Sunday, October 5, 2014

Moving My Website Home

Everyone thinks the grass is often greener on the other side of the fence. The same was true with me and why I switched to SmugMug from my years of Zenfolio service.  Now, I had a good friend that worked at SmugMug and his pursuit of me to join their VIP crew was a great feeling, so I gave in and moved over.  Some sweet press, great perks, and a chance to be part of a small yet impressive group of other SM VIP users sounded awesome.  However, all of my glee and excitement quickly hit the fan as I tried to use SM for the tasks I find so simple on Zenfolio.  By they way, the site never got launched due to some unfortunate corporate decisions regarding employing a VIP coordinator and everything died.

 The thing I missed the most while away were the Zenfolio product updates that seem to come often and contain a lot of new features.  While a SmugMug client, the only big update I witnessed was the ability to edit or remove keywords on a photo, which was apparently impossible before. In the mean time I watch Zen add 4 major features including video, PSD, and RAW storage.

 It’s little things that really that really annoyed me, like the inability to easily preview a gallery page after you add some images.  To do that on SM, you have to enter design mode, edit the page settings, scroll to the bottom, and then copy the link text into a new browser instance that isn't logged in.  With Zenfolio there is a shiny candy-like “Preview Page” button at the top, so it doesn't get much easier than that.

My most recent frustration (and the last straw) was the inability to hop from comment to comment in a large gallery of over 800 images, like I can with Zenfolio.  SmugMug doesn't have this ability, which I use often to see what images are selected for final post production.  The closest SM comes to this feature is using the site statistics to sort through the myriad of interactions and views.  Otherwise you use your notification emails for reference, which means a lot of browser tabs to open and clicking emails and copying links.

 Overall, I don’t find the two products in the same ballpark.  Zenfolio has a much more usable interface with a lot of superior options and tons more features.  SM still has the same confusing interface they did 5 years ago when I started this journey.  I turned away from them after the trial because they seemed to be missing simple capabilities, and it appears they still don’t have many of them in place today.  I assumed that in the years since I had tried it, things would have vastly improved, but was as if they had stopped product development while I was away.

The long story short is that I am crawling back to Zenfolio and won’t be looking elsewhere for a very long time.  I challenge you to try both sites and you will see exactly what I mean.  Both companies still have great printing labs for partners, so that isn’t a print or price difference in play here.  All of my issues are with the ability to get my work out there, have a sane & simple workflow, and a painless client interaction.

By the way, Zenfolio is cheaper, which blows my mind.