Implement a Screenshot Thumbnail Service

This week I was working on (yet) another site for DK New Media. This one is pretty cool – capitalizing on the photographs that Paul D’Andrea did for our company as well as provide a great HTML5 site that’s cross-browser compatible. We’ve still got some work to do on speed, calls to action and landing pages – but it’s almost there.

One of the things we wanted to do was showcase our clients on the site. Since that number continues to climb, implementing a new design and going back to capture logos or screenshots can be quite a pain. This time, I decided to just implement a screenshot service. Unfortunately, that’s not as easy as you think… many are expensive and the code to implement is sometimes just ridiculous.

I happened across a new service, url2png, this afternoon and had it fully implemented within a few minutes! Customizing the WordPress theme actually took a lot longer than implementing the screenshot service itself. Even more impressive is that the folks there were monitoring my requests and when I returned to the site, they opened a chat with me to see if I was having a problem. Wow!

The service also doesn’t charge like some of the others do. If you make a request… they’ll cache the image for 30 days and won’t charge you for the cached requests. That means I’m able to run the site with the service for $10 per month (up to 1,000 unique URls). Awesome!

The request is the most simple I’ve found… just a simple way of building the image request with all the variables within the URl. They’ve also provided code samples for PHP, Python, Ruby and Bash… all of which are just a few lines of code. If you don’t make the request right, they log the issue and provide you with an image that has a watermark on it. Very well thought out!

The final result is beautiful. We’ve got a client page where folks can mouseover each of the sites and see the work that we’ve done for the client:

If the visitor clicks the more link, it brings them to a single page where they can see a larger version of the screenshot:

The best part of using the service is that, as we add new clients, I don’t have to go out and grab screenshots for them when I add them to the site’s portfolio. And that time savings may be the best reason of all!

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