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Webshots – Don’t blink
Webshots (www.webshots.com) provides a stage where members are able to upload, share and download personal pictures and videos in albums in a variety of topics and to print out their pictures on different products. “Webshots calls itself the world’s largest photo sharing network with more than 32 million members, who have downloaded 5 billion photos off the site.”Founded in 1999, Webshots’ initial business was to sell a floppy disk of skiing and white water screen savers in retail stores. Catching the wave of the dotcom bubble, it was acquired by Excite@Home with $80 million and Webshots’ founders reacquired the company back as soon as the bubble burst and Excite went bankrupt. As the Web 2.0 era came, it was sold again to CNET with $70 million and finally, to American Greetings with just $45 million.
Business objectives and business model
1. Exchange type
The E-commerce business of Webshots is B2C. Webshots provides a platform where individual consumers can download photos and purchase products with photos printed on them.
Webshots’ business processes occur both online and offline. It offers services in terms of “Pure play” and “Partial play” at the same time. For downloading digital photos, either free or charged, transactions have no physical fulfilment. For purchasing, the delivery, however, is fulfilled offline. Resembling the Amazon’s model, Webshots allows its users to choose the photos or products they are interested in, add them into the personal shopping carts, create the orders, provide delivery details and online payment information and finally submit the orders. Delivery will take a couple of days taking into consideration of production time and the distance of destinations.
Webshots has three revenue models: advertising, subscription and mark-up. About 50 percent of its revenue is derived from advertising to support those free services. Webshots also offers ways that advertisers can get involved with sponsoring daily photos.
Users have options of a free or premium membership. The free accounts are limited to upload and share 1,000 personal photos plus 100 more in each month after registration of the membership. Videos shared are up to 5 minutes. The premium membership requires a subscription fee of $2.49 per month. And this premium membership allows users to share as many as 5,000 photo uploads with 500 more a month afterwards and 10 minutes’ videos. Subscription-paid customers also enjoy a photo sharing with no distraction of advertisements. Major differences of services between free and premium memberships are shown in Table 1:
Webshots considers its free download service as an excellent marketing tool as most people came to know Webshots when they are attracted by the high quality wallpapers and screensavers.
Service of photo printing and other merchandises is another source of its revenue. Pictures can be printed out on printing paper or on other items, such as mug, T-shirts, bookmarks or clipboards, according to the customers’ preference and to be sent to house. With a large prices range, users may choose stickers, as cheap as $4.95 or a messenger bag which costs $119.95. Free photo sharing is only a vehicle to acquire more users and its ultimate goal is to sell those prints.
Webshots applies the menu pricing for its subscription fees and the products for sale. For the premium members, the subscription fee is $2.49. All the products have the fixed prices with only delivery charge varying from the distance of destinations.
5. Value added service
Apart from the prints order which other picture sharing websites or blogs don’t have, Webshots offers a downloadable software. The Webshots Desktop is a free photo and video management application that users can download and install on their computers. With this software, users are able to upload photos right from their desktops or from digital cameras, create slideshows, wallpapers with calendars, screensavers using their own photos, create and manage online albums and a list of favorite members. Families and friends will be able to download users’ photos and users can keep track of photos being downloaded and be notified automatically each time. “It is estimate that this application is downloaded 500,000 each week, with over 100 million downloads in total.”
Users’ photos and albums can be set public or private. If they are public, anyone can look them up and see them. If they are private only the members selected from Webshots can see them, and interact with them. After uploading pictures, users can write captions on them and tag them to facilitate photo searching. Pictures are optional to be rotated or resized to users’ satisfaction after uploading. The photos can also be rearranged by album or within an album into the order as the users want.
People access to albums and pictures can interact with them. “They can link to the pictures to a report, a PowerPoint program, the website, etc. They can email those photos to anyone they want. People can bookmark, download, and tag the photos. Book marking means that people can but the picture in their ‘favourites’ or their internet book marking. They can download the pictures on to their computer and have that picture for themselves. The public is also allowed to tag users’ photos to find them easily next time when they are searching for them in a search engine. Anyone who has access can ‘share on’ users photos, or comment on them. “Share on” option means that they can take users’ photos and post them on other websites, such as facebook or myspace, etc. The public can add the photos to “del.icio.us”, which is another picture blog linked to Webshots. These people are also allowed to comment on the photos. Webshots notices users when someone has commented and users can read the message. Webshots gives its member, the authority to delete or keep the comment that was written under the photo.”
