I’ve had a pro subscription to SmugMug longer than most other photo sharing sites I’ve looked at. I liked it’s simplicity and the easy to configure themed layouts. Zenfolio now handles my commercial site whilst I use SmugMug for sharing photos for viewing, mainly, by family and friends. It’s been sat there in the background for quite a time while I’ve concentrated on getting www.davecarterphotography.com up and running. However, I guess the bods decided it needed an overhaul so last month we were introduced to the “All New Smugmug”.
The one thing that’s immediately noticeable with the new themes is the emphasis on large image displays. My digital images have grown in size over the years governed by two factors – resolution of the camera used and size of the monitor used. I currently have a 24″ widescreen monitor. Hence, my older images do look rather small on this and with a tendency to save images I can view at full size, many of my recent images end up at around 1500 x 1000 pixels. The slight problem I have seen and I’m sure others will have with many of the new Smugmug themes is this; if your images don’t match or aren’t greater than the resolution of your monitor, they’re not going to look that great when they are stretched over the screen. I would say that the majority of new Smugmug themes utilise full screen images so, if you’re like me and have a reasonably large monitor, your older digital images won’t cut the mustard. You can, however, select a few themes that use smaller images or design a theme that looks more like the old layouts and I hazard a guess that many will be resorting to this. Otherwise, get those cameras out and start shooting then saving higher res images.
Another issue with the new Smugmug is the customisation. Easy and intuitive, it is NOT! I’d count myself reasonably skilled and experienced when it comes to web design and setting up sites. Zenfolio was pretty straightforward. Smugmug’s customisation facilities require a steep learning curve to be climbed. It’s not clear which parts of the customisation console affect what parts of your site, many of the appearance modifications that could be done quite easily in the former version (such as thumbnail borders) now require a knowledge of CSS and some things you could do, you no longer can. I spent quite a frustrating couple of days getting my head around the system. I got there in the end but I can imagine this was a significantly larger headache to many others attempting to port over their old SmugMug site to the new one.
Obviously, the new system is in its infancy which is why we’re seeing a few limitations and frustrations. In time, there are bound to be updates that will address many of the “shortcomings”. Having said all this, SmugMug still, in my opinion, respresents one of the better value photo sharing sites that does provide more extensive customisation facilities than other sites and I, for one, will be keeping my subscription going.