Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The All NEW Smugmug Has Arrived

My new Smugmug Home Page
Home pages no longer require any coding and can be customized extensively

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.

More Flexible Folder Viewing Options
Goodbye boring folder views, Smugmug finally enters the year 2013!

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.

Flexible customization has arrived
Drag & drop customization objects allow you to get the behavior you want without custom code

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:

Goodbye square boxes! Galleries can be cool!
Goodbye square boxes! Galleries can be cool!

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

Preview Templates - NOT FINAL
Exciting templates are included by default for new users as well as those who are migrating

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.

Conclusion

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.

Special Offer

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Go to Smugmug.com to learn more.

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  • Zenfolio – An alternate place to store your photos online

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2 comments:

Rob Chenard said...

I am just deciding on a photo hosting website and I read a few blogs that said the MPIX lab (not MPIX Pro) for Zenfolio printed images darker than the original, essentially changing the photo that the customer thought they were purchasing.
What has been your experience with their photo lab?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Ron Martinsen said...

Rob,

Anyone who isn't a print master is typically going to complain about prints being too dark. There are so many reasons why I had to write a book on the subject.

MPix is capable of doing acceptable work, but you have to understand how they print, what options to choose and recognize that you must view the print in a light box and compare that with a properly calibrated display that is soft proofing using MPix's icc profile before you can accurately judge if the print came out dark or not. If you let them color manage, OR if you tell them not to color manage and don't prep your file properly then you'll get mediocre results.

Let's put it this way though, it's been my experience that 9999 times out of 10,000 there's user error involved when working with third party print shops (including MPIX Pro and ) when a customers complains.

See my printing series for many articles on this subject...

http://www.ronmartblog.com/p/printing-series-articles.html

With that said, once you pick a workflow and know what results you'll get out of MPIX then just prepare your image for that expected result. They are very consistent so if you think the image is too dark then keep sending them an altered image until you have it the way you like it. If you boosted the brightness 10% to get the result you desired, then by default send ALL images brightened by 10% and you'll be fine. It should be noted that the media you print on will impact your print so if you change papers or go to very large sizes you might have to repeat this process, but that's the nature of printing.