Environmental Graffiti’s Movers and Shakers: Vurdlak from Mighty Optical Illusions

Image from October 2007 MOI post, Black Hole Sun Optical Illusion

If you like optical illusions, you’ll be totally spellbound by Mighty Optical Illusions, the place online for anyone who’s into all things bamboozling to the eye. Founder of Mighty Optical Illusions and friend of EG Vurdlak took time out to talk to us from Croatia about how Mighty Optical Illusions came to be, what it takes to run such a site and where it’s headed next. On the way he offers some insightful nuggets about the background work involved – while doing his best not to scare you with his technical genius!

EG: How did you get the brainwave for Mighty Optical Illusions and how did the site then become a reality?

Vurdlak: First of all I’d like to say hello to all the readers of this wonderful environmental website! As for Mighty Optical Illusions, the short answer is, I just did it! It started in 2006 as a side project just for fun, where I posted one funny image each day, but I quickly saw how optical illusions have a wide audience. It was at the beginning of social media sites like Digg, Reddit and I Am Bored, so it was pretty easy to get 100,000 visitors in the first week that the site went live. I didn’t event submit the posts myself, but was lucky because my readers did!

Image from April 2008 MOI post, Crazy Car Optical Illusion

Vurdlak: From then, I started blogging full time, aside with college study, and learned that maintaining a website is 40 minutes work per day, and 8 hours per day studying new traffic methods, new web 2.0 trends, reading up on techcrunch startup reviews and so on. Basically, background work is much more important.

Image from June 2009 MOI post, 1+1=3 Art Installation

EG: Tell us a little about your background and how you think it might have helped to shape what you do today.

Vurdlak: I began blogging 5 years ago, when I started with my first project, C++ Maniac, a programming language tutorial site. I shamelessly translated my college programming scripts into English, and each day posted part of the C++ tutorial online. My main idea wasn’t altruistic. I was in it for the Adsense advertising revenue. Soon I discovered that the audience I looked to attract was limited – after all it was only programmers, and specifically ones that want to learn C – so as hard as I worked to gain traffic, the audience was limited. The wider popularity of the optical illusions changed all that.

Image from April 2008 MOI post, Moon Star Island Illusion

Vurdlak: At the beginning, Mighty Optical Illusions was launched with a bang because our bounce ratio (i.e. the percentage of visitors to the site who don’t stick around but just ‘bounce’ to another site) was extremely low. The site had perfect visual design; it was simple, with nice colours and black. You can see how it looked here or by using the “way back machine” in internet archives.

Image from August 2008 MOI post, Camouflage Art by Liu Bolin

EG: Why do you think Mighty Optical Illusions has proven such a success? Are there any magic tricks you can reveal?

Vurdlak: I think the reason Mighty Optical Illusions has been such a success is because I’m such a perfectionist. Each pixel has to be in its place, and I care a great deal about design and functionality, but I’m also a technician by background and a marketing expert as a hobby too. These factors combined make for some good results. No magic tricks here; just attention to detail and hard work. We have over a million unique monthly visitors to Mighty Optical Illusions.

Image from October 2007 MOI post, Dizzy Optical illusion

EG: Run us through your typical day – and how you keep those mighty illusions coming!

Vurdlak: My typical day consists of lots of coffee; a pack of Marlboro; one hour’s work on the website working on things like design, posts and functions; one hour running statistics on stuff like revenue, traffic, and analytics; three hours of reading tech blogs (start-ups, ad companies, traffic methods and so on); two hours university related earning; and then I’M FREE to get back home to my girlfriend, go out or play sports. As for the illusions and images, they are submitted every day by artists and fans; in fact we get over 100 submissions daily.

Image from June 2009 MOI post, Ultimate Mural Gallery

EG: Where is Mighty Optical Illusions going next? Do you have any plans you want to tell us about?

Vurdlak: Well, I’m currently writing a diploma thesis in my university (faculty of electrotechnics and informatics), and when I finish it (just few more months), I will broaden my company (Aheront d.o.o.), hire more people, and bring the website to the next level. I’m talking about more social options, user generated content and so forth. My ultimate idea is to make the whole site completely automated, with hired writers, editors and programmers.

EG: Well good luck with it Vurdlak and thank you for being part of Environmental Graffiti’s Movers and Shakers!