Announcing Unsplash 4.0

Today is a really big day. Is it bigger than Christmas? Debatable. Your parent’s anniversary? Depends. But what’s assuredly true is that this is the biggest day of the month… the biggest Thursday of the year… and the best February 25th of ALL TIME! — at least for fans of Unsplash.

Here’s why:

  • Unsplash Collections
  • Unsplash API
  • Unsplash Likes
  • Unsplash Search

First, a bit of backstory… this year, our humble little site, Unsplash, became the third largest photography site in the world, and runner-up to the fastest-growing photography site of all time (the team in the lead is pretttttty solid).

What you might not know, however, is that unlike most big photography sites, Unsplash didn’t begin as a start-up with heady ambitions — it started as a Tumblr account with a simple premise: 10 new curated photos, every 10 days, but with one super-special secret ingredient: every photo was 100% free to use.

As it turns out, giving people the freedom to use beautiful photos for whatever they wanted (personal projects? company websites? album covers? magazine visuals?) is a surefire way to make those photos spread like wildfire.

We know the word “viral” gets thrown around a lot — but there’s no doubt about it: Unsplash is the most viral photography platform in the world. Photos featured on Unsplash are viewed more often than photos that appear on the front page of the New York Times, the cover of TIME Magazine, or Kim Kardashian’s Instagram. After appearing on Unsplash, photos will appear in all sorts of random places — on billboards, Apple Stores, Buzzfeed articles, websites, apps, Twitter accounts — left, right, and centre. They are reimagined and remixed into movies, posters, and other formats we’d have never foreseen.

The Billboard 100; Adobe keynotes; Pinterest homepage: just some of the places where we’ve seen Unsplash photos pop up

Today, Unsplash’s community is 40,000 photographers large, and their photos are viewed more than 600 million times every month. The Unsplash diaspora is even bigger.

As you might rightly presume, when you get into “hundreds-of-millions-of-photos” territory, the technical requirements become a bit more daunting, so we’ve had to build a lot of infrastructure for Unsplash since our distant days as a Tumblr blog. But in addition to having a blazingly-fast site, we’ve also been hard at work developing new ways to make the Unsplash experience even better. And we don’t just mean adding more photos of cats.

Today we’re happy to introduce 4 (big) new features for our community:

1.0 Unsplash Collections

What makes Unsplash special is that every photo you see on our site is absolutely, totally, astoundingly beautiful. We get thousands upon thousands of photo submissions, taken by photographers from every experience level imaginable — from iPhone amateurs to professional photographers to celebrities like NASA. And sorting through all those photos is no joke.

While popular photo sites let you see your friends’ photos, people come to Unsplash to see the photos. To make sure that every featured Unsplash photo is an 11-out-of-10, we enlist an army of curators to dig through our archives and decide which photos to feature on the Unsplash homepage.

Previous curators include Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress), Khoi Vinh (NYT design director), Guy Kawasaki (of Apple fame), Jeffrey Zeldman, Dann Petty, Brit Morin, Dave Morin, Tobias Lütke, Om Malik, Chris Messina, and other illustrious ladies and gentlemen.

But you don’t have to be famous to have good taste. Which is why we’ve crafted a whole new experience for the Unsplash community that lets you curate your very own collection of Unsplash photos. We’ve been vigorously testing this feature for a long time (starting with our celebrity friends) and today we’re proud to share it with you. Check it out:

2.0 Unsplash API

Thanks to our photographers and curators, we’ve helped build up the largest (and most beautiful) database of reusable photography on the internet. While that’s a feat in itself, we wanted to make it even easier for other people to use Unsplash photos for their projects.

Behind the scenes, we’ve created the Unsplash API, a powerful tool that lets developers populate their apps and websites with content from the Unsplash database.

So now, in addition to handling all of the photo requests on our own website, our API now handles the photo requests for thousands of other apps and tools. Here’s a shortlist:

As well as a bunch of other apps that don’t use the formal API (like this and this and this and hundreds of others).

We’re consistently surprised by the novel use cases that people find for Unsplash photos. Thanks to the Unsplash API, millions more people will be able to enjoy Unsplash photos in other apps — without even knowing they’re Unsplash photos! We can’t wait to see the clever tools that our developer community comes up with in the coming months.

