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

How to Make Boomerang Video Effect With Cloudinary

When you see the term boomerang, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

A thrown tool made of wood that returns to its thrower? Another definition is reversal, logically portraying the aim of the tool itself. Based on this definition, the term boomerang videos” came into play to depict videos that loop back and forth.

Read more
Shortening the Development Cycle of Media-Related apps with Cloudinary

Currently, the Android platform boasts the highest demand for mobile solutions, as evidenced by Google’s announcement in 2017 that there were two billion monthly active Android devices, a number that is likely to increase in the years ahead. For app developers like you, now is the right time to build and release solutions for Android. you might have also noticed that a higher percentage of apps being developed nowadays are filled with visual media: images and videos.

Read more
Build Your Own Image Storyboard Android App

Globally, approximately two billion people now own smartphones, which also feature cameras capable of capturing photos and videos of a tonal richness and quality unimaginable even five years ago. Until recently, those cameras behaved mostly as optical sensors, catching light that determines the resulting image's pixels. The next generation of cameras, however, can blend hardware and computer-vision algorithms that apply to an image's semantic content, spawning creative mobile photo and video apps.

Read more
Cloudinary Delivers Simplified Image Management Workflow for Fairfax Media's Digital Transformation

Fairfax Media Limited [ASX:FXJ] is one of the largest media companies in Australia and New Zealand that engages audiences and communities via print and digital media. It includes recognizable mastheads including The Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Fairfax Media operates numerous news and information websites, as well as tablet and smartphone apps, for online news sites.

Read more
Bleacher Report Scores with Real-Time Video Highlights Delivered by Cloudinary

Bleacher Report is a global digital destination for sports fans, creating and collaborating on content at the intersection of sports and culture. Owned by Turner, a division of Time Warner, Bleacher Report's website and social channels focus on sports culture for the next generation of fans. Bleacher Report also has a five-star mobile app and popular email newsletters, which are part of the company’s strategy for instantly delivering in-depth articles, results and video highlights personalized for users’ favorite teams, players and leagues.

Read more