​Web Highlights: Unsplash, and brilliant free images

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​Web Highlights: Unsplash, and brilliant free images

Web Highlights is an ongoing series showcasing some of the brightest and most useful destinations online, celebrating the imaginative minds that come together in web development to make the internet a more interesting place.

At the crossroads between inspiration and necessity lives Crew’s Unsplash. Portal to a seemingly endless gallery of jaw-dropping imagery, and all free to reuse to your heart’s content, Unsplash’s background yarn may be as impressive as it’s gallery.

In this case, the story starts not with Unsplash, but at Crew. Like many modern digital success stories, Unsplash was born from an internal need (the history of both Basecamp and Squarespace comes to mind) and would take on a life of its own.

The story in its entirety, including how Crew recovered from hard times through to the growth of Unsplash, is absolutely worth a spot on your reading list. The short and sweet of it is that in the process of choosing an image for their site, the team at Crew realized that they could either spend an outrageous amount, compromise on quality, or both. Settling wasn’t for them.

The solution wasn’t a sky-parting epiphany or website right out of the gate. In this case Crew did what made the most sense: they hired a photographer and captured what they needed - one photograph. With the agony of searching for high-resolution photos still fresh in their minds, the team bought a Tumblr theme, uploaded extra photos from the shoot, and gave them away for free.

A match had been struck. The site site took off, and for good reason. There’s simply too many things going right in Unsplash’s DNA: free high quality imagery remedies a brutally common pain point for business owners, casual computer users, and everyone in between. An accessible, visible portfolio gives photographers the incentive to share their work and a communicative, appreciative community of users make them feel the love. The cherry on the cake is that all of this is a highly intelligent marketing gamut driving users back to the Crew website. It’s the full package.

Today, Unsplash is still offering ten free high-resolution images every ten days. You’re welcome to use them anywhere, for any purpose, and if you ask your neighbour where his wallpaper came from the chances are good that you’ll hear the name again, and it may not end with images. At the time of writing, there’s a book and clothing in the works (see the Kickstarter campaign).

There was a story within a story here, but I think they end in the same place. A well-considered website, like a product, is most successful when it’s solving a problem. Look internally, look externally, listen closely. Once you have the blueprint, put something together that makes too much sense to fail, and remember that you built this thing to serve your needs as well. Unsplash is the very embodiment of that recipe, and our team visits the site daily.