Rethinking the Way Users Upload Photos

A journey to make photos legally licenseable and fully searchable

Image description
Image description

A Bit of Context

How the team and I framed the problem

After launching Project Prime in beta I was tasked with the design of the experience of a sustainable content ingestion service to fuel the 500px Marketplace with fresh content sourced directly from the community. At the time of this project the 500px Communityand the 500px Marketplace, former 500px Prime ,were two different platforms with two separate codebases and user flows.

Project Golas

A focus on content and photo uploads

For this feature the team wanted to increase the 500px Marketplace sales by providing a higher volume of licenseable photos. Completely automating the existing semi-manual photo ingestion process in order to make new photo uploads and old community submissions available for licensing on the 500px Marketplace.


This is how I proposed to solve the problem

The first iteration of this photo ingestion process was shipped along with Project Prime MVP and consisted of a retroactive selection of photos that matched specific licenseable criteria. At that team, the content team would periodically select a group of community uploads based on style, likes and other parameters – manually selecting photographers, emailing them and asking them to submit a high-res version of that specific shot along with any other information required to make the photo legally licenseable.

Every selected photographer received an email containing a link to a licensing submission form that contained a specific number of steps to complete in order to havethe image displayed on the marketplace.

The Early Days of the MVP

Through competitive analysis, user surveys and the collaborative effort of the UX Research team, I was able to find the major key points for an effective and effortless photo submission process. The previous flow was relatively complex and most of the users were not committed to go trought with it. Photographers were not completing this task because of the staggering amount of information required to complete all the steps. Most often, long-time users were also unfamiliar with the marketplace side of 500px and with the requirements of making a photo available for a commercial use.

In order to improve the user experience and to lower the cognitive load for this task, I proposed a solution aimed at integrating the ingestion process in the pre-existing community upload and photo edit flow. The goal was to leverage this existing process by seamlessly integrating the marketplace submission requirements of licensing. The new flow would enable the user to make the same photo available on both the 500px Community and on the Marketplace.

The design focused on 3 major goals:

  1. To reduce the user’s cognitive load caused by the long form.
  2. To potentially defer some Marketplace-specific tasks that were not needed when uploading a new picture on the Community to a later time.
  3. To allow users to review and update specific licensing information after uploading a photo on the platform.

I divided the process into two distinctive parts: upload and review.

Step One – Upload

During the first phase, the user was simply asked to upload their photo on the community site with a minimum amount of information and to optionally agree to the Marketplace licensing terms. There was no failsafe to prevent a photo from being discoverable on the Marketplace, even when it had insufficient or minimal amount of information attached.

The goal was to ensure user familiarity with the licensing terms and specifications without preventing the actual upload of the file. By adding only three fields in the existing Community photo uploader, we succeeded in raising the Marketplace submissions by 300% in the first three months. Photographers who were not interested in licensing their work simply ignored the Marketplace checkbox during their regular upload.

Step Two – Review

After a successful Community photo upload, the user could optionally review the information submitted to update the missing licensing info. A subtle network of small touchpoints and reminders (emails and on-site notifications) was then activated in order to educate the user on the right licensing submission process, identifying all the missing information from recently uploaded photos.

Our content editor team was able to contact with photographers in a relatively short time, sending them detailed messages regarding the photo information that would require an update in order to make that photo more discoverable and thus to take full advantage of the Marketplace platform.

Through a specific filtering system, every user could identify missing information and easily complete it, even days after the original photo upload.

Impact & Final Results

Understanding and measuring success

With this revised process, the platform was able to ingest, on average, six times more photos, almost doubling sales revenue due to the increased volume of submissions. Thanks to the detailed information surfaced on each photo, buyers were able to find what they were looking for 1.3 times faster.