While most people were sleeping, I got my first look at the all-new Smugmug site. This was a LONG overdue overhaul of the previous site that I once loved, but left for Zenfolio due to the boring and inflexible user interface it once offered.
In a nod to 500px, Smugmug now offers more interesting ways to show the tiles to your gallery in addition to the traditional styles. There’s also the welcome addition of being able to specify your favorite social media icons using a variety of styles with icons provided by Smugmug. Surprisingly 500px isn’t included, but nearly everything else is!
When you are in authoring mode as I was in the shot above, there’s also a much cleaner customization toolbar that feels more responsive than the outgoing design. This makes sense as I’m told the entire backend has been re-written from the ground up with performance and compatibility in mind.
Customization is also allowed at multiple levels including Galleries where we are no longer subjected to those boring squares or lame journal view (but they are still exist if you want it). Now more interesting styles like “Collage Landscape” are shown here using some very old pictures from my test site done years ago:
It should be noted that the author view here shows some things your users won’t see but there’s also a way to see what your legacy site looks like while you are experimenting before you make that commitment to complete your migration to the new design. This is important because sites like mine had a lot of custom CSS and HTML, so I didn’t want to break the old site while I experimented with the new site. The user facing view of the above page can be seen by clicking the image above.
For my test site I’ve used three different gallery styles for you to see what’s possible. It should also be noted that you can now create custom pages and drag objects on there like slideshows to create more customization than ever before. Custom HTML (including HTML 5) & CSS is still allowed too, but it is not required.
Finally Interesting Templates
Right from the start there will be some really cool templates included, but the selection I show above might include some that are still under development or are offered by a third party. I didn’t get an exact list, but all are possible using the new customization features – ALL without writing any custom code!
Compatibility & Migration
As someone who has most of his photo content for this blog hosted on Smugmug, I was VERY concerned about compatibility. I was also worried about how painful it would be to migrate my highly customized site. Fortunately the answer to these concerns were exactly what I wanted to hear:
- Migrate at your OWN pace – There’s no need to fear if you have a site you like right now as I’m told that nothing has been done that will break your links or old site. This was a huge relief for me, and from what I can tell this appears to be true.
- Work on your NEW design without breaking the old – Fortunately you can do some radical changes in the new site design without impacting the front end design. Of course there’s logical limitations which you need to be mindful of. For example, you can’t hide, delete or move your photos to new galleries and not expect that to impact your legacy site. However, you can drastically change the pages, navigation, and high level design without any backwards compat issues that I could see based on my experimentation. Of course, you should consult the Smugmug help site before doing anything drastic to be sure.
I’ve been waiting for this for a long time as I was a loyal Smugmug fanboy from the early days, but my frustration with the boring design and lack of innovation forced me to move to Zenfolio. I didn’t get enough time with the new site to feel like it was worth moving my portfolio back to Smugmug, but I was happy enough with the improvements to consider it a recommended photo hosting site again.
Like anything new in software there’s a few quirks I ran into, but nothing that offered more than a minor irritation. These issues and some of the wishes I have for improvement will no doubt be possible with this new architecture, so I’m excited for the future of smugmug again.
For my loyal readers who joined Smugmug based on my recommendations, this is the update you’ve been waiting for! For those who have moved to Zenfolio, this site offers some customizations that Zenfolio doesn’t but it also lacks some critical features like self fulfillment and fine tuning of gallery thumbnail images. I also still prefer Zenfolio’s overall design for managing the site, but it now has some catch up to do on how galleries are presented.
I’ll be sharing my feedback with the Smugmug team who now has an infrastructure that can support building the features that I’d like to see in future updates. We’ll also see some exiting stuff coming from custom site providers who are willing to write a little code.
Use my discount coupon code SmugRon to save 20% Off your first year of Smugmug.
Go to Smugmug.com to learn more.
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