Imagery is one of the most important parts of a good blog post. WordPress makes it simple to upload photos but finding just the right image isn’t always an easy task. There are plenty of stock photography sites out there but the quality is widely up and down and the licensing and legalities of the images isn’t always clear or right for the situation.
PixelRockstar attempts to solve these problems with a unique plugin that gives you access to a stock photography catalog directly inside of WordPress. Photos are purchased with a simple credit system and all have proper licenses to avoid confusion or legal concerns.
Vita Valka, one of the team members behind PixelRockstar, answered my questions about the plugin’s initial creation, challenges the team has run into during development and about the plugin’s unique pricing structure.
How did the idea for PixelRockstar come about?
It’s been an awesome coincidence. Year’s ago Alex got in touch with Amos after years of frustration to use photos effectively in WordPress. Amos had a WordPress plugin called Microstock Photo Plugin and Alex was hoping this plugin would be the magic bullet to be more productive and use photos legally for his blogs without having to spend a lot of time downloading uploading, searching and understanding terms of stock photo agencies.
He tried it out and didn’t really get what he was hoping for, and forgot about the whole subject again until WordCamp Europe in Seville where one of the attendees told him “Everyone wants to do a plugin, but that is a really big challenge”. As he was listening to him and digesting the conference he realized he should get someone to do that perfect photo plugin. So he convinced Amos to go for it combining their skills and knowledge. Amos had the experience with WP plugins, Alex the user experience by being a long term financial blogger in Spain and I (Vita) joined to help with the UX and Design.
Were there any surprises or challenges involved with the development of PixelRockstar?
Many. I mean all bootstrapped startups have them. Our best experience has been working with the WordPress community. We all have been long time WordPress users, but one of the things we enjoy the most is going to WordCamp Europe together. There are so many people simply trying to make the world a better place. One of the biggest challenges for us is educating the WordPress community about the challenges of using photos legally. The recent changes in the Unsplash and Pixabay terms from CC0 to their own licenses, however, is changing the environment and it really is a question of time before the pressure to use photos legally and the demand will match.
Where we are seeing the biggest interest is from WordPress professionals like theme developers or publishing networks. They need a good, productive and legal experience for their customers and networks need all of that for themselves too.
How difficult has it been to reach your audience to get them to learn about your plugin? Was there any technique you found more useful than others to get the word out about what PixelRockstar can do?
Another kinda challenging part. We have a great solution to save time, money and offer security when it comes to photos used online. But the reality is that very few people experienced an image related lawsuit and not many bloggers value their time so much. So we are reaching to professional bloggers who know that adding a quick picture to an article might be a time consuming pain. And who know that a lawsuit is a costly thing, even when it happens only once in a lifetime.
Our technique to reaching out could be described as agile. We try things, and we continue doing those that stick. We try to get smarter with every step and we use all our powers to fight like a tiger. Because we love the team and the spirit we developed together – being remote in Spain & Czech Republic, yet so close to each other.
To be a little more specific – we teach the community about how licensing works, and surprisingly, that’s not available in a simple form. We visit WP events and try to make some fun with the community. We try to reach out to smart WP developers who believe in the same values. All helping us in the future, when all digital creations would be trackable and it would be in one’s interest to make sure the digital activity follows the law.
Can you tell me a bit about how you acquire the stock images you offer your users?
That is simple. We have a image partner that is a traditional photo agency that supplies us with the photos. Together with them we created a unique digital license that allows us to deliver quality photos for online use for a really good price. Currently we have over 4.5 million photos, which is more than enough for corporate or private blogs.
The pricing of PixelRockstar is based on the number of images you use per year. What is the reasoning behind that structure and how have your customers responded to it?
Pricing is alchemy. While it is a result of long talks, and we believe this is the best approach. Nobody complained about the pricing – probably because it’s really low. Still, our target is to make the pricing structure become invisible in the user’s eye. We already have a few ideas on how to improve what we have – like extended or unlimited expiration of prepaid photos. We also work on a solution for theme developers and other potential partners, where a special license is needed.
What’s in store for future updates of the PixelRockstar plugin?
That’s a long list. One of the next things we want to implement is to make the search and adding photos native in the Featured Image section and to support as many visual page builders as we can. We receive a good chunk of feedback from users and friends, so things like multi-site support and image editing features might be those that would make our users happy. But this mostly depends on the direction our users will take us.