A Progress Report on our Product Roadmap (Feb 2020)

A Progress Report on our Product Roadmap (Feb 2020)

If you’ve been curious about what we’ve been up to, and what’s coming next, this blog post should answer all of your questions. It has been 6 months since we opened our new office (and hired our first team member) in Guadalajara, and a lot has happened in that time.

Building a new product team from scratch is no small task, but it has been an exciting challenge for me. Everything, including locating the office space, getting through the lease process (in Spanish!), renovating the space, buying desks and computers, and getting a solid internet connection all had to come before we hired our first person.

Once hired, it takes a while (usually about 3 months) for developers to understand the PhotoShelter codebase, the details of the product, our customer needs, and the processes in place throughout the company. We planned for this, but the team in Mexico started showing results right away.

I must admit, I was nervous when we started looking for developers here in Mexico. My brain would run wild with potential disaster scenarios, keeping me up at night. It was important that the team members be smart, dedicated, and easy to work with.

Thankfully, the team in New York played a key role in interviewing all of the candidates, and together we were able to select an impressive roster of talented developers. I couldn’t be happier with how it all worked out.

We currently have 6 members on the Mexico dev team, with a seventh member starting next week. In April we are on track for hiring our 8th team member. Each member of the team spends time in our New York City office, where they receive training and establish personal relationships with the NYC teams. There is great synergy between them.

What have we accomplished already?

1) Anonymous Downloads: Your clients no longer need an account or a password to download images, creating a truly frictionless image delivery experience for you and your clients.

2) SEO Improvements: There have been several rounds of updates designed to make PhotoShelter websites rank higher in search engines. These updates are continuing for the next few months, including how images are indexed in Google Image search. This behind-the-scenes work is necessary for us to keep up with the way search engines like Google change and evolve over time.

3) Mobile-friendly Shopping Cart: We modified the cart so that it would function perfectly on every type of device. This one took a while because we needed to test the cart on as many different mobile devices as possible before releasing. The end result was the first really big accomplishment for the team.

4) FileFlow for iPhone and iPad: With this app, your clients can now search, browse, and download images to mobile devices with ease. (The Android version is in beta testing now, and will be released within a few weeks.)

5) Mobile App Updates: It wasn’t just FileFlow that got some attention. The PhotoShelter iOS and Android apps got an update as well. They now work faster with current mobile operating systems. For example, the iOS version now supports large iPhones in full-screen mode.

6) Updated Lightroom Plugin: We’ve made significant improvements to the PhotoShelter Lightroom plugin. It is currently going through our QA process, and we expect it to be available for download within the next 2 weeks. If you’d like to be a beta tester, please let us know!

This is an impressive list for a team that’s only been on the job for an average of 3.5 months collectively.

What’s coming next?

As previously shared in our roadmap from late last year, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. The team here is excited and up for the challenge.

One often-requested change is the removal of the switch to the photoshelter.com domain name in photographer websites. The work to make this happen is currently in progress and will be released soon. This means you will retain your own domain name on every page of your site.

The biggest project of the year, however, is the creation of new website templates. We have been in the planning and design phase for months already, and I believe that when we’re done it will be the single most powerful photography website solution ever created.

In order to do this, we’re going to need to start over with the templates. This means rebuilding and updating the existing ones on top of a super modern framework and launching a variety of new templates as well. PhotoShelter has been around for nearly 15 years, and the current responsive templates were launched in 2013, before “responsive” was a common term. Back then we had to create our own technology to make templates work on any type of device.

Today, there are more efficient ways to handle all the challenges that responsive site design requires. In order to bring to life all of the advanced features and functions that our members are asking for, we made the decision to start from a clean slate with all new tools. In doing so we will be able to increase overall site speed while making it easier for us to add new features in the future.

This means you’ll have:

  •  A new (mobile-friendly) site builder
  •   “Preview mode” that lets you set up the site in private before it is launched to the world
  •  Pro accounts will be able to have more than one website/domain name attached to their account
  •  Customization options for galleries (make each gallery look different!)
  •  Advanced CSS controls, so you can go even further with your custom look/feel
  •  Marketing prompt options (popups for newsletter signups and live chat boxes)
  •  The ability to insert a video cover image on your website
  •  Enhanced controls over SEO, with guidelines for best practices you can follow
  •  Expanded file download options geared toward different types of clients
  •  10 updated & modernized templates. East, Element, Marquee, Shuffle, Horizon, Downtown, and Promenade get updated, plus 3 new ones.
Photo by Grover Sanschagrin

When will the new templates be available?

The first 3 (Element, East, and Marquee) have been updated and the designs are currently going through user testing. This is where we show the designs to real members to get their feedback. It’s the first step in product validation, and it is where our designers can make sure they are on the right track.

Feedback provided during this stage is then incorporated back into the design, and a prototype is then created. At this point the designs come to life, and testing enters a new phase. This is where we begin the usability tests necessary prior to final development. Navigation, page flow, and ease-of-use are some of the items that get checked in this step.

The next step is to create real working responsive websites in HTML/CSS that we (and you!) can test. In this stage, you will be able to see how the sites work by interacting directly with them in any type of device. The images within the site will be static, and its purpose is strictly for demonstrations. Our front-end developers take over at this point and will begin the work of connecting everything to the database, which is what you’ll need before you can start using it for real.

You should expect to see the demo versions of the new templates in April of this year. We’ll also be following up soon with a blog post showing off some of the new designs based on feedback we gathered during user testing.

Our goal is to begin releasing the first usable versions of the new templates, with version 1.0 of the new site builder in August. (Of course, as with any development initiative, this could change. If that date shows signs of slipping, I’ll be keeping you updated here with regular status reports.)

But don’t worry, we won’t force you to change. If you’re happy with your current website, you can keep it, or wait and update when you’re ready. You will have the opportunity to build your website in a private area, and make it public when you’re ready.

What’s different about the new site builder?

The main difference between the current site builder and the new version is that it will work on mobile devices. We are removing the direct on-screen editing features (which are impossible to design for mobile) in favor of a modular menu-based system. All of the options and controls will be available to you in a menu of choices that will work perfectly on any type of device