3.0 Unsplash Likes

The world is filled with buttons. Buttons for shirts. Buttons for elevators. Benjamin Buttons.

The humble button has a long and storied history. But the fruits of button bliss have yet to befall the citizens of Unsplash. Until now.

That’s right: our roughshod days are over. Unsplash is finally buttoning up.

Yes, okay — ‘Like buttons’ have been around for ten years. But give us some credit: we’re Canadian. News to here travels slow.

After months of rigorous testing (and hundreds of thousands of likes), we figured it was worth announcing formally:

Next to every Unsplash photo, you’ll now find a big red juicy heart. You can heart as many photos as your heart desires. Just click the button to like the photo… or unclick to unlike it. Because what you do with your buttons is your business, man.

On your Unsplash profile, you’ll be able to see all of the photos you’ve ever liked. And if you look up the profile of any Unsplash photographer, you’ll be able to see what they’re liking, too.

Use the like button to bookmark photos for inspiration. Use it to tell your favourite photographers you think they’re awesome. Or, if you’re like our accountant Chris, you can use it to like every single Unsplash photo with a pineapple in it.

Because what you do with your buttons is your business, man…

(To join our tight-knit community of button gluttons, set up an Unsplash profile here. We hope you like liking as much as we do.)

4.0 Unsplash Search

Yes, that’s right. As if it wasn’t enough to steal from Facebook’s playbook… we also stole one from Larry and Sergey’s.

This one’s been in the oven for a while now, but we recently hit a big milestone: 3,000,000 searchable tags, created by living, breathing humans. (Not bots.)

Unsplash Search is now one of the most robust, user-friendly photo search engines out there, all thanks to incorrigible efforts of the Unsplash community.

Four big features: collections, API, likes, and search. So whether you’re curating, liking, API’ing or tagging photos, we hope you’ll enjoy the updates our team has baked into Unsplash 4.0.

This wouldn’t have been possible without you ❤

So feel free to give yourselves a round of applause.

PS: We’re publishing a book.

Unsplash 2016. No rights reserved.

Next Story — Illustrations Are More Than Digital Eye Candy
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Illustrations Are More Than Digital Eye Candy

Individually, illustrations can give content its identity; collectively, they form your brand’s visual fingerprint.

Since the early days at Help Scout, we’ve outfitted all of our blog posts with custom illustrations.

While bright colors and clear theming provide something fun to look at, illustrations are much more than digital decor. Individually, they reinforce and even further develop important points in a piece of writing; collectively, they coalesce to form your brand’s visual fingerprint.

Illustrations give content its identity

If you think about media that you love, you’re likely to recall its “identity” in addition to the content itself. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is inseparable from its iconic album cover, and it’s hard to discuss “Jaws” without picturing the emblematic movie poster (and the chilling theme music). Identity is a collage of many different elements, and they all contribute to a lasting impression. This impression is your brand.

Now consider this in the context of a blog post, and the use of a hastily chosen stock photo doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. Do you really want to form your content’s identity with snapshots from the bargain bin?

It’s true that The Old Man and the Sea doesn’t contain any sweet graphics. Good writing stands tall without ornament. At the same time, every piece of a creative canvas should be put to good use. Wasted space is wasted opportunity.

A start-to-finish time lapse of a recent illustration.

Forming a visual fingerprint with illustrations

The best way to create a consistent visual imprint is to establish (and follow) a set of concrete principles. They become your approach — a way to stay on the right path, a way to make work repeatable but not repetitive. With regard to illustrations, here are a few ways we steer the ship.

Favor connections over decoration

Every visual should augment the content it inhabits. Otherwise, it’s just a cute drawing, and those belong on the fridge. A successful visual interpretation can introduce a new perspective in the prose , so start by understanding what key points the author is making.

I begin by reading the post once to get a summary. Then I read it a second time to scan for copy that I can turn into an illustration. More often than not, there’s mention of a salient person, place, or thing. Sometimes it’s blatant, sitting right there in the title, or it may be hanging out as a metaphor. Other times a little extra creativity is required to draw something tangible out of the abstract. There’s no standard procedure, and occasionally the solution is a visual that, at the bare minimum, doesn’t require guesswork from the reader.

