eHub Interviews PXN8

Posted by Emily Chang on Friday, March 3rd, 2006. Filed under: eHub Interviews

Visit PXN8, originally added to eHub on Jan 17, 06.

eHub Interviews PXN8

imageThanks to Walter Higgins, creator of PXN8 for this email interview posted March 3, 2006.

eHub: What is your web application/service about?

PXN8: PXN8 is an online photo editor which can be licensed and customized for use on web servers. It supports basic editing features like ‘crop’,’rotate’, fixing red-eye etc. It also has some cool ‘toys’ like ‘lomoize’ (makes photos look like they were taken with a lomo camera). If you have a flickr account, you can easily load and save images to flickr.

eHub: Why did you start this project?

imagePXN8: Most online digital printers and photo-sharing websites have non-existent or poor image-editing features. Some sites provide a windows-only image editor for download. I was looking for a way to edit images online. I came across a website that allowed basic editing but had a lot of obnoxious popups and popunder ads. The site was a popup ghetto. I thought it would be nice to create a photo editor that was more like a desktop application and didn’t have so much obnoxious advertising. From a user-interface design point-of-view, creating an online image editor is the holy grail of web application development.

eHub: How much time do you devote to its growth?  Do you have a day job?

PXN8: PXN8 began life as a hobby project. I have a day job and a family so I can only devote a couple of hours a week to it. I spent a lot of late nights working on it before christmas but have had to cut back a little since.

eHub: How large is your team and what are your backgrounds?

PXN8: PXN8 is a solo effort. I’ve been programming since I was 16 (I’m now 34). I’ve worked at Microsoft and Appl e in the past. I’ve programmed in C, C++ and Java (J2EE and Swing). In my spare time I code in Perl and scheme.

eHub: What is your design philosophy?

PXN8: With PXN8 I want to make the most commonly used photo-editing operations easy to use. I’m pitching PXN8 at people who are intimidated by Photoshop and other full-blown image editors. Designing a photo editor that works within the constraints of a web-browser provides plenty of challenges. You have bring to bear knowledge of CSS, Javascript and HTML. My first exposure to javascript was in 1997 – it’s come a long way since.

eHub: What technologies are you currently using?

PXN8: The PXN8 User Interface is written in HTML, CSS & Javascript. The server code is written in Perl and makes use of ImageMagick. PXN8 server code runs on Windows, Linux and FreeBSD. The client works on Windows, Linux and Macintosh (IE, Firefox & Safari).

eHub: If your project is live, what are the most requested features from your users/community?

imagePXN8: I don’t have a large user base right now so I haven’t been getting as much feedback as I’d like – I guess this is a common problem with web applications. Out of 100 users, only 1 or 2 will give feedback.

eHub: Does your user base reside in a primary geographic location or is it distributed?

PXN8: The user base is widely distributed. I get a lot of traffic from Japan, Italy and spanish speaking countries.

eHub: Where do you see the project heading in the next 6 months?  The next 2 years?

PXN8: This is an interesting one. I’m keeping an eye on SVG and Canvas (Safari and Firefox). If SVG and/or Canvas (java2d) is adopted by all 3 main browsers it could make possible a whole new class of online image editor – one with support for layers, channels, alpha masks etc.  In the meantime I’m working on fine-tuning the usability of existing features rather than adding new features. I also want to make customizing PXN8 easier (see business model).

eHub: What is the greatest challenge to your success?

PXN8: Right now the biggest challenge is getting the word out about PXN8. The small budget I have, I’ve spent on hardware and hosting so there is no budget for advertising or marketing. Big companies can spend a lot of money promoting their products. If microsoft or google launch a new web service/application it gets a lot of attention from day one. Micro-ISVs don’t have that luxury so we have to be creative in how we get the word out.

eHub: What is the one thing you need to get to the next phase of the project?

PXN8: Time and Money. I need time to fine-tune the product and money to promote it. Both are in short supply. Ideally I’d love to do a usability study, watch people using PXN8 and iron out the kinks.

eHub: Do you have a business model?  If so, what is it?

PXN8: Sxoop Technologies is not like other web2.0 companies in that I’m not running PXN8 as a paid-for hosted application. We are licensing PXN8 for use on commercial websites. Potential customers are online digital printers, photo-sharing portals and any website that requires rich interactive photo-editing features. Because PXN8 is written in HTML, CSS & Javascript, anyone with web development experience can customize the user interface to suit their company’s identity.

eHub: If you’re able to disclose this information, how much traffic or usage do you see on an average day?

PXN8: I see an average of 1000 page impressions each day.

eHub: What is the one thing you’re most proud of about the project?

PXN8: Usability and performance have been high on my list of priorities. I think creating a usable photo editor within the constraints of a web-browser is an intersting challenge. It’s not your typical web2.0 low hanging fruit (social bookmarks, webmail etc). I’m proud of the flickr integration and the fact that people are using PXN8.

eHub: How would you describe the shift that’s occurring with the web right now to future generations?

PXN8: I think Garrett’s AJAX paper has definitely been a catalyst for people like me. Is web2.0 overhyped ? I don’t think so.

I think there are probably hundreds of micro-ISVs like mine getting reacquainted with web programming and realising that for a small software company, the web is the greatest distribution mechanism ever. Of course they won’t all make headlines and won’t all be bought out by bigger companies but there’ll be some interesting products along the way. Right now I think Web user interface design is beginning to surpass Desktop UI design. In the future Desktop application design will be informed by web UI design. A role reversal is taking place.

eHub: What site(s) do you visit everyday other than your own?

PXN8: Blogines, Flickr, del.ici.ous, techcrunch, and a lot of CSS blogs (Dave Shea, Zeldman, alistapart, Dan Cederholm etc). I love flickr – Its UI feels really “lived-in”. You can tell they’ve fretted (but not fussed) over it quite a bit. It definitely grows on you. Their backend API is pretty cool too. The authentication mechanism is simple and beautiful – you can’t say that about many APIs.

eHub: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

PXN8: Until recently just 5 hours but now it’s a more sensible 8 hours (on doctor’s orders).

Thanks to Walter Higgins, creator of PXN8 for this email interview posted March 3, 2006.

Visit PXN8
Originally added to eHub on Jan 17, 06