix of customer interviews, qualitative and quantitative research, we learned that people were getting requests on nights and weekends, and were finding it easier to sit on their sofa with an iPad than with a laptop.

Understanding how and where our customers were using the device meant that we couldn’t simply repurpose our website for the iPad. We had to build a unique experience that was more intimate, immersive, and engaging than a browser site, and yet one that enhanced our core functionality: the ability to search, save and share images.


Search

As it turns out, when people use an iPad, their willingness to type goes way down, and they use simple search terms with auto complete more often. They also have less patience with load time. Yet with a library of more than 16 Million images, this meant one or two-word search terms could result in millions of results. Displaying these image results tightly, quickly and in a manner that took full advantage of the screen space and maintained aspect ratios and quality was a fantastic math problem – and the solution became a defining feature of our app: the unique Mosaic View. Sure, it would have been easy to crop the images into a square and tile them together, but that wouldn’t be true to the image, and would have frustrated users seeking images of specific proportions.

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Image Quality

Second to search experience was the quality of image display. We didn’t want to just show you a pixelated version of the image, so we literally re-calibrated every single image in our library, so that when viewing on the iPad, you see crisp, clean images. When you click into the detail page, you get a beautiful 1000-pixel image that takes full advantage of the device’s vivid display.

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Saving

Our third objective of the app was to let you share mages. We wanted it to be just as easy to save images to a lightbox as it is to find them in the first place. We built a simple “+” button that lets you save images to existing lightboxes or create new ones – either way they are seamlessly integrated with Shutterstock.com.

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Sharing

Lastly, knowing that much of your work is collaborative, we wanted to make it easy to share a single image or a lightbox. With just the tap of the finger, you can share via Twitter, Facebook, or email.

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All together, we spent six months building what we hope you will find is a great new way to search for, save, and share images.


So what’s next?

We’d love for you to download the app, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas as we continue our work on future versions and new applications. Like any good product team, we are constantly trying to gather feedback, and looking for new ways to improve your experience. We also know that the best user experience goes beyond functionality, it’s about workflow, and ultimately it’s about a feeling of ease and comfort. This is surely the first of many ventures in the mobile space, and one that we look forward to sharing with you in the days and months to come.

Matt Smith
Shutterstock Mobile Product Lead

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