Explore widely, refine deeply

Once I’ve chosen which visual direction to take, I quickly sketch out a few concepts. Here’s where it becomes obvious that drawing isn’t my forte.

Rough concept sketch vs. final illustration

That’s OK. The goal of sketching is to let quantity lead me to quality. Rough mockups help to evaluate composition, color, and how engaging the idea will be before diving in and creating an entire illustration. No need to sweat the details yet — I normally limit myself to five minutes max per concept. If in that time I’m not satisfied with the result, it’s time to explore elsewhere (R.I.P., Unicycling Robot. You will be missed).

Design the frame before the frills

Once I have a basic direction, sketched out or mentally drawn, I build the skeleton with vectors. Vectors are digital point-to-point paths that can be drawn as simple shapes, then manipulated into virtually any form imaginable.

Example of vectors creating simple shapes.

Though some may find it debatable, there isn’t a single object in this cosmic, multifarious universe that can’t originate as either a square or circle. For that reason, I start each illustration with a square (or on rare occasion, a circle), set the color and width of the border, then scale it to about the size I want my first object to be. I continue this process of combining and subtracting shapes until the object has taken form.

Step-by-step process to transform simple shapes into an object with depth.

Once the objects are created and make up an aesthetically pleasing composition, I add some flair to make it pop a little more. This final 10% of the design process is the most important; it’s the chance to make something good into something great. This includes nudging shapes, adding depth by creating reflections and shadows, and perhaps scattering some stars across the background. It’s important to find a balance here, because too much glam will eventually become noise. Subtlety is the name of the game, since harsh shadows or two many sparkles will only distract from the story being told.

Be deliberate about color

The world of color is complex, and with infinite ways to harmoniously combine tints and shades, it can be extremely daunting. Begin by creating a palette, including colors and shades, and stick with that palette for all your illustrations and publications. When choosing colors for the Help Scout blog, I started with the jobs they were responsible for. First, they should represent our company with a bright, optimistic feel. Second, they needed to grab the reader’s attention and keep a firm grip.

That’s because editorial content doesn’t just live on your site; it’s distributed through other systems. Every piece of the puzzle — headline, copy, and illustration — must compel people to click, while not succumbing to the clickbait arms race. I decided on bold colors that could stand alone or cohesively exist altogether. The palette includes 6 main colors, each with 7 different shades. It also includes a family of black, because just try to take that away from me.

Strong identities don’t happen by accident

Illustrations are a dynamic method of communication that put designer and writer on the same page. You can help tell more vivid stories, and you can connect with readers before they start the first sentence.

While they aren’t required to build a strong visual identity, remember that whatever impression you choose to pursue doesn’t live in isolation: it contends with everything else. If you don’t actively strive to stand out, you’ll be sure to blend in.

Next Story — Product Hunt 101
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Product Hunt 101

Tips from a top hunter on how to crush it on Product Hunt

I first heard about Product Hunt a couple of years ago through Ryan Hoover, who I had gotten to know through his side projects, and I started using it right away. It was a great way for me to stay on top of products, but also a great way to connect with other people interested in sharing and discovering the best products. If you’ve been hiding under a rock and haven’t heard of it yet, check Product Hunt out here — you’ll get some great insights and ideas from companies and people. It’s a pretty amazing community.

Getting my PH 🔑

Fast forward two years — the Product Hunt community has exploded in growth, and I still use it almost every day. A lot of companies use Product Hunt to launch their products, and many have seen thousands of users join/use their product in a single day.

List of the top 10 hunters on Product Hunt

I love submitting products and was a very active hunter, in the early days. I had a natural knack for finding cool tools and apps, a few of which made it to #1 — this eventually put me Product Hunt’s top hunters list. I’m currently sitting at number 9 on the leaderboard in between Erik Torenberg and Hiten Shah. Because of Product Hunt’s traction and my profile’s visibility, I get pitched a lot about product submissions. I’m also frequently asked by friends and entrepreneurs, “How do we get on the front page of Product Hunt?”

The answer is a simple one, but requires a bit of context and insight into how Product Hunt works. Here’s the breakdown:

How does Product Hunt work?

Product Hunt is a social news site where community members post interesting products. It’s usually (but not limited to) digital products. The website is extremely popular, and has quickly grown into an equivalent to what Hacker News is for developers.

