The Customer

Founded in 2011 to create meaningful American jobs through the manufacturing of timeless, well-designed goods, Shinola's mission is to show the world that you can still build exceptional products with American workers in the birthplace of American industry.

From its factories in Detroit, Shinola produces watches, bicycles, leather goods and accessories, audio equipment, and specialty items. Shinola operates 26 retail locations throughout North America, and also does a substantial amount of business through its online store, powered by Magento Enterprise and hosted on Amazon Web Services.

The company manages all of its site development and infrastructure in-house with a team of 5 full-stack developers

Shinola customer 1
Shinola customer 2

The Challenge

Initially, Shinola managed its image library using Magento Enterprise's built in image resizing. This worked for a while, but multi-server functionality was very limited, making it difficult to scale. Adding more capacity meant adding more web servers. This meant having to share image assets across servers, requiring a system built with Network File System (NFS) and rsync to keep everything consistent.

Once Shinola moved images into the cloud on AWS, this became more difficult as NFS proved to be less reliable when handling a shared storage location than it had been with physical servers. This led to the creation of a complicated system where images were uploaded, synced to an Amazon S3 bucket, and then all production web servers. These extra steps added latency as well as additional points of failure.

“We're all talented and seasoned development professionals, but image compression algorithms and complex image optimization strategies are not our primary expertise. A large investment of time and resources would need to be made to get the same performance as a team that was really focused in that area.”

— Ryan Shaltry, Senior Technical Architect

Shinola challenge

Quality assurance quickly became an issue, because the open source tools Shinola used to perform edits on image files, ImageMagick and PHP-GD, often introduced artifacts and dithering. This was not acceptable to the creative and branding teams, who demanded a high level of image quality to match Shinola's high-end reputation.

The Shinola team spent between 80 to 100 hours of development time to create its image processing service, but soon realized it would require a lot of ongoing attention. Even when there were no significant errors or downtime, developers were still spending about 4 hours per week on maintenance and quality assurance.

The Solution

The Shinola team realized that they were spending significant time maintaining an image system in-house, pulling them away from other priorities, even though this system could not always guarantee the level of quality they needed. They needed an on-demand image processor that they could offload images to and have it just work. They found imgix.

The Shinola team liked the simplicity of imgix's interface, which allowed them to apply manipulations to photos in real time simply by attaching query string parameters to the image URLs. This was very similar to their current internal solution, making adoption simple. Shinola was also impressed by imgix's consistent image quality, even at higher levels of compression.

Shinola solution

Shinola built a custom plugin to integrate imgix into Magento Enterprise, which took about 40 hours of development work, most of it spent on recreating one-off compositing that the company had developed for some product shots, such as allowing customers to pair specific combinations of watch straps and case options.

“imgix is just so simple, you quickly understand and can harness its capabilities if you're at all familiar with how CDNs work. There's very little learning curve, excellent documentation and developer resources, and implementation is incredibly easy.”

— Ryan Shaltry, Senior Technical Architect

The Results

After implementing imgix, the Shinola team was able to cut out the majority of its image processing workload. And thanks to imgix's advanced compression capabilities, Shinola was also able to shrink its image file sizes considerably without any noticeable loss of quality. Shinola saw these benefits:


Small Page Weight

A 50% reduction in page weight across the board due to smaller image sizes.
Fetching from storage.

Fast Image Render

A 10% to 15% percent reduction in time-to-render for most images on the site.
A laptop with performance metrics on it.

Fast Load Times

Savings of a full second shaved from page load times, on average.
Shinola result
“imgix is by far the biggest improvement we've implemented in terms of image services and image delivery. It solved so many tough problems that we'd had to build complex integrations for, and imgix has saved us so much time and effort in the long- run.”

— Ryan Shaltry, Senior Technical Architect

imgix is a real-time image processing service and CDN. Thousands of companies around the world use imgix to deliver the best images at the perfect sizes to their customers.