Over 20 Million Wallpaper Downloads
The biggest challenges in developing a first of it's kind online basketball artwork collective and community was bringing together a variety of international artists with different background whiles dealing with language barriers and differences in time zones to coordinate a unique experience for fans across the globe. My role was to build up our artist roster while art directing new projects and bringing regular content into the fold and coming up with innovative social media strategies to grow the brand and bring users to the website. At a time when this type of content wasn't really mainstream even in the digital media space, developing effective search engine optimization and finding ways to build a social first brand set the groundwork for much of the work I would go on to do in my career at various brands while also solidifying many of the relationships with artists that would come to define the sports design industry for years to come.
During the basketball deprived months of the NBA lockout in 2011 I had a chance to discuss launching an innovative new art collective website with a good friend of mine Tyson Beck. The two of us had been designing NBA artwork on various websites and forums throughout the years and recognized the need for a centralized place for high resolution wallpapers for multiple device sizes. This white space in the market existed as the propagation of NBA artwork had become quite fragmented on the internet. We had initially met while posting our own designs and content on various basketball forums throughout the internet. The primary one was the KB24 official forums where die hard Lakers and Kobe fans would share content and videos with each other. Having previously seen our work on websites such as West Coast Remix, Inside Hoops, or RealGM forums we knew that there was a desire for this type of design content out there, but no central location to get them. Tyson approached me to develop a new brand and we worked together to create and name Posterizes and turn it into the premier NBA wallpaper destination on the internet.
The fragmented nature of basketball artwork on the internet was the main impetus behind creating a central location for fans to congregate and get access to wallpapers for all of their devices. The normal experience of finding a wallpaper for your devices often involved going through pages of google image search results or finding a cool piece on some obscure basketball forum only to realize you have to make an account to download the high res version or that the image doesn't fit your desktop or was created years ago when resolutions were set at a different standard. We wanted to create something with a clean and simple user interface that would make these type of things easily accessible and would be something that folks could find in a relatively simple manner. Because of this Tyson and I knew that one of the biggest keys to successfully launching a website like this would be making sure we had our search engine optimization and just a clean easy to use UI that would make downloading artwork very straight forward of utmost importance.
As such, one of the first discussions we had around the inception of the website and art collective was simply the name of the site. We wanted to go with something that would pop up high on search results as we knew one of the biggest funnels for traffic would be google image search. One of the things that I had noticed over the past few years of working on wallpapers and basketball artwork casually was that you would generally see a high amount of user interest and engagement after big moments such as game winners or dunks.
Prior to developing the website I would often post my creations on my Deviantart profile and as a Lakers fan, I would often create wallpapers after a big Kobe dunk. One of the ones that comes to mind is Kobe's 2011 playoff dunk on Emeka Okafor against the Hornets in the first round where I made the artwork right after the dunk and it saw a huge amount of downloads the next week. Similarly Tyson had created some content around some of Blake Griffin's big dunks that resonated on a similar level. Because of this I suggested we consider Posterized or Posterizes as a name for the website, as users would be looking up youtube videos of these dunks and we could capitalize on that momentum. We eventually landed on Posterizes as the verb made sense from an SEO perspective, setting the basis for a long and interesting journey developing the site and collective into something we had no idea could come to fruition.
Focusing on the search engine optimization aspect of building a website like Posterizes, one of the first things Tyson and myself focused on was building a robust library of content that would allow for passive hits on the website and act as a hook for users to delve deeper into the artwork and find more content. While looking at keywords that drove traffic to the site, I noticed that there were two major buckets that people were looking for when it came to wallpapers, specific player designs and art which was a crowded space with a myriad of sources and team artwork which offered a far more sparse subset of options for users. Because of this one of the major focuses for the site in the early stages was to built out a network of options for team based wallpapers that would act as a consumer retention strategy. The main incentive here was to decrease the bounce rate by offering site modules that would recommend specific team based artwork to people who found the site via the team based search terms. This led to a huge increase of hits on related search results and was often times a method by which we found and retained new fans of the brand.
One of the major incentives in building out Posterizes was to create a premium content and artwork offering in a space that didn't really have that type of content readily available for users. As such my north star for the collective was to have an artistic vision that forms the backbone for every piece that made it onto users feeds. In terms of the actual concept of a wallpaper, the thinking behind this was that users had this piece of art in their lives on a constant basis. No different than having a piece of artwork hanging above your mantle in your home that you walk by on a regular basis, having a desktop or phone wallpaper is something that you see daily every time you use that piece of tech.
This meant adhering to a certain high bar for the artists that I helped curate and for the artwork that made it onto the desktops and mobile devices of our users. This type of premium content sensibility was really what set Posterizes apart from other segments of the web that offered similar content, instead of aggregating a mishmash of options from around the web offered in different resolutions and levels of quality, we presented a cohesive design vision with a subset of options for every device. Making the download process easy and giving our users a number of high quality options that treated these digital products like pieces of art was what enabled a high growth rate but more importantly an extremely positive customer affinity. Over time, the art collective would actually involve to include writers for the editorial side of the magazine, or video editors who would help develop videos that would sit along side pieces of artwork as a way to evevate our storytelling.