Generally, products get submitted and upvoted (like Reddit and Hacker News), and the community has conversations about these products. It’s a place for product discovery. By association, users also discover the companies and people behind these products.

TechCrunch exclusively used to be the holy grail of product launches, but Product Hunt is quickly giving it a run for its money (also see this and this).

Next Keyboard’s pre-launch Product Hunt post

It has become a part of many companies’ promotion strategies (for launches, updates, etc). Some people do customer development on there as well, getting real, high-quality, feedback, like what we did with Next Keyboard to acquire beta testers. Product Hunt has even recently expanded into games, books, and podcasts.

How to crush it on Product Hunt (pro tips & best practices)

Product Hunt front page

The Product Hunt front page gets a lot of exposure, but it’s doubly as important because top products get picked up and promoted in the email digest. Ideally, when you launch something on Product Hunt, you want it to get upvoted enough to stay above the fold (the visible part of the screen without scrolling or clicking anything), so you’re always visible to people landing on the website. The algorithm is similar to Hacker News, Reddit, and such. I recommend not sending direct links or getting people from the same IP address or location to upvote it, otherwise your product has a chance of getting blacklisted. (A simple way around the IP address issue is to get people to upvote via the app, or on a cellular data connection.)

You need an invite from a current member to be able to comment on submissions and to submit something new. And by the way, just because you can submit, doesn’t mean you should.


Oftentimes, people try to get top hunters to submit their products. This is because top hunters have more followers. When they submit something, all their followers receive a notification that they submitted a product. You can find a list of top hunters here.

Influencers also have posting privileges that get their submissions directly to the front page. If you’re trying to go down this route, look at people who have submitted a lot, and see if their submissions have made it to the front page.


Ideally, you want your product posted first thing in the morning PST time. Product Hunt refreshes its leaderboard around 12am-12:30 PST everyday. Folks who live in the west coast or in Europe have an advantage here. I typically post around 6 or 7am EST. By that time there’s already a few products getting some traction usually.

Pick a good day of the week to do it. Weekends are usually slower. I prefer middle of the week, between Tuesday — Thursday. If Product Hunt is anything like Reddit, then Monday — Thursday are probably the most trafficked days.


Reply to everything! It shows you’re active in the community and that you care. It also makes your post look more active, which helps to push your post up on the home feed.


Don’t ask for votes directly. Ask for support, love, feedback, shares but don’t ask for upvotes. (Also, as I mentioned previously don’t send people direct links.) The best way to ask for support is not to ask for support. This is similar to the VC adage, “Ask for money, get advice. Ask for advice, get money.”

A good example of asking for support on Product Hunt

Share the news with friends, and friends of friends, and in your networks. Think Facebook groups, Whatsapp groups, etc. Line up your supporters, fans, investors, beta testers in advance and let them know that the PH launch is coming. Similarly, if you’re planning on doing an email blast don’t forget to reach out to existing customers, letting them know you’re on Product Hunt.

Hunt details

Adding your hunt details — Old Flow — New flow is much better 👌🏾

Here’s what to keep in mind as you fill out your hunt details — the form before submitting an app:

  • Name: pretty straightforward, the name of your product
  • Tagline: should be descriptive — not your marketing tagline
  • Direct URL: URL to your product
  • Images and videos: share screenshots, promo video, marketing images. GIFs should be square and under 3MB. A GIF in your thumbnail helps the post stand out. This image should be added first
  • Twitter: Makers’ Twitter handles
  • Categories: These will enable Product Hunt users to discover your product as well
  • First comment: You should have your first comment written the day before your post goes live. This should be a short blurb from you, the maker, about things like why you built the product, who it’s for, why you think it’s great, and a call-to-action (something like, “Looking for feedback,” or, “Let me know if you notice any bugs!” It could even just be, “Thanks for checking it out :)” Ask your friends to upvote this so it floats to the top, and so that people know that you made the product and are responsive to comments.
  • Collection: For more exposure in the long run, get your product added to a popular collection related to your product. This way, more people will find your product through organic search.

This is all the information you need to consider, and provide, when you’re submitting a product yourself or trying to get the attention of a top hunter.

