500px once was a light in the dark, when Flickr stopped evolving, years ago. But 500px gradually descended from its pedestal, as decisions were made against users’ interests.
A fast growing challenger
When Flickr was bought by Yahoo, and then evolved into a family photography sharing service instead of the virtual home for passionate photographers, 500px came with a new gorgeous design, giving more space to photos. As I wrote back in 2015 (in french):
500px photos clearly have more of an artistic vocation (we may not like portraits that are often too retouched, or landscapes that are a bit too HDRized, but that’s not the point) than those from Flickr, which has become a completely generalist, purely utilitarian repository of images.
500px was lacking a few of Flickr’s awesome features at the beginning, but they evolved quickly to add what was missing the most.
Groups were among these features, but never really got the audience of Flickr ones, it seems. This is an area where UX should be prioritized over visual design, which 500px clearly didn’t understand.
Collections were another nice feature of Flickr, even if they limited the number of photos we could put in them.
I asked 500px for this several times:
@500px you should let us do curation, like "collections" in Flickr. Could even be used for Editors selections.— Nicolas Hoizey (@nhoizey) September 4, 2015
And they did it after a while: Galleries: An Exciting New Way to Use and Experience 500px
Unfortunately, 500px soon removed the action of favoriting a photograph, migrated the existing favorites into a more difficult to use “favorites” gallery, and later changed the behavior of likes, messing with our habits.
It is still impossible to list our likes, making them useless appart from the “Pulse” dance, and requiring us to use galleries instead, with much more steps.
But a lot of issues
Arbitrary photo crops
In the beginning, 500px had real issues with arbitrary photo crops in several pages, which made me mad:
How could a service dedicated to good photography take so little care of something so important?
They finally changed the design of galleries, and started preserve photos ratios.
500px also has issues with search, that is not always relevant enough to be useful:
Web and iPhone don’t have the same UX
In today’s omnichannel world, it’s really annoying seing a pure player like 500px provide desynchronized experiences on the Web and the mobile app (at least the iOS one).
The app is easy to use, helps adding photos to galleries with a smart mix of latest used galleries and then alphabetical sort (just like Pinterest), while the website keeps all galleries in last use order, up to the very last one, which really doesn’t work well when you have a lot of galleries.
Additionally, buttons colors (for likes for example) sometimes have opposite meanings between the mobile app and the website.
Money, money, money
500px has also always been a little too pushy for subscriptions, showing banner even when I got 2 years of subscription in advance:
500px also launched Prime, a marketplace allowing photographers to sell their creations, but with a really low 30% cut of the selling price. A real shame. 500px later changed it to a better share, but everyone remembers how it started.
The REALLY bad
No more RSS
One of the thing I hate the most is that 500px removed a powerful feature I was using a lot for serendipity and photographers discovery: the RSS feeds for galleries:
I use RSS (or Atom) feeds a lot, for example on Flickr, and 500px ones where perfect. I never got a clear answer when I asked why they removed them.
Transitioning from a passionate photographers project to a soulless business
500px creators have already
left been ousted a while ago (Oleg Gutsol in 2014 and Evgeny Tchebotarev in 2016), but it got worse with the recent acquisition by Visual China Group (VCG), the world’s third-largest visual content provider, a company that has been called the “Getty Images of China”.
No more Creative Commons licenses
All of my photos are shared online with a Creative Commons license allowing people to adapt them freely as long as they share them with attribution, and don’t use them for commercial purposes.
I don’t want to give 500px more power over my photos, so I have to leave.
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