“The core vision of Webshots is being able to communicate and express yourself through images, whether personal or professional in all the different ways that you can interact with images.”And this vision is embodied by personal web page which is unique from one user to another and the free photo downloading, commenting and tagging services. Different from other social networking sites, Webshots is profitable and at the same time aims at establishing a network where a long term relationship is shared by Webshots and among its users.
As the wide accessibility of the internet, Webshots’ users and customers are distributed all over the world. Downloading is available and print-outs can be delivered in almost all the countries. As downloading will be affected by the speed of the network connection, broadband is highly recommended. Website language is confined only to English with no other alternatives. As a result, the customers are targeted on English speakers and others who can understand English. High level of education is not required as photo sharing is a means of entertainment and communication. Table 2 indicates the audience profile in gender, age, income and education:
Table 2: http://www.quantcast.com/webshots.com
Webshots has three main services: photo downloading, photo sharing and print-out products sales. Therefore, its targeted customers are also classified into three categories. For photo downloading, users are generally those picture lovers who want to refresh their wallpaper or screensavers rapidly with newly updates or simply enjoy the professional photos. Those who upload and store their personal photos on Webshots aim at communicating with their family members, friends and express themselves to any one access to the pictures. Print-outs customers prefer gifts or keepsakes which are individual and unique. They try to distinguish themselves with their personal features.
To meet customers’ need, Webshots update its collections everyday. It has been developing relationships for 7 to 8 years with stock agencies and individual photographers where most of professional pictures come from. New supplies will appear on the home page with the link of “new photos” once updated. For users expecting to share more pictures, they can choose to join the premium membership which enables them to store 5,000 pictures if they find 1,000 photos offered by the free membership service are far from enough. Print-outs sales cover a large range of, from photo frames, notebooks to key rings, and even glossy puzzles and playing cards. Webshots tries to include all the daily small gadgets on which pictures could be printed.
1. Content and updates
As a picture sharing website, 80% of the web pages are occupied by graphics with only 20% in scripts of picture classifications and descriptions. Webshots is daily updated and new photos are usually linked from the home page.
2. Essential information
Webshots does not manage interactions with its users and customers very well as it has no E-mail, chat or any online community to communicate with them. Users can only write their comments, complaints, or suggestions and send their feedbacks.
4. Purchase / transaction
Purchase of the products is following a clear procedure. For instance buying a T-shirt, 8 steps are needed: selecting the T-shirt → selecting size and quantity → uploading images to be printed → previewing and adding to cart → previewing items in shopping cart and confirming size and quantity → inputting personal information → providing payment information → final confirmation.
Language is only available in English with no other options.
Generally speaking, Webshots’ navigation design is well organized with the only blemish that its presence is not always consistent.
1. Home page and logo
Webshots’ home page is well designed with the logo and navigation bar at the top, a big daily recommended photo right in the middle and advertisement on the right side. Logo is always located at the top left corner of all web pages. By clicking the logo, users can easily go back to the home page. See Table 3.
2. Navigation bar
Navigation bars are at the top for all second level pages.
3. Site search engine
The site search engine is quite efficient. All the results a user is looking for will be listed below after entering the keywords. For narrowing the searching range, users are able to choose to search within one of the following categories: albums, pictures and videos and/or in different topics, such as family, sport and travel.
4. Site map
Site map button is at the bottom of the page. It lists all the topics and sub-topics.
Breadcrumb never appears on any web page within the site.
6. Site depth and “click through” test
The web site is shallow and broad. With fewer levels of pages, there are larger number of photos and videos under one topic.
Searching and selecting pictures usually take more time, however, once a user decides to download a picture or a video, one click is enough as a new dialogue box will pop up for saving the picture or the video to the user’s personal computer. For purchasing print-outs, also taking buying a T-shirt as the example, 8 web pages, around 20 clicks and some information input are required, including clicking for selection and confirmation.
As a picture sharing website, Webshots’ pages are colorful and eyeball attracting of both registered users and first comers but inconsistency of presence is still a problem as it occurs in navigation design.
1. Choice and consistency of fonts and colours
Fonts of navigation bars in the website seem to be smaller and hard to recognize compared with dazzling pictures around. In the site map where too much information about topics and sub-topics is contained, fonts are especially tiny. Colours of the fonts in some web pages are personalized as users can change colours they prefer. The background of picture browsing pages is light grey contrasting the showing pictures. However, the “Pro shots” page’s layout differs from others in its blue fonts and blank background.
