"Just like I am, many people love to leave a visual mark of their lives for various reasons."

I love taking photos -- especially of myself. Selfies, timers, selfie stick, asking someone to take one of me, everything. After moving to America at the age of 12, alone, I grew a habit of taking photos of myself to visually leave a trace of my life. Not only I wanted to show my family and friends back in South Korea how I was doing, but I also wanted to send an encouraging note to myself in a foreign country that I was doing great here, and that I was happy. From then on, I have organized more than 100,000 photos in the yearly folder, that is now on the year of 2017. (Happy Chinese/Korean New Year!)

Just like I am, many people love to leave a visual mark of their lives for various reasons. Sometimes, however, lenses are not enough to contain what we want to show. So, we further edit -- which unfortunately can be a bit tedious. Luckily enough, I found a convenient photo editing app called Spring. It had very limited but the exact features I needed, which manipulated the whole body proportion with simple interactions. It was free and accessible on Android (I use iPhone now, and it is still accessible), so I decided to give it a try.

Spring is a photo-editing mobile application (available on Android and iOS) that enhances a full body proportion. App contains three main features - height stretching, slimming, and head resizing. Each feature does what it says which is pretty straightforward, and these three features focus well on the current Asia's beauty trend -- to be slim, moderately tall, and to have a smaller head size. I use Spring for almost all of my pictures. Apart from the fact that the app was free, here are the few things what I appreciated about the way this product was designed and built.

What I love about Spring.

Simple, Clean UI

Spring's user interface was very simple and clear in communication of each feature's purpose, perhaps because app strictly limits the number of functions compared to the other photo editing apps. The app uses circles and lines to pivot the body position and bar to adjust the density for all three features. It is very easy to learn and navigate. The color scheme with green and blue also gives a fresh tone that reminds the user of actual 'spring'(blooming) theme.

Easy tweak to an image

I love how only few touches seamlessly modify an image. It solves lots of existing problems on the mobile photo editing apps, such as making overly detailed, tiny modifications with a fingertip. All I need to do is to pivot the circle and lines to my body position and scroll the bar to adjust the density. Because the user is doing the macro control and the app is doing the micro touches, it saves much time on the user's end by making it easy to-go and un-do. This feature guarantees much better quality requiring less amount of time, stress, and efforts from the user.

Direct Sharing to Social Media

After editing a photo, the app allows the user to directly share and add a comment to the edited photo to the social media. Surprisingly, many simple apps I use forget the 'share' feature. The benefits of having direct 'share' is not only because it is a shortcut, but it also maintains the original image quality. As an avid user of Spring, I am thankful that the app has a direct sharing feature, because it saves much of my efforts every time I use this app for the same purpose -- to share on the SNS.

Obviously, the quality.

Whereas many other photo editing apps lower down the image quality by reducing the number of pixels, Spring keeps the original image quality even after edited. Not only it provides a solution, it gives in high quality. As image quality is highly important when it comes to a photo, the resulting photo is seamless, looks original, absolutely with no line of distortion. As a computer science student, I wondered what the algorithm was behind in choosing which pixel to copy over and the way to keep the original quality. The algorithm seemed similar all across the three features, which means it would require much less work from the engineers' side to maintain and easier to implement other potential features along the line. Happy medium.

Why I chose Spring.

I chose Spring over hundreds of other photo editing apps, because of very distinct reasons. Here are the few examples of other editing apps in comparison.

  • PhotoWonder: PhotoWonder's too many features overwhelm me at the start with its clustered UI, and the app does not have a feature to manipulate on body proportion, which I need. Their features, though very creative and limitless in number, only manipulate on the very detailed touch, such as manually pushing in the fat, enlarging the eyes, or erasing the blemishes. The app also has an optional login page to record the user's personalized information.
  • Instagram: Again, Instagram does not own a feature to manipulate on the body proportion. However, Instagram has some awesome filters where I can apply for both photos and videos. It even has a cool concept of 'hash tag' for me to further explore along in its social platform. On the other hand, the app requires a login from the new user at the start in order to use the app.
  • Make Me Tall: This app does pretty much what Spring does, but the slight adjustment on the horizontal bar changes too much on the photo. Hence, I have to be very careful in adjusting the bar in order to edit the photo seamlessly. It is quite difficult to control and achieve the quality I want in this app. Furthermore, constant advertisements are extremely intrusive, and the app lowers down the image quality after edited.
  • Kimochi: This app contains only height stretching feature in manipulating looks and has a separate tab for the photo effects. In other words, if I'm specifically looking to enhance my body proportion, this app has only one feature for that. Furthermore, their UI is quite frustrating that once start editing, you cannot un-do your action. Therefore, if you stretched out yourself too much, you have to restart the edit even if you have already applied filters on the very same photo.
  • Bikini: This app has one more feature than those Spring has, which is to curve in the waist. It's a bonus. However, UI interaction is quite confusing, because pivoting items for each feature vary. Furthermore, every adjustment I make, I don't see the stretching process and only see the result. In other words, I have to do many trial-and-error tests to find the perfect proportion I want.

