I am a Smugmug fan and have been using their service since designing my very first photography website. I run both of my business sites through them:
for fine art prints and
This week Smugmug announced their new site. The customization looks amazing. Kudos to them for creating a simpler interface. But here’s the problem: if I want to use these features, I have to abandon my site and migrate to the their new system. Unfortunately, I can’t use the customization on my “Legacy” Smugmug account. Yikes. I don’t want a new template or a new design, I just want to make changes using their new, simpler, interface.
Another issue I have, and this is purely subjective, are the new templates. They are 500px and flickr clones. How many images can we display and how large can we fill the screen at one time? It’s information overload. They showed a sampling of sites that were up and running and I didn’t care for any of them. These types of templates work well for photo sharing websites like 500px because, as a viewer, you are looking to find a diamond in the rough. The images are from different people, and you are searching for one to catch your eye. Or you use 500px as a research tool, for example, typing in Iceland in the search bar to see as many images of Iceland as you can in order to help plan a trip. A personal website is something completely different to me. It should be clean and simple, highlighting each and every image of one’s portfolio. Each image should be on your site for a reason and be worth viewing. There should be a level of consistency amongst your work, and, unlike 500px, it’s not about searching for a diamond in the rough, but about enjoying an individual artist’s work. Although I am sure that you can use the customization tools to create a clean site within the new Smugmug, I am compelled to write a critique on the direction of photography websites.
During the release presentation and while reading Smugmug sponsored blog posts, a similar expression was thrown around: “the old Smugmug was ugly”. WOW. It’s not; it really isn’t. It needs some customization love, but the old Smugmug is capable of creating great websites. For those of us who have designed our own Smugmug websites, whether through our own sweat, or hired out for customization, what does the new Smugmug do for us? Take a look at these impressive Smugmug sites, keeping in mind that I’m a landscape photographer and so I’ve selected sites within my field:
There is a theme within these sites: first and foremost they are clean, simple, and highlight each image from the artist. Granted, photography sites have had this look for a few years now, and maybe the future holds something different. But from a landscape photographer’s perspective, I’m hoping future sites won’t include the information overload templates from the new Smugmug.
If you have not built a site or are just starting out, I highly recommend Smugmug. You will be working with a great company and building a website from scratch with a superior interface. My issue is for the legacy users, not new users. New users are in for a treat. That’s the joy of new tech!