Smugmug's Big Announcement: As Amazing As They Claim?

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Smugmug just made big a meta-announcement:  They will be holding a press conference next Tuesday July 30th (10:30am PDT) to unveil their new design.  

Can the redesign save this ailing site, and redeem them in the eyes of many alienated users?  

I've become pretty cynical when it comes to Smugmug and their technology/design department.  This update is way overdue.  Nine months ago I started using Smugmug to host my portfolio and handle client proofing and print sales.  I decided to use them based on their long history of service and promises of an imminent infrastructure update.  Their site design was looking pretty dated and user unfriendly, even at that point.

The imminent infrastructure update was actually announced in Jun 2011 by CEO Don MacAskill in this forum post.   He teased some plans and stated it was coming soon. I joined in October 2012 after reading hints that it was right around the corner.  Well, I learned not to trust my intuition so much.

In the intervening months I have hammered at them to at least give us a time frame for the release.  They've been completely unresponsive, leading myself and others to consider jumping ship.  I had actually been planning my move to Zenfolio later this year.

But then Smugmug made the big announcement on in today's blog post: "Unveiling the All-New Smugmug".  They claim they have a redesign that will blow our minds.

Me?  I'm reserving judgement until the announcement hits next week.  But now I have optimism where there was none before.

It's a tall order, Smugmug, but try not to let us down.

 

What do they need to focus on to make the redesign a success?

Above all, I hope they provide us with a better back end interface.  The current one is convoluted, and requires site owners to be expert CSS and javascript coders to do even simple things.  A lot of customization is necessary, because all their supposed design "templates" are just color variations of the same blah layout.  But I really hope that they provide us with significant architecture changes and modern and interactive site design tools.  I don't just want some new layouts.  The updates should focus on tools for the photographers.

Best of luck Smugmug!  We're all waiting with baited breath.

 

But I've been using Smug since the 18th century and am worried about my customizations!

I was reading one of the responses to the announcement by Jeff Roberts, who was worried that the update will break things for the older users who have poured a lot of time and money into customizing their Smugmug sites.  Well to you I will confess that I also have poured countless hours into Javascript and CSS hacks.  I realize it's a tough balancing act: Do the Smugmug poobahs alienate their older customers who've spent so much time and money on customization? Or do they alienate the newer ones who couldn't care less about legacy, and demand something that can compete with Zenfolio, Photoshelter, Squarespace, and others?

At some level these are incompatible goals. For SM to upgrade they have to break compatibility with the old hacks.  But I'm pretty sure it'll be alright, because:

  1. I'm sure they will give the older established users plenty of time to port their site.
  2. Ideally, the new interface will be so good that legacy users won't need to maintain their old customizations. Many of these were devised because the old interface was limited and people had to build hacks even for quite basic features. They won't need to rely on hacks if the new interface has these built in.

 

Have you used Smugmug? What do you think?  Chime in with your comments!

 

PS If you are thinking of subscribing to Smugmug, please use my coupon code for 20% off!  "Px69Wbg6FmUNc" at checkout.