"At first we were managing all file uploads ourselves–that was the largest bottleneck in our entire app–but we wanted to leverage a 3rd party solution."
Social Print Studio: The happiest prints on earth
In classic startup lore, Social Print Studio started in founder Ben Lotan’s dorm room as an art project. Just five years later that project has become a collective of self-proclaimed “weirdos” on a mission to “maintain an awesome and authentic company and brand.” Small, independent and self-bootstrapped, Social Print Studio doesn’t “owe anything to anyone beyond our dear customers.”
And what do they owe their customers? Luke Cycon, the studio’s Director of Engineering, is trying to engineer the perfect customer experience. This includes “being honest and providing a quality experience for our users, end to end, from picking out which photos, which products, all the way to getting their stuff,” explains Luke about his team’s mission. “Even if something goes wrong and you have to deal with support, we want that to be a great experience too.”
The Challenge: Delivering an optimal user experience with a limited budget
In their pursuit of a well-engineered experience, Social Print Studio had some big problems to solve, like how to make uploading 365 pictures in a single session a pleasant experience for users. Or how to provide customers with the absolutely best print quality regardless of uploaded file. And how to scale a CPU-intensive photo processing platform while maintaining their freedom-inducing budget.
Part of the solution was to find a partner that is an expert in uploading, image conversion and complex file management workflows.
"People weren’t ordering as much"
The widget caught their attention first. The upload process is always a leaky part of the conversion funnel for businesses that rely on data ingestion. “People weren’t ordering as much,” confirms Luke, “if you’re ordering a calendar with 365 images and it takes so long that your battery dies, that’s not a good experience.” They were trying to solve a problem of how to optimize for users possibly uploading hundreds of photos, most of the time scattered across the Internet in sites like Facebook, Instagram and Flickr.
Filestack’s powerful upload tool was a key part of the solution. It gave them the ability to integrate multiple social media sites and cloud storage options from which users can upload, all in a single dialog box. “Adding more resources was a big help, it’s nice to say ‘yes, we can do it'” when customers ask for more options.
Filestack has also allowed them to raise their limit on the max resolution of uploaded photos, a common frustration with other photo upload sites and key to providing users with the best photo prints at the end of the process.
"The DIY solution wasn't scaling"
“It’s hard to say when we decided to use Filestack (then Filepicker.io). The DIY solution was becoming expensive and difficult to manage, we all just came to conclusion at the same time,” explains Luke. “The DIY solution wasn’t scaling, we needed to change.”
Filestack turned out to be just as useful on the backend of their infrastructure as it was on the front-end user experience. Moving a part of their photo transformation workflow onto Filestack’s highly available, highly scalable workload specific platform allowed them to eliminate a number of performance bottlenecks in their code and infrastructure. “From our point of view, it seems infinitely scalable, we don’t worry about increase load related to uploading, we just worry about HTTP traffic.”
This wasn’t an entirely easy decision for Luke and his team. “Admittedly, it would have been solvable in-house, but we got more features by switching Filestack. It simplified our DevOps, eliminated state on our servers and made it significantly easier to scale dynamically…we’re really happy about our ability to do what we do and have it handled by [Filestack’s] machines.”
It’s a good thing that Social Print Studio can handle more traffic. Their popularity is increasing, in part because of how meticulous they’ve been in building a phenomenal user experience. Something Filestack is very happy to be part of. Optimizing their photo upload process with our powerful tool on the front end has helped increase revenue while off-loading part of their infrastructure to Filestack has allowed them decrease cost and streamline operations. The future looks very colorful indeed for the quirky bunch of artists, designers and engineers at Social Print Studio.