How to Pitch Hunters

Most top hunters have their own day jobs and are super busy people. They are also bombarded with submissions from other people hoping to hit the front page. Top hunters also love interesting products — that’s why they joined Product Hunt in the first place. They would love to submit something that resonates with the community. You can provide them with that. However, you must tread the very fine line between pitching (authentically) and spamming (annoyingly).

When in doubt, pitch like you would want to be pitched. Ask for feedback, speak to the person before asking for something, and spark up a conversation before you need the submission.

Figure out who the top hunter is, what pains they might have in their day-to-day job, what kind of products they’re interested in, and add value if you can. Maybe send them a couple of interesting products that you discovered, so they can submit them. With that said, I know that time can be a luxury sometimes. Even if you haven’t prepared or started a conversation with them prior, at the very least, be real and authentic when telling them about your product.

Ideally, do your homework to see if your product is something they’d be interested in. Product Hunt shows you all of the things they’ve submitted, upvoted, and made. You can tell a lot about a person based on those three things.

Don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back, because they might be preoccupied with other tasks or priorities. If they choose not to submit it on your behalf, it simply might not be a good fit for them. Similarly, don’t spam random people on Product Hunt to ask for feedback when you really want upvotes. (Spamming random people is very different from genuinely asking feedback, which I recommended earlier).

When you’re going to submit to Product Hunt, plan ahead. Your conversations should start when you start building your product. Build relationships, not just products. That way, you’ll have a community and stakeholders — people who are genuinely curious about the product — when you’re about to launch.

A Great Sample Pitch

I get pitched somewhat frequently. I run a studio, so it’s difficult for me to respond to each one. With that said, I like great pitches — and this was a great pitch.

The team at Core15 reached out to me with a short, concise, customized, email, but also made a video for me. They talk about how they like my app Quick Fit, which was closely related to their app, and they also provided a promo code within the description so I could give it a try if I was curious.

I didn’t know the Core15 co-founders before, but their cold email felt really personal. I was happy to submit it for them. The co-founder, Fei, kicked off the discussion with comments and promo codes for fast movers of the Product Hunt community.

The Calendar Invite

Another approach I’ve found to be super helpful is asking makers who I’m submitting a product for to send me a calendar invite for really early in the AM on the day they want it posted with all of the details I’ll need to make the post. Here’s a calendar invite my friend Mike Murchison recently sent me.

Calendar invite Mike sent me for a fun side project he was working on

Deconstruction Complete

Now that you have an idea of how Product Hunt works, I highly recommend checking the community out for yourself. Dive deep, be yourself, and share your favourite products. Reach out to other people and get deeper into the product community. While Product Hunt is established and has many users, I think that it’s still in its early days.

We regularly explore product-related ideas in our mailing list. Give me a shout if you have any questions, and obviously, if you think you have a great product to submit. I’m @robjama on Twitter.


Speaking on a panel at Product Hunt TO meetup in Toronto 🎙

Use Slack to connect with other makers and PH community members. If you’re a maker you should consider joining MakerHunt, an invite-only Slack community for makers. You can also talk to makers in your city on the slack group and at Product Hunt meetups IRL >

If you like this post, you might also like:

Robleh Jama is the founder of Tiny Hearts, an award-winning product studio. They make their own products like Next Keyboard, Wake Alarm and Quick Fit — as well as products for clients like Wealthsimple and Philips.

Check out our blog and join our newsletter to learn things like ‘How to get discovered on the App Store’ and ‘How to Make Products that People Love’.

If you like this article, please recommend it to help others find it!

Next Story — A magic business model: Help someone sell leftovers
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A magic business model: Help someone sell leftovers

As the old saying goes: One man’s junk is another man’s treasure…

This post first appeared on the Crew blog.

Like many businesses, Uber and Airbnb exist to make something easier. For Uber, it’s making getting a ride as easy as possible. For Airbnb, it’s all about easily finding a place to stay.

But if there are so many businesses that make something easier or better, why do Uber and Airbnb standout as being ‘revolutionary?’

Apart from being significantly better compared to alternatives, one of the reasons why Uber and Airbnb stand out is their business models are built on an ingredient that feels magical: they help people sell their leftovers.

Selling leftovers

I first heard about ‘selling leftovers’ from a post called ‘Sell Your By-products‘ by best-selling author and founder of Basecamp, Jason Fried.

