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THIS ARTICLE HAS BECOME TOO OLD AND OUTDATED. I now use Zenfolio exclusively for my personal portfolio and http://ronmartinsen.com now only points to my Zenfolio site. Click here to read my Zenfolio review and learn why I feel it’s the best service available now.
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Josh Rencher, CEO/Founder of FolioSnap makes it a point greet his new customers and offer his email should they need any priority attention. I found Josh to to be very methodical and willing to answer some tough questions I threw his way. It’s clear that he cares about his company and his customers.
My demo site, featured above, was of what appears to be a folioPLUS package that runs roughly $228. I had a professional designer review all of the sites in this series and she felt this site had the greatest number of visually pleasing and functional user interface elements. In addition, FolioSnap offers a large number of color variations of the three themes.
While I didn’t care for the thumbnails being a separate disconnected view, it is useful if you have a large number of photos. In addition, its page-level navigation panel was excellent. I also really liked that the links for external sites on the main navigation toolbar had graphics to indicate that they were external links. In fact, the only thing I really didn’t like about the visual elements of this site were the lines above and below the main navigation toolbar, but there’s an easy fix for that (which I’ve done since I took my screen shots) – just go to the Edit Custom Themes page and change the Accent Lines color to match the background color (white in this case).
FolioSnap also features a shopping cart that works exactly like SiteWelder’s where you assign prices for self-fulfillment products in your image library and it coordinates with PayPal as shown here when you click the add/view cart button:
WARNING: There’s a nasty limitation where if you don’t have a caption assigned to your photo (click edit to your photo to add one), then the add/view cart buttons won’t display effectively rendering shopping on that photo as useless. Fortunately the fix is easy, and FolioSnap has acknowledged there is room for some usability improvement on this feature. I look forward to seeing that improvement added in the future by using the filename or something as a default value to ensure this feature always works.
Internet Explorer Problem
I did observe a problem that occurs on Internet Explorer (all versions including 8, but it doesn’t repro on other browsers) which causes the color with the hex value of 02050A (pretty close to black) to be rendered as opaque, which on FolioSnap means you see white specks as shown in the picture below:
This was the only site I tested that featured this problem because other sites use flash for animated transitions where this problem is predominant. When I spoke to Mr. Rencher about his response was “[t]his is beyond our control, or we would have fixed it years ago.” He also went on to say “this is a minor issue that affects a very small portion of FolioSnap's website users and viewers”. Without knowing about this issue, I saw it repro on 5 of my images I randomly chose for the first version of my intro slide show, so I must be very unlucky. Given the prominence of Internet Explorer (over 80% of my blog readers still use IE), I would have loved to have seen FolioSnap more determined to come up with a workaround for this problem.
Great Contact Form
Another area where FolioSnap shines is its built-in contact form design. It had all of the features I really wanted, and to thwart bots, it requires you to enter a special code with your message. Unfortunately that feature doesn’t use a image that can’t be read by an OCR program (you know, those hard to read images you see everywhere), so a bot would simply need to scrape the the text off the page to get the code and bypass this “safety” feature. Nevertheless, it is better than nothing. All in all, I liked this contact page more than any others in this series.
Behind the Scenes: Administering your site
One of the advantages of FolioSnap is that it is fairly easy to administer and get the site up and functional very quickly. Here’s a behind the scenes look at the administration side of this site. Everything was mostly straightforward and very discoverable. Overall, I found it to be a very pleasant product to use (aside from a few annoying nested scrollbar issues).
I did not see a way to provide custom HTML or change the CSS of this site, beyond what could be edited for custom pages. This means that your modifications to the look and feel of this site are limited to color schemes, content, and non-gallery custom pages.
Of all of the sites tested during this review, FolioSnap had the best performance. In fact it was fantastic because even the home page slideshow worked (which wasn’t true for any of the other tested sites). The site scaled well and was fairly easy use via the iPhone, although it didn’t have a mobile phone specific interface so you must zoom in to use the buttons.
Featured Client Websites demonstrates what some existing FolioSnap customers have done with their sites.
Search Engine Performance
All of the participants in this series were given an opportunity to provide a list of big search engine wins. Josh Rencher, CEO/Founder of FolioSnap responded by saying “Unfortunately, we have absolutely no way of knowing which of our clients have top search engine placements or which or their keywords are likely to yield top results.” After this response we engaged in a good discussion of this topic to where I voiced my opinion that it should be his business to know this data, and he agreed that this is something he would look into moving forward to demonstrate the effectiveness of their Search Engine Optimization strength.
I extend an open invitation for Mr. Rencher to add a comment to this article at any time should he have additional data to demonstrate the effectiveness of FolioSnap’s search engine optimizations.
Prices range from $168 - $648 per year, which I felt was a little on the high side given the fact that all sites on FolioSnap will differ only in color and content. In the world of Photography where image is literally is everything, I would love to see more robust design offerings to differentiate one site from another at this price point. In the absence of this, I would expect pricing to be closer to $60 per year for the services offered.
Pros / Cons
What I love about FolioSnap is:
- Pure HTML - No flash means for great iPhone support and easy access for web crawlers (which theoretically should result in better than average search results when compared to all flash sites). For more information about why this is a good thing, check out this article.
- Contacts Form Rocks -Excellent design and functionality.
- Functional and User Friendly Design – This site is easy to navigate and use, even if it is a bit like every other site hosted by FolioSnap.
- Easy to add pages and top level links – I found the process of adding pages / links to be quite easy, so you can get your site up and running very quickly.
Areas for FolioSnap improvement:
- IE Bug needs to be addressed – Good software and service vendors make problems go away for their customers (especially those who pay $648 per year) no matter who’s fault it is.
- 20 picture upload – For reasons I can’t comprehend, only 20 images are allowed to be uploaded at a time. This can be very frustrating during the initial setup of the, and quite honestly is baffling.
- The lack of ability to offer a slideshow option and lightbox option at the same time (like Smugmug) for your gallery photos – The other hosts in this review have the ability to do this, so I’d like to see Foliosnap add this as well.
- Reactive, instead of proactive attitude – For a service charging up to $648 per year, I want them to be proactive trying to address challenges I might face (like the issues above and SEO) and addressing them without customer protests. Instead, my discussions with Mr. Rencher seem to indicate that unless there is a major outcry among FolioSnap customers, then the problem really isn’t worth addressing.
A development manager once told me that pretty or fast, but broken, is of little value so give me a solution that “just works.” To some extent, this is what FolioSnap offers by limiting the number of variables in customization and avoiding the use of flash. However, the fees charged for this service don’t reflect the fact that there are few moving parts for them to design. While I liked the FolioSnap a lot (in fact, it was my early favorite), I’ve concluded that it really only makes sense for those who are wishing for more of a “business card” type of presence on the Internet with little originality or chance of being discovered in the sea of business card web sites.
I sincerely appreciate Josh Rencher of FolioSnap giving me the opportunity to review this product in depth as I’ve done here. I would especially like to thank him for all of his time and fast responses in answering my many questions. I also appreciate his willingness to leave the site online for you to review as part of this series as I look forward to seeing how its search engine results improve over the next month.
FolioSnap has a special offer for my blog readers where you can extend its normal 15 day trial to 30 days just by entering the promo code RONMART when you sign up for a free trail.