Cloudinary Blog

ImageCon 2018 Speaker Ryan Cooke, Pinterest on Delivering a Better Mobile Experience

Pinterest on Delivering a Better Mobile Experience: ImageCon 2018

For our first in a series of Q&A posts with our ImageCon 2018 speakers, we spoke with Ryan Cooke, a Software Engineer and Android Developer at Pinterest, a site that serves up billions of images everyday. In the following post he discusses why improving mobile images was important for improving the user experience and offers advice on building a mobile-first site.

Check back later this week for our next speaker post and follow all things ImageCon on Twitter at #ImageCon2018.

What were the issues that drove Pinterest to test different ways of delivering "better" mobile images?

As we expanded to international markets Android was becoming our most popular app, so we really started going above and beyond to improve its quality. One thing that stood out was when iOS users tried the Android app they immediately noticed the images looked worse, and they were right. Seeing as we serve billions of images everyday this seemed like an opportunity for improvement. We were able to be really laser-focused on how images could be better. Our first couple of changes really showed an improved user experience, so we were able to justify that image quality matters, and eventually we were able to take what we learned from Android back to other platforms.

What advice would you provide developers building a mobile-first site?

My personal take is to build as little from scratch as you can. Use the tried and tested patterns, third party libraries, etc. This will let you get moving fast and will likely give you an infrastructure that won't completely need to be rewritten. New hires may even be able to work with familiar tools. In regards to image loading specifically, I'd recommend using one of the existing third party client side tools (on Android: Picasso, Glide, Fresco; on iOS: PinRemoteImage) to handle the heavy lifting. If your app is really image heavy and you expect to be doing a lot of work on making the images the best they can be it may be worth adding a wrapper around the library so you can replace it with your own or another one as the need arises.

Are the lessons learned from your experience applicable to other sites and if so what would those be?

My biggest takeaway is that good image prefetching and caching makes a big impact on how the user sees your app. On a lot of apps it is very easy for a developer to already have the images ready for the user before the user would see them. Think of something like a movie ticket app, where they show the poster for the movie. There are like 20 images total the app will display at any time and it would be easy to have those loaded before I scroll to it, but they don't. The result is even on a high quality network I see the placeholder and then the content loading over the placeholder. The content changing will often draw my eye because it is motion, but it's probably not what the developer wants the user to be looking at. Overall it gives a subconscious feeling of a slow site and something not quite done. Our users at Pinterest still sometimes see placeholder images, but through clever prefetching they see them less and less.

Recent Blog Posts

An Eye-Opening Talk: Building Apps for the Next Billion Users in Africa

William (iChuloo) Imoh, who hails from Lagos, Nigeria, recently embarked on a U.S. speaking tour, February 20-March 12, during which he powwowed with technical and product teams and communities at such renowned enterprises as Netlify, Pluralsight, Lucidchart, Twilio, and more in Salt Lake City, Dallas, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. On March 5, he gave an enlightening talk, entitled International Developers and Development: Building for the Next Billion Users at Cloudinary in Santa Clara, California. Below is a synopsis. For details, see the related slides.

Read more
The Debut of the Cloudinary Customer Advisory Board

Focus on customers has always been Cloudinary’s mantra. Because we owe them our success, we are constantly reaching out to our customers, not just for feedback on our offerings, but also for their vision, wish list, and buy-in of what Cloudinary can do to meet their needs and make them succeed. About six months ago, it occurred to us that it would be beneficial if we could meet regularly with those who are behind innovation at our key customers—executives, product gurus, developers, content managers—to swap strategies, product roadmaps, best practices, and such. In particular, we’d like to solicit actionable feedback as a foundation for our plans of product enhancements.

Read more
Media Management With the Cloudinary-Netlify CMS Integration

Static sites and the JAMstack are quickly becoming a standard for developing safe and performant websites with an optimal workflow for developers. Netlify CMS (not to be confused with the company that created it, Netlify) is an open source content management solution that works especially with static site generators such as Gatsby, Hugo, etc... enabling content storage in your Git repository along with your code for easier versioning, multichannel publishing, and direct content updates in Git.

Read more
Vitaly Friedman's Insights on Media Conferences

Vitaly Friedman is a die-hard devotee of beautiful content. Born in Minsk, Belarus, he studied Computer Science and Mathematics in Germany, unearthing in himself a passion for typography, writing, and design in the interim. After a six-year stint as a freelance designer and developer, he co-founded Smashing Magazine, a leading online publication on web design and development. You can follow SmashingMag on Twitter @SmashingMag.

Read more