Jason writes about one example in the lumber industry where lumber businesses have figured out how to create revenue sources from selling their leftover sawdust and other by-products after they cut wood.

Selling your by-products, or leftovers, means selling the leftover things lying around after you made your core thing.

Finding by-products in your process and packaging them up for sale not only saves you time but it turns something you might have thought was waste, into something of value.

Basecamp has made a living selling leftovers.

Their best-selling books were leftovers created from the experience they went through while building their company. The popular programming language, Ruby on Rails, was a leftover from creating their product. Even their blog is a leftover that has turned into significant value. Basecamp has never paid for any marketing. Instead, they’ve partially relied on selling their leftovers to build a multi-million dollar company.

The beautiful thing about the businesses models behind companies like Uber and Airbnb is they help lots of people sell their leftovers. They allow almost anyone with a car or home the opportunity to get something from nothing.

With Uber, you can make money from the leftover space in your car.

With Airbnb, you can make money from the leftover space in your house. Or your trailer. Or your treehouse.

That costly car or home, can become a cash machine overnight. And this feels like magic.

Why you feel like you get more from selling your leftovers

Selling a leftover feels special because of how you perceive the gain.

Here’s an easy example:

Let’s say you had a pretty table you wanted to sell. You thought it was worth $200, but you didn’t know who to sell it to and you didn’t want to take the time to sell it.

Then, a business came to you and said they’ll help you sell that table for $400. In exchange, they keep $100. You get $300.

If the table sold, you’d be happy. You didn’t have to take care of selling it and you got $300, $100 more than what you thought the table was worth. You’d feel like you came out on top.

Now let’s say you had a table you thought was so ugly that you were going to throw it away in the garbage tomorrow.

Then, a business came to you and said I’ll help you sell that ugly table for the same thing, $400. They keep $100. You get $300.

This might seem like the same deal but because you valued your ugly table at $0, you perceive this second deal as better. Three times better to be exact.

Pretty table deal:

$300 (What you made from the company who sold your table) — $200 (What you thought the table was worth) = $100 perceived gain

Ugly table deal:

$300 (What you made from the company who sold your table) — $0 (What you thought the table was worth) = $300 perceived gain

Though you make the same $300 whether you sell your pretty or ugly table, your perceived gain is three times more when you sell your ugly table.

How would this make you feel? Most likely, you’d have more positive emotions attached to the business that was able to help you make money by selling your ugly table and you’d be left thinking about that business, wondering how they were able to help you make something from nothing.

You’d probably come back to this business to see if they could help you sell more of your stuff you were going to throw away. You might even tell your friends to do the same thing, too.

Selling leftovers can have a bigger impact than selling more efficiency

These ‘Wow moments’ — the positive feelings people get from your product — are what makes you stand out in our hyper-competitive market today.

The more ‘wow moments’ you create, the more you stand out.

If you’re offering a better product but it’s still not good enough to produce ‘wows’, people likely won’t feel strong enough about you to switch from whatever they’re currently using to get the job done.

Mentally, our brain wants to do what gives us the biggest reward with the least amount of work. So if you’re not making things easier, why would anyone choose you?

This is a wall companies often run into.

They may have built a better product but they haven’t built it better enough to make up for the cost people perceive of switching from what they are currently doing and starting something new.

You have to build something so good that switching becomes obvious.

Multiple ‘wow moments’ in a product experience aren’t easy to produce. They can often take years to get right.

People were blown away by the original iPhone but it took 5 years to build right.

This is why figuring out how to help someone sell their leftovers can be an easier road to produce a ‘wow moment’ than selling someone more efficiency through better or more features.

When someone realizes you help them sell leftovers, that can stand out more than a feature.

Though not easy, thinking about how your product could help someone sell their leftovers will bake a ‘wow moment’ into your product. One that may leave an impression as strong as multiple ‘wow moments’ created by the features you build.

I’ve seen the impact firsthand.

Unsplash is a photography website we started that offers hi-resolution photos for free that you can do whatever you want with.

We primarily built Unsplash because we didn’t like any of the alternative stock photo options but it was also built on helping sell leftovers. Our leftovers.