There are hundreds of photo editing apps out there, and of course, many of them contains the feature that I needed. However, none of them had as clean UI and seamless interaction as Spring. Spring was the easiest to learn, adapt, and control. The proportion control density was just about right - not too detailed nor too sparse. Furthermore, Spring does not have the advertisements to pop up in the middle of editing. Ads are only shown after the user has finished the edit, which creates a very preferable user experience. In addition, Spring does not require any login page nor further payments, so it is easily accessible to the new users right at the start.

Jump to the Next Stage

Trend moves fast. I believe a great product also needs to move fast. I see an enormous potential in Spring that it could really excel in the photo editing market. In order to do so, they need to better empathize with the users' pain points, analyze use cases, and prioritize them. Then, they need to build more features based on the prioritization to expand beyond their product comfort zone and compete in the market. They need to move along fast, constantly evolve better, with fresh ideas.

"If I were the product manager of Spring..."

I would focus on giving a greater satisfaction for using the app to the users, specifically by offering them many features to explore. In order to achieve the goal, here are the prioritized user's pain points I would focus on first and my product suggestions:

  1. In order to use other editing features that does not exist in Spring after using Spring, user needs to save the photo, exit out of Spring, open the appropriate app, re-edit, and vice versa. ==> This pain point not only addresses unnecessary steps that user needs to take but also leads to another pain point that the image quality gets lowered at each step of saving and re-loading. We can solve this pain point by having a direct integration with other photo editing apps. One simple solution is obviously to implement in many new features to the app. However, this method may not be the most optimal at our current situation seeing we are lagged behind the market, and our time and resources are limited. Hence, instead of building from the foundation, we can try to initiate B2Bs and integrate with other apps that contain features that Spring does not have, by creating seamless go-to buttons to jump to the next app and vice versa. This way, we reduce the number of steps and also maintain the image quality by getting rid of mid-saving. Such direct integration would not only increase Spring's relative advantage but also observability by exposing the brand to other users of the apps as well. It could open up more opportunities for the newly integrated features and business opportunities.
  2. User can only edit photos. ==> This pain point can be addressed by implementing similar features applied to other medium, e.g. videos. Currently in the social media, trend is now shifting towards from photos to videos. Iphone has implemented 'live feature' to the photo where it acts like a 3-second video, Facebook mobile has created a separate 'video' section due to the popularity of short viral clips, 'live' functionalities are available on Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram, and Youtube artists are even more growing as an in-demand occupation. Considering our algorithm for our three features, I assume that we can carry the same engineering method to the video. If we can also expand, stretch, or make some parts leaner in the video seamlessly just like current features for photos, it would not only solve this paint point but also open up huge opportunities in the video industry, such as in advertisement. I can also envision this feature expand beyond video, to Boomerang, GIF, and even to Snapchat.
  3. User is not getting any personalized benefits. ==> This pain point can be addressed by creating a social login. Just like many other apps, we can create few buttons to ask for a permission to access the user's social media accounts. This way, new registration would not intrude too much in user's new experience, and we can collect much more data from the app interaction and from the user's social activities already. This would give Spring an opportunity to better analyze user's current activities and pain points and plan for further personalized offers like birthday gifts. Furthermore, it would also open up a space for digital marketing, where Spring can further advertise themselves to the user's neighbors who may be interested in Spring. To take another step, we can even try to import up-to-date photos from the social media to directly edit in the app or have the button be available on the social media to carry the user directly to Spring for further editing. We could also foster social interaction using social connections and create a board, where Spring users publicly share their photos. However, these are all later stories to be told. Social login first.

Did Spring Succeed?

In order to measure success, I would track these three key metrics:

  1. Number of newly registered users : to see if the new features have expanded our user base
  2. User retention rate : to see if the new features have effectively solved the previous user's pain points
  3. User transfer rate from other apps or social media : to see how much our direct integration exposed Spring to the other users and market

After analyzing specific numbers and setting a bar where to define as success, I would then re-analyze where to improve and what the existing pain points are. Then, it's another iterative process to better understand the user, market, and our product.

Thank you, Spring.

Editing a photo of self, in my belief, is not lying or faking as many people may assume. It is just another way to sell, market, and promote. If what exists out in the market can help better promote myself, why not leverage it to show my ideal me?

- Miri Choi, MIT -

Promoting this snowman along with me in Wien ;)
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Miri Choi

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