500px redesigned their website today – much to my dismay, it’s a horrible design from the standpoint of modern web design. 500px has now strayed away from their original audience and goal of hosting and sharing the best in photography, and turned it into a social media hub with striking similarities to Pinterest and Facebook.
Rather than focusing on the goal of their website, they seem to have shifted priorities to social interaction on the site – the once portfolio-like URLs for users (e.g., http://500px.com/spangborn) now display the “flow,” a stream of activity on the website that more resembles a Facebook timeline/wall rather than an exhibition of photographic work, which is pushed off to a secondary page (http://500px.com/spangborn/photos). On top of this, the flow seems to only be enabled for a subset of users currently. The site also appeared to be having load issues immediately after the launch.
From a UX perspective, they’ve also made the mobile experience particularly painful. To see what I mean, grab your iPad and pull up one of your photo pages in landscape view. Click “edit” and try to scroll to the bottom of the modal window that pops up. You won’t be able to. Even after closing the modal, you’ll be unable to scroll the page. Additionally, the drop-down menu in the top right corner is near impossible to get to work properly on a tablet or mobile device. Tapping it once will sometimes pop the menu open, with a high chance that it will immediately close again before you have a chance to select a sub-menu item. This makes me wonder if 500px rushed this release out the door without testing in an attempt to steal Yahoo’s thunder before the new Flickr design is released.
This redesign didn’t bring all bad things, however. 500px has added a market for photographers to be able to sell prints and digital copies of their photos. Sounds great so far, right? Wrong. They’ve set the pricing scheme at something ridiculous. A 24 x 36 gallery wrapped canvas print comes to $500. You didn’t read that wrong – five hundred dollars. This normally isn’t a huge issue, but they’ve missed something huge. You can order the digital copy of the print (high-resolution) for $2.99, and print it yourself elsewhere for cost. Well that seems a bit ridiculous, but maybe the photographer can set their own prices? Nope. Pricing is set exactly how 500px sets it. It’s not even clear what the photographer makes from this purchase – I couldn’t find any documentation on it at all.
It’s clear that 500px has a lot to learn about the web, in aspects ranging from responsive web design, user experience, software testing, and working with photographers whose livelihoods depend on the sales and profit of their photographic work. If these types of mistakes continue to be made, it’s highly possible I may decide to cancel my renewal of their “awesome” account features and head to greener pastures. Their “awesome” features have been rather lacking anyway. This gives Yahoo a real opportunity to build Flickr into the service and photographic portfolio site users have been wanting, but I’m not holding my breath.