Zach Klein is a designer and entrepreneur living in New York, NY. He is the brains behind the beautiful design of Vimeo and one of the brains behind CollegeHumor. Zach was kind enough to answer just a few questions about his work at Vimeo. Be sure to check him out!
How did you get involved with a huge idea like Vimeo?
My business partner Jakob Lodwick is a longtime video enthusiast. In 2004, while I immersed myself in NYC’s photoblogging scene, which was being spurred by the sudden popularity of Flickr and tagging, Jakob tinkered around with a concept of tagging video clips in order to later assemble a movie from a string of keywords. Soon after, we began to pursue the idea together, making it an unofficial project at night after we wrapped up our CollegeHumor work every day. I was responsible for the interface, which in its first iteration was largely inspired by Flickr and the community they built on top of photos.
During the design process, what were your biggest breakthroughs (”Aha!” moments)? How many different ideas did you present and filter through before you arrived at what is on the site currently?
I think the biggest breakthroughs came when I realized the ways that videos are different from photos, which made me confident to steer away from some of Flickr’s layout precedents. Specifically, it was important for me to understand that the flash player is a portable device, and our early data demonstrated that most video plays would take place off-site encouraging me to move functionality from the video page to the player itself. I think the player is still in the early stages of where it could go, as I expect most of our users’ experience should take place inside the player itself allowing us to renovate the video page into a showroom compelling users to take the video home with them, so to speak, to take it to their other habitats like Tumblr, Twitter, etc.
What’s with the somewhat ethereal, earthy illustrations, anyway? (We love them!)
I sometimes fantasize that if I ever could afford it I would buy a substantial number of billboards and replace the typical advertisements with simple, beautiful images. I was thinking about this when I was laying out the Vimeo login page — typically the more boring page on any site — and then emailed my friend Chad Pugh, an extraordinary illustrator whom I’d love to work with in greater capacity some day, and commissioned him to envision the Vimeo world to serve as the background for the page. Since then, the characters and objects in that illustration have become mascots.
As far as the user experience goes, how much of a part did you have in the development side of things?
I only went as deep as CSS, however in 2007 we grew our team from 4 to 16 people comprising a small front-end team to work with me. Justin Ouellette (who’d later go on to found Muxtape) assumed the CSS work, as well as most interaction programming.
What sets Vimeo apart from other video hosting services around the web?
Dedication to quality, community, and originality — without exception.
What’s your favorite thing about Vimeo?
The best part of Vimeo is the back office, the 20 or so people who continue to run Vimeo. They’re incredibly talented and creative, and I’m very thankful for the time I had to work with them. A good idea is worthless without impeccable execution and a commitment to iterate, and this team played a majority’s role in helping Jakob and I hit this one out of the park.
What are you doing these days?
I’ve raised a small pool of money from other entrepreneurs I admire, and I’m working with Patrick Moberg, who also worked at Vimeo, on a startup called Spurd. We’re based in Brooklyn.