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Wonderful Web Tools for Visual Storytelling

People love pretty pictures. If you want to create content for the Web, this is something you should keep in mind. Images are often described as being “worth a thousand words” and, when chosen appropriately, they usually make the written content more interesting, memorable and shareable.

Since the majority of popular blogging platforms emphasizes text as a primary means of expression and/or communication, I went looking for something else. I wanted to find a web app that puts images in the spotlight and lets them carry the story – and I found two. Cowbird and Jux are two completely different web apps that share a common goal: making visual storytelling easy and wonderful.

Cowbird or Birdcow?


The development and widespread accessibility of mobile phones in the recent years made mobile photography immensely popular, which in turn led to a great many apps dedicated to sharing your photos with the world. Some apps, like Instagram and Pinterest, even adopted the aspects of a social network, making it possible to create a community around one's selection of images.

However, these images are (in most cases) just snapshots of daily life or curated collections of someone else's creative work. In other words, they're either transient and unlikely to leave a lasting impression, or not particularly original. Not to mention that they're often quite small, and zooming is not available in every image sharing app.

Cowbird and Jux are here to change that with their focus on high quality, high-resolution images that dominate the screen and invite the audience to read an unconventional kind of story. Each app has its own approach to visual storytelling, which is great because it allows for greater freedom of choice among (potential) users.

Jux Logo


Jux is a no-frills web app for visual storytelling that lets you create, present and share several types of content on your personal page. Setting up an account is easy, and you will immediately be greeted by a “Get Started” screen prompting you to make something. It seems that procrastination is not an option when it comes to Jux. :)

Getting started with Jux


Whichever type of content you decide to create, the final product will be similar – a big photo will take up the greater part of the interface with some (optional) text and navigation elements on it. Jux lets the images speak for themselves and lets you show off the power of your photography skills. You can arrange text and images in a captivating sequence and have them complement each other, or pair a timeless quote with a photo expressing your interpretation of it.

Another good thing about Jux is that it doesn't limit you to photos – you can also add videos to your pages, or import snapshots from anywhere in the world using the Google Street View option.

Editing in Jux


Editing in Jux is pretty much what you'd expect it to be – you can customize fonts, reposition text and change the photo size. You can also add a byline to your pages, display photo permissions and schedule posts. Probably the best and most useful feature is the support for Google Analytics, meaning that you can track your popularity and visitors on your Jux page through Google Analytics. It's also possible to connect your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Flickr accounts with Jux to quickly import images and directly share new content.

Jux is a perfect place for a photographer's or designer's portfolio because your page will not be cluttered with dozens of icons and menus. You can create a landing page for your personal brand or even use it for blogging, since you're not limited to one-page-only content. Your Jux page will look amazing on both computers and mobile devices thanks to its optimized interface and HTML5 that powers it.

If Jux is so gorgeous, then why do we need to look at Cowbird? Well, there might be one thing...

Cowbird community


...or not just one, but let's start with the feature that distinguishes Cowbird from Jux. The hint is up there; it's the community. While Jux is a showcase platform for the “lone artist”, Cowbird is all about sharing personal stories and connecting with other authors in a number of ways, be it through leaving comments on their posts, responding to their ideas or tagging your work with popular tags.

Cowbird is perfect for you if you're seeking immediate feedback on your visual storytelling efforts, and it helps create a feeling of closeness to other people who share your interests.

Cowbird main menu

Of course, the inclusion of the community feature takes a toll on any app's simplicity, and Cowbird is no exception, although it's by no means cluttered or difficult to use. The stories are very well-organized and easily searchable by date, author, author's role, topic and place, and if that's not enough, you can use the advanced search to find exactly what you need.

Cowbird sample story


When writing your story, you are supposed to tag it in order to categorize it, as well as to make it easier for others to find it. However, if you want to keep a story private, you don't have to publish it – Cowbird supports private stories. You can “love” a story, comment on it, share it via email or on social networks, and message the author if he or she enables this option. It's also possible to dedicate a story to someone, making it more intimate or inspiring to others.

Cowbird Seeds

Another big source of inspiration and a brilliant feature of Cowbird are Seeds, which are essentially writing prompts created by members of the community to help others battle the writer's block and to motivate new users to voice their opinions and observations on a variety of topics. Responses to Seeds (and other stories) are called Sprouts, and they are also searchable just like any other category on Cowbird.

Cowbird is free to join and use, but most of the cool features are actually available only to Citizens, or premium members. While multi-page stories and a vanity URL for your page come by default on Jux, here you would have to pay $5 a month, which isn't expensive, but it's easy to see why someone would prefer in this case. Other premium features include being featured on Cowbird, turning your handwriting into a font and creating custom collections.

It might surprise you that Cowbird doesn't support video content at all – again, something that Jux offers for free. Cowbird aims to be a public library of human experience, and this experience can be recorded in text, images and even audio content, but video is where they draw the line, which is fine if you were planning to tell your stories using only still images and text.

Cowbird can be used for the same purposes as Jux – as a blogging platform, an online portfolio, for digital publishing or even brand promotion. It seems more suitable for extroverted people who want engagement, but it can also accommodate introverts who wish to share their personal stories. This personal element is exactly what makes Cowbird so distinct from Jux – the focus on the human(ity) and personality of authors influences the way we perceive stories shared on Cowbird.

Jux might be slightly more impersonal or professional, though it doesn't have to be, since you can customize it to reflect your interests, hobbies and opinions like a mirror. I chose Jux because it offered enough features for a fair price of zero, but if you choose Cowbird and discover something I forgot to mention, do let me know. :)




Ivana Isadora Devcic is a freelance writer, copyeditor and translator fluent in English, Swedish, Croatian and Norwegian. She's a Linux user and KDE fan interested in web design, productivity and personal branding. Ivana tweets about the world around her as @skadinna.

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