500px today released the companion to their already amazing iPad app - which itself was a companion to their phenomenal website. As an existing member of the website, I immediately downloaded the iPad app when it first came out. The user experience, much like the website, was well executed and navigating through the many different sections came quite naturally. I'd hear rumours that a native iPhone app was in the works, so when I heard this morning that it had been released, I downloaded it as quickly as I could.
Hit the jump for my walkthrough and impressions...
Every detail of this app has been meticulously refined to the point of near perfection. I'll state now that I may sound like a 500px fanboy, but I assure you that that's not the case. I'm simply a sucker for good design and Canadian companies. 500px knows both.
Opening the app for the first time reveals a simple 500px logo which very simply animates to reveal a quick tour of the app's features and functions. Much like the iPad app, the background image changes up every time. One of the great things about running a photo sharing website is that you never run out of amazing images to use in your apps.
I found it rather worthwhile to take the app's tour. Too often, app developers come out with this fantastic new app with a revolutionary way of navigating through it, but they leave it up to the users to figure it out. I'm not saying that this app is difficult to use, but it's the ever so kind thought that counts! And hey, there's a way to skip through the tour every step of the way.
The tour provides a great deal of information in a very simple way; something that the 500px design team has managed to get right in all of its incarnations.
Many features that existing 500px users are already familiar with have been reproduced onto the iPhone app. As the tour points our, you're able to access and see at a glance many of the statistic features for the photo you're looking at - comments, likes, favourites (minor complaint here - they spelled "favorites" wrong), and photo details are all accessible.
On the profile pages, again many of the things we're used to with the full website's profile pages are reproduced here.
Here's the final images from the tour...
As you can see above, the login options again mimic the website in that you can use Facebook, Twitter, or a dedicated 500px username and password to login and start using the app. 500px claims that a large portion of the traffic to their website comes from those who just want to see great photography, but don't interact or submit their own. With that said, it looks like the app has an option as well to just browse through photos without signing up. I didn't bother looking at that section though because, well let's face it, why wouldn't you want to be a part of this community?
Right after I logged in (I used my Facebook credentials as I've already linked my 500px with my Facebook account via the web), I got a push notification pop up request. This one was a no brainer.
Once the dismiss the pop up, the app defaults to the Popular sorting category. This displays a collection of the images with the current highest Pulse score. Votes, comments and favourites all contribute to a photo's Pulse using a mathematical formula that is more closely guarded than Google's PageRank algorithm (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it).
What strikes me is how visually appealing the photos look in the three column layout. Listening to the Google+ Hangout with 500px earlier today, they mentioned that given the width of the iPhone's screen, this was the best way to show off the photo's thumbnails without making them too small to see. I'd have to say I agree. Two columns would just look silly, and four columns would make everything look too cramped.
Tapping the "Popular" word at the top of the screen shows a drop down menu that, again, many people reading this should already be familiar with. In addition to the default sort of Popular, there's also a selection of Editors' Choice, Upcoming, Fresh, and of course, Search.
Personally, I like to go to the Upcoming and Fresh sections first. There's a lot of very talented people out there, and a lot of amazing photos, but sometimes they just need a little boost to get up to that Popular spot. Seeing as I see myself as one of those underdogs, I like to give as much support as I can to the relatively unpopular photographers with amazing work.
Moving to the far left of the menu bar in the 500px app for iPhone, a tap on the 500px logo itself displays a drop down menu for Notifications, Settings, Tour, and Find Friends. What I particularly liked is that they've given me the ability to edit the details of my 500px profile from within the app - a feature that most other web-based companies require a full web browser to do.
The other great thing is the ability to customize specifically which push notifications one would like to receive. For some of the more popular photographers, I can imagine they'd turn off a couple of these, lest their phone goes off very 30 seconds with a new notification. For me, I kept them all on. If someone's interacting with my content, I want to know - usually so I can return the favour.
Viewing photos on this app works pretty much how you would expect it to. If you tap on a photo from anywhere in the app, it will load the larger version, displaying the photo's title and creator at the top along with a share button. At the bottom, the app displas comments, likes, and favourites, with an indication to show whether you have taken any of those actions - the icon will subtly light up. Tapping anywhere on the photo causes those bars to disappear so you can appreciate the photos as it was meant to be seen. Oh, and if it's a landscape photo, just tilt the phone to the side, and the layout will automatically rotate accordingly.
Just like on the website and the iPad app, I love having the share options available as well. You never know when you come across the perfect photo that you'll want to share with everyone!
I should also mention that as by tapping the details button - visible on the bottom left of the photo with the menu bars visible, brings up a details screen showing more information about the photo. This is handy for those who want to put the photo into context with a description, or even if you're just looking for inspiration from the EXIF data.
The image above on the right shows the Main Menu settings. From here, I can get to Flow or to my own profile. Flow is a great function of 500px that lets me see the activity of those I follow. I find that I spend quite a bit of time here either gathering inspiration, or seeing where the people I follow gather theirs.
When I first reached my profile, I have to admit, I was blown away. I didn't recall selecting the current image to be featured, but I figured it must have done so automatically. Sure enough, I learned in the Google+ Hangout today that the app will automatically display the the photograph with the highest Pulse among a user's most recent uploads. It just so happens that I love that photo, so I'm content.
Tapping the Info button on the profile page displays the bio information that was either input when you signed up, or that you can manually change either on the web site or from within the app. Also included in this section are a browser link to my 500px.com profile, to my website, and to my Twitter and Facebook.
The last thing I had to figure out was whether or not that little box next to the 500px logo serves a function. Sure enough, when a user receives a notification, it'll pop up there!
All in all, I'm a huge fan of 500px, and I think they did a great job on this app. One thing you may have noticed - and something that all the tech blogs have been pointing out - is that you're not able to upload any photos to 500px using this app. Personally, I find that a blessing. I would rather not see any mobile-phone photos on this wonderfully curated photo sharing website. That's not to say that you can't achieve great results with Instagram... I just think it has its place.
Another thing that to me was conspicuously missing was the ability to view account statistics from within the app. One of the benefits of upgrading to an Awesome or Plus account is the ability to view detailed statistics about pretty much every aspect of your 500px presence. Ash, on the Google+ Hangout, did hint that it may be coming to the iOS versions of 500px soon and that, like most other things from 500px, we'll be blown away by its implementation. I don't doubt that one bit.
So, there's my brief (read: long) overview (read: in-depth look) of the new 500px app for iPhone. It's definitely something that I think every iPhone user/photographer/fan of photography should download. Even if you don't take pictures, the amazing amount of work that goes into so many of the photos on this site is worth seeing.
Oh, and if you want to check me out on 500px (and missed the many references within this post), I go by mkshft.