(this story was updated on Jan 10th, 2016)
I get asked a lot about apps because I try many of them and I stick with very few (as most of us). One area which became prominent during my publishing days is visually oriented apps for photo sharing, photo manipulation, art, drawing, etc. For the most part there are thousands of apps in these categories but here is one closely related category which I call “Visual Story Telling Apps” and this category is not so packed as you might think.
What I want from an app in this category is a simple and fast way to add photos, videos and texts, mash it up and share it with friends or the world. If it has filters and option to add text over photos/videos, even better.
I want to look at three apps which fit into this category and aim to do almost the same thing and they kind of stuck with me for now. They work on different platforms — phone (iPhone), tablet (iPad), web. I do only three not because there are not several more but because these are good looking, free and even though I don’t use them regularly (one is quite new), I am sure I will come back to them from time to time.
The most useful app — iPhone based Steller
For anyone using iPhone, the most useful is naturally an iPhone native app. Yes, I prefer native apps and I prefer apps which cover both — phone and web.
If you download Steller, than you are in for a good start. You can fiddle around the stories or explore navigation without any need to register. Until you want to create your story, you are left alone to explore — and then luckily, you can register with Twitter account which I usually like to do.
Story creation is simple and fast, select photo or video, select visual template and write text. That’s about it. Only missing part is ability to select more than one photo/video at the time. That makes you think more about each photo you pick but sometimes I would prefer speedier option. When you are done just hit publish, add your story to some Collection and share it.
Problems? — one for sure — displaying of your stories on the web is awful. You end up flipping through small phone-like sized pictures and texts…not really ideal or tempting.
iPad based Storehouse
I am not a big fan of iPad-only apps unless there is a real reason for it — like drawing which needs a bigger screen. I think having iPad-only app for visual story telling means complication for workflow of any creator. I certainly take more photos and videos with my phone than anything else.
Storehouse does not make it easy to start — after downloading Storehouse app you can do nothing unless you register. I think it is a shameful omission on usability side from designers of such capacity. I thought the days of forced registrations were over and everyone understood that we want to see something before being forced to do any registering step. Also quite unusual, there is no option to register with one of your social media network credentials — you have to do it via email.
Once you get in, it starts to look good. You can import photos from Photo Library, Dropbox, Flickr or Instagram. After you import the photos you can fiddle with their size, zooming and cropping and then you can add texts around the story. Then hit publish and you are done.
When you share your story it is browsable on the web in nice sleek way with properly sized photos.
Problems? — Maybe discovery. There is no way to browse collections, topics or featured selections. You can run search on keywords but it does not seem enough for app which should have visual discovery at its core.
You can check my sample Storehouse story here…
Web App — Hi.co
Hi.co has tag line “real-time story telling” and it is a little different from the above apps. I include it here anyway because I really like it.
What you do with Hi? You create snippets = combinations of text, photo and location. Your snippets then work as a story and reminders of cool things, places or people which happened to enter your life.
If Hi.co would have an iPhone app, I would use it regularly. To Hi’s credit; you can use web interface on your iPhone if you feel like it. (unlike Exposure mentioned below)
As I said, I like it and that’s why it’s here. You could do the same with Facebook or Tumblr or other social networks which allow location tagging but the community on Hi is focused on travel experiences and maybe you want to meet different people and get out of your Newsfeed.
Wild Card: Web App — Exposure
Exposure is web app which does on web exactly what Storehouse does on iPad. Beautiful photo narratives, easy to upload picture and narrate them. In one word — responsive Beauty! But this beauty is not really free. You can try it for free and create your 3 stories but for more you have to pay.
I am not saying paying is bad, I actually rather use services which have some paid version of themselves, because I don’t want them to go out of business, but in my eyes Exposure’s pricing model is overpriced for what it delivers as premium features.
Also the fact that you have always end up paying if you want to use it partly ruins my comparison that “Exposure.so is for photographs what Medium.com is for texts”.
Add to it that you cannot add or manipulate your stories on your phone, because only desktop versions of common browsers are supported and you see why it’s listed wild-card ☺
Of course the ideally app is still to be found for me. I would like it to work in the same way as Steller does, work on iPad too and display on the web in the same way as Storehouse does it.
What’s your story-telling app of choice?
Jan 2016 update — One Universal App to rule them all — MEDIUM
I have scaled back on my apps recently, not only because it’s not part of my new job that much but also because there’s very little innovation in the space. Doing that, I’ve found out I miss it and after John Saddington poked me with his 2016 365 vlog challenge, I decided to start a challenge of my own but with photos. I could never do vlog — too much work and planning needed.
Anyway, after this simple decision — let’s do it — issue is, where?
I was looking for a platform where to do it as hassle free as possible. I want to focus on finding that one picture of the day and upload it with a short commentary. I’m sure #Instagram or #Facebook comes to mind as first or any of the above mentioned apps, could do it.
Well, not really, not for me. After short tests I found that the easiest way to run together photos and text, organize it into “publication” or community and ideally have a chance to join forces with other enthusiasts is Medium. Simple app, easy editing on mobile or desktop, on iOS or Android, auto-saving drafts flawlessly and just looks great…
So here I’m with my Visual Stories of 2016 publication, check it out here… and consider joining in!
One final note; I still use Steller and I just wish it would dramatically improve it’s sharing options — e.g. share to Instagram as video from your photo-show.
If you have any of your favourite apps, just let me know here. We need someone new to help there — and ideally not Google ;)
(btw: like Google Photos a lot and their little videos they do)