2. Load up speed
Web pages open fast usually within 5 to 6 seconds despite of a large amount of pictures loaded.
3. Object placement and location
In most web pages, for example “download” (Table 4), navigation columns are located on the left but for “browse” (Table 5) and “site map”, they are on the right side. And this inconsistency may cause confusion and inconvenience to users. Totally different from the home page and others, some pages’ formats seem to be independent and not integrated in one uniform layout. Compare Table 6 with Table 4 and Table 5.
4. Page size and density
Web pages are generally short and well in density except the browse page, with topics and sub-topics, which is long and has too much content but small fonts. It takes approximately 12 scrolls of mouse to look through from the top to the bottom.
Visibility and traffic generation
Several keywords are tried in Google and Yahoo search engines. Webshots’ searching tag on the internet is “Photo Sharing, Free Wallpaper and Free Screensavers”. However, the best result comes from searching ”free photo sharing” in Google where Webshots is listed at No. 5 in the first page (see Table 7). When searched with the keywords ”photo sharing”, “free picture sharing” or “free photo download” in both Google and Yahoo, Webshots appears around No. 6 or 7 of the first page of results. And if searched using “free wallpaper”, “wallpaper download” or “free screensavers”, the results will not show up until the third or fourth pages. Among all the search results listed before Webshots, Flickr and Photobucket, two popular photo sharing websites, have the most frequency.
Both of Webshots’ competitors, Flickr and Photobucket focus their business only on photo sharing. No fee is required for Flickr users to start loading and sharing pictures with 100M’s room and unlimited uploads and storage are available with an annual fee of $24.95, around $2 per month. Photobucket’s revenue is generated from premium accounts and advertising. “Free accounts are provided with 1 GB of free storage (approximately 10,000 images), 10 GB of bandwidth, and limited image sizes and content length. For $25 a year, members can upgrade to a Pro account, which provides 5 GB of storage, unlimited bandwidth, larger images, higher quality images, longer video and slideshows, and a 10% discount on prints.”
To succeed in the competition of picture sharing market, Webshots distinguishes itself by value added service of providing wallpaper downloading and offline photo management application software. Apart from individual users’ uploading and storage of personal photos, professional photographers are invited to offer high quality wallpaper pictures for downloading. With Webshots Desktop, slideshows, wallpapers and screensavers can be created with users’ own pictures and photos are easily and directly uploaded from the end users’ desktops. Webshots is the first website for desktop image, wallpaper and screensaver display software. As the second most popular downloaded software in the world, Webshots has become the leader in the desktop photo area. Keeping in mind the core vision of entertainment with images, Webshots blends related services all together. And its competitive advantage lies in the diversification of revenue models and all extra features.
Overall assessment and recommendations
Thanks to the diversified services, Webshots exceeds its competitors across several market segments. The business model of the three revenue types combined guarantees the profitability of the website. High quality pictures are supplied by professional photographers and users’ subscriptions are increasing. The website only needs improvement in navigation and presentation design. Seven Point Checklist from Richard Waller website evaluation are used here to check the overall performance of the website. See appendix.
As for the design of the website itself, it will be better if the web pages’ navigation and especially presentation could be consistent. Breadcrumbs shall be applied to all pages to show clearly the users’ position, what’s available and how to get to the destinations. The layout of the web pages is also supposed to be improved. The fonts shall be larger. All the pages should use the same background color and format. The length of browse page and site map is to be reduced. Therefore a shorter list with sub search tool bar will facilitate users’ searching and avoid endless scrolling through the whole page down. As indicated in the Table 2, the majority of Webshots’ users are generally have no college education, foreign language incapability may hinder the use and accessibility of non English speakers. To attract more audiences with mother tongues rather than English from all over the world, Webshots is suggested to provide multiple language options.
For further development, Webshots could grab the opportunity of the emerging market of cell phone users. As cell phones and PDAs are playing more important roles in our daily lives, the generic resources of wallpaper downloading are able to be transferred in portable devices applications. Webshots may cooperate with telecommunication companies to provide picture downloading services through connection wires between computers and cell phones or directly send pictures from the internet. Fee of downloading a photo can be charged with the same price as sending a short message.
RICHARD WALLER WEBSITE EVALUATION
Seven Point checklist
HOMEPAGE > SITEMAP > EVALUATION > USABILITY > CHECKLIST
Seven Point Checklist
Things not to have
0-10 not very good 11-20 about average 21-31 pretty good
>> Return to the Usability Discussion
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