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10 Great Websites: iStockphoto.com

September 13, 2010 - 9:21 am EDT
   
 
   
 
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  • Company: iStockphoto

    URL: www.istockphoto.com

    Target audience: Businesses, designers, bloggers

    Key Web executive: James Leal-Valias, creative director

    Number of people who work on the site: More than 100

    Last major redesign: August 2010

    No. of pages on the site: 82 million

    Web developer: In-house

    With tens of millions of pages, it could be easy for someone to get lost on iStockphoto.com, a site where bloggers, corporations and other creative types come to download and purchase stock photography. It could also be very difficult to find just what you're looking for. The site's most recent update, in August, addressed both of these concerns, said James Leal-Valias, iStockphoto.com's creative director.

    "We looked at the site map [pre-redesign] and realized it was a flat infrastructure. There were lots of buckets we were putting content in," he said. "We also found out that people were confused about what we are and whether or not they were allowed to download images."

    To fix these two very distinct problems, the site's navigation now lets visitors go right into what they want to download—photos, illustrations, video, audio or Flash. Users can explore via the robust search engine using specific keywords, then narrow their search by clicking on particular media types. If a visitor does get lost along the way, they can go directly to a Help section.

    "All the informational elements of the site are under that [main] menu," Leal-Valias said. "Before, it was dispersed all over the site."

    The company also overhauled iStockphoto.com's backend engine, making the site "snappier and really, really fast," he said.

    Searching the site now is easier. The Search field is bigger and more prominent, and users can conduct dynamic searches—adding new search terms on the fly and watching the results dynamically repopulate.

    Social media plays a huge part in the most recent iteration of iStockphoto, Leal-Valias said, because it was important that the site's users to be able to share favorite images and designers with friends and colleagues. "We want our contributors to promote themselves with social media," he said.

    Expert commentary, Erik Loehfelm, executive director, Universal Mind: The search engine is incredible. You can do a search and, if your search is too vague, it will keep asking you to clarify what you're looking for; but it doesn't stop showing you suggestions just because it's confused. You will get results for all meanings of the word you've queried. Once you find what you're looking for, the site's transaction system is flawless. The transaction never takes you away from the photo you're trying to download. You can log in on the bottom left and top right because the pages can be really long.

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