We started Unsplash because we had leftover photos from a photoshoot that we weren’t going to do anything with. Rather than leave them in a folder and let them go to waste, we decided to give them away for free.

We thought if people found our photos useful, maybe we could get some exposure for our core business, Crew.

Because we weren’t using these photos anyway, in our mind, they were worth zero. So when tens of thousands of downloads of these photos happened, along with substantial exposure and sales for Crew, we were blown away.

Today, our aim with Unsplash is to do this same thing for lots of people: turn what may be leftover photos into value. Based on this model, we’ve seen Unsplash take off, growing to over 50,000 contributors, almost a billion photos viewed per month, and a lot of good vibes.

When you help someone sell their leftovers, it can be easier, yet more effective, than trying to sell someone another feature in a slightly better product.

In order to work, a business needs to be better than existing alternatives. But if you can somehow mix helping someone sell leftovers into your model, you’ve added a dimension to your business that will help you stand out even further.

If you help someone sell a leftover, more people will be struck with an ‘OMG, that’s amazing’ feeling toward you.

One of the best ways to figure out how you could help someone sell their leftovers is to look at your own leftovers.

What do you have sitting around creating no value?

What do your customers have sitting around creating no value?

For us, it was photos.

For the lumber industry it was sawdust.

For Basecamp it was books, a programming language, and a blog.

There are opportunities everywhere to build a product that helps someone package up a leftover and sell it.

Figuring out how to help someone sell their leftovers can have a bigger impact than selling someone more efficiency.

Want to build your own way to sell some leftovers?

Check out my company Crew, where you can work with the best designers and developers in the world. Over 10 million people have used products made on Crew. And over 3 million people have read our blog. Join them here.

Next Story — How to price anything
Currently Reading - How to price anything

How to price anything

The psychology behind what we’ll pay…

“How much should I charge for this?”

While talking about money might still be taboo in some circles, there’s no way to get past the fact that your livelihood depends on charging for the work you do and the products you’ve made.

But ‘value’ is one of those complex terms that gets thrown around in such a simple way, but is actually incredibly complex when you get into it.

Many people fall into the trap of following the Labor Theory of Value, thinking that the value of a service is determined by the amount of labor that goes into its production. It’s why we’re willing to spend $12 on a jar of jam because it’s labeled as ‘artisan’ or ‘craftsman’. We assume the ‘artist’ put in more work than a ‘manufacturer’.

On the other end of the spectrum are those saying that value is in the eye of the buyer, and if someone is willing to pay what you’re charging, then that’s a valid price.

$500 for a webinar? Sure, why not? X company charged that. $9.99 a month? Sounds good. That’s like 2 expensive coffees!

But what our armchair analysis of value fails to recognize is that miss the mark on pricing either way and you just might kill your business.

Smart pricing is deliberate. It takes into account all of the work you’ve done to understand your audience and build your business and crafts an offer than feels honest, acceptable, and most of all, valuable.

But how do we get there? While so much of it will depend on your business model and research, there are some enduring studies that can help us understand just what someone sees when they look at your price tag.

1. What you see is what you want

Thanks to a human tendency called anchoring, when it comes to displaying a price, what you see first is what you want in the end.

Anchoring or focalism is a cognitive bias that says we rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the ‘anchor’) when making a decision. If you’re negotiating or justifying a transaction and see $20 first, you’re more likely to end up closer to $20 than $30 in the end.

So how do you use this to your advantage?

In one seemingly counterintuitive example, an analyst at McKinsey found that when a semiconductor manufacturer put out a new product, instead of lowering the price of the older offering (like most of us would), they raised it. Not only did they make additional profits off selling old stock, but keeping the anchor price high made new buyers more likely to pay the amount asked for a new product.

There’s always a moment of doubt when raising your rate or price, but know that the higher you start, the higher you’ll end up.

2. How your price sounds (and looks) is incredibly important

There are numerous studies into how the presentation of a price affects how we feel about it. Tiny nuances can change whether someone believes you’re providing them with value or not.