The two pillars that formed the infrastructure of Posterizes were rooted in developing a strong social voice with a number of ways to interact with our fans and curating a constant stream of high quality artwork by onboarding and collaborating with a killer crew of top level design and art talent from around the world. This coming together of modernized editorial communication and sophisticated premium content offered consumers high quality artwork based around sports and capitalizing on the emotion of a game or play or specific player in a way that could be captured digitally as a moment in time relived every time you see that content as your desktop or mobile divide wallpaper.
This essentially meant paring the storytelling of the artwork with a quality distribution system using social as a fulcrum. Building a social following and building a worldwide team were similar endeavors as both required a keep eye for bringing together a community of creators and basketball connoisseurs. The artists that I would seek out would often times simply be fans of the game who loved certain players and while they weren't nessecarily the best english speakers or would consume much other western content, they knew the universal language of basketball. Reaching out to these folks and bringing them into the fold really allowed for a diverse range of styles that would speak to a league with it's own cast of extremely unique stars. One of the biggest strengths of Posterizes was in it's diversity of talent as each artist brought their own flavor to the table in terms of overall aesthetic.
Certain things became abundantly clear to me relatively quickly after launch in terms of customer segmentation and brand affinity. The primary demographic of users who would visit our site would be on mobile devices looking for high resolution wallpapers that they could interchange on a regular basis. Therefore, optimizing for mobile became of utmost importance. However, this also meant juggling two very difficult things, as you want to maximize page load times for users on variable cellular internet connections that may intermittently change in download speed, and providing high fidelity images that will look beautiful when they are used as artwork on their devices. Predicting user behavior became a key aspect in the growth strategy and how we implemented the artwork on site for a smooth download experience.
By utilizing asynchronous loading, which is a design pattern commonly used in computer programming to defer initialization of an object until the point at which it is needed, we were effectively able to deploy the site based on user flow patterns. This limited too many images from loading at first so that the ones that the users would focus on would take priority. Similarly, in order to cater to retina displays and the desire for users to be able to zoom into and customize the framing of the wallpapers on their individual devices as a form of expression and also for the variability in lock screen layout from device to device, I also standardized templated resolution options which allowed for perspective zoom options and eventually live display options. Providing users with a smooth experience from a UI and UX perspective but then balancing that with the reality that these assets needed to be heavier from a file size standpoint to do justice to the actual art was a difficult dichotomy but one that required a fair level of compromise and understanding exactly how our audience functions and what they value.
One of my biggest contributions was developing a content distribution strategy for the times that focused heavily on leveraging moments in the sports space and the burgeoning social media landscape. Launching Posterizes from the influence of a network of sports forums where designers would share their artwork prompted me to take that recipe and apply it to social. At it's heart, the strategy was simply to find places where fans of these teams and players would congregate, specifically during highly emotionally charged moments in the game that inspire passion and a sense of connectivity. I curated an audience engagement platform where I took the sports calendar and matched it up with the projects that our various artists would be working on, myself included. This allowed for a pipeline of content that could be used for a rapid response to moments in the game. Knowing that certain big name players would have these moments meant the ammo would be loaded right at the moment we needed to fire off a new piece of content. Then pairing this with social momentum and getting the content on the same forums that inspired the creation of the site where fans would be discussing the recently finished game allowed for us to become an important part of the conversation. This would eventually also grow to include rapid response turnaround artwork around moments like Kobe dunking on CP3 where we were able to turn around content overnight to share with fans the next morning. This was further aided by the international aspect of the collective which allowed for us to have creators around at all different times of the day to be inspired by the game to create and share. The give and take of this dynamic between social media and our artists and the actual content distribution strategy allowed for a highly engaged community.
Expanding the purview of Posterizes to include commercial opportunities and an editorial point of view was a major point of growth as we developed a more curated roster of high end creators looking to collaborate on bigger and better opportunities. This was one of the major reasons we expanded the wallpapers to include a digital magazine extension which would allow for writers to pair editorial aspects of storytelling with our visuals. Contextualizing these pieces of art with writing gave users a deeper experience and also allowed for a more tangible asset that the artwork could serve as a touchpoint for. The magazine served as a flag in the sand that would orient our creations at a point in time.
Getting the artwork out there also allowed us to amplify the legitimacy of the brand and over time led to more and more industry insiders noticing the work that many within our art collective were doing. The ultimate goal of the collective was to act as a springboard for the creators within our ranks to get more opportunities to collaborate with brands and companies in the space. Using Posterizes as a spotlight to feature some of the most talented artists in the space we were able to leverage our audience to garner more of these opportunities both as a collective and also on an individual basis. The artists in our collective would go on to work with some of the biggest names in the industry and creating a platform that could connect these creatives who may have otherwise never had the chance to get their work in front of such a broad audience was one of the most fulfilling aspects of starting Posterizes. The wealth of opportunities would go on to become so numerous that we would eventually sunset the broader aspects of the brand while being extremely appreciative of the impact on the industry we had made and the permanent community we had helped galvanize as well.