Here’s a few of my favourites:

  • Choose ‘odd’ numbers. One of the oldest tricks in the book, yet it still works. People call this ‘Charm pricing’ and it’s the positive feeling that happens when the left-most digit changes. Our brains encode a price with the first digit we see, so a change from $9.99 to $9.19 won’t really matter, but go form $9.01 to $8.99 and all of a sudden there is a perceived value change.
  • Say it out loud. In a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, researchers found that prices that contained more syllables seemed drastically higher to consumers. This is thanks to how we read a number and its ‘fluency’. The harder a number is to ‘say’ the worse we feel about it. So $1,999.99 (one thousand, nine hundred, ninety nine, and ninety nine cents) feels more expensive than $1999 (nineteen ninety nine). The more syllables, the more we think it costs.
  • People love physically small numbers. Studies have shown that placing your price in the bottom of a page rather than the top makes people perceive it as lower. Even crazier, the physical size of your font can influence peoples’ understanding and feelings about it. Smaller fonts seem smaller in price.
“Thanks to processing fluency, people will perceive your price to be smaller if you display that price in a smaller font. This tactic is particularly effective when you contrast your price with a larger sized reference price.”
  • When you’re going for the big sale, be as exact as possible. When researchers at Cornell University buyers pay more money when prices are specific (e.g., $362,978 vs. $350,000). And while you might think this is to help with negotiation, what the researchers uncovered was that it was actually due to how we perceive numbers. Think about when you are most likely to use a precise number. Most likely when you’re dealing with smaller values. And even though you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, that perception persists.

3. Spending hurts. Reduce the pain.

Have you ever felt buyer’s remorse? That sudden feeling after a purchase that you’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake?

Buying good and services may feel good eventually, but we all suffer from a moment of purchase pain at the moment of transaction due to the fact that we’ve made a decision to do something now that will effect what we can do in the future (we paid $20 for something, which means we don’t have that $20 for other spending).

In a study from MIT and Carnegie Mellon University, researchers found that this pain emerges from two factors:

  1. The saliency of the payment (e.g., we feel more pain if we see money leaving our hands)
  2. The timing of the payment (e.g., we feel more pain if we pay after we consume)

So how can you change your pricing structure to relieve pain? Think about Uber.

In a traditional taxi you watch as a meter ticks up, higher and higher, during your ride and then have to physically fork over cash at the end of the trip. With Uber there’s no meter and no visible transaction. Everything is out of sight and out of mind.

Prepayment is a powerful way to keep buyers happy and satisfied with your service.

4. ‘Invisibly’ raise your price

We all want to make the most we can, but what if there was a way to raise your prices without your customers noticing?

Weber’s Law says that the the change in a stimulus that will be just noticeable is a constant ratio of the original stimulus. What does that mean? Basically that all changes, including price, are relative to their starting point. The most simple example is that you have to yell to be heard in a loud room but a whisper will do in a quiet one.

Sounds basic, right? But what this also means is that there’s a threshold from the original stimulus (such as your original price) where the change isn’t noticeable.

Marketers swear by Weber’s findings, and while there isn’t a magical number, most people have settled on 10% as the amount that people start to notice. This means that you could potentially ‘creep’ your price up 2%, 5%, 8% without most people noticing.

It also means to make people stand up and notice a deal, you need to drop by more than 10%.

5. Don’t compete on the lowest price (without adding context)

The worst case scenario of competing on the lowest price is that you win. The second worst is you don’t.

While going toe-to-toe with the competition means you might ‘win’ the market, studies from Stanford have found that comparative pricing can actually have a negative effect if you don’t give people a good enough reason to compare prices. Without context, you’re asking your customers to make explicit comparisons of your product and a competitors, which in turn can cause them to lose trust in what you’re saying.

The Stanford researchers found that without context as to why your price is the lowest, the mere fact that you’re asking a customer to make a comparison causes them to fear they’re being tricked in some way.

While these studies might help us understand the why behind how customers feel about prices, they don’t negate the true test of any product: the real world.

As Basecamp’s Jason Fried explains:

“You can’t ask people who haven’t paid how much they’re willing to pay. Their answers don’t matter because there’s no cost to saying ‘yes’ ‘$20’ ‘no’ ‘$100’. They all cost the same — nothing.”
“The only answers that matter are dollars spent. People answer when they pay for something. That’s the only answer that really matters.”

You can’t know what to charge without knowing what you spent to make your product.

That’s why we built a simple and easy suite of tools that will tell you how much your logo, website, or app idea will cost to make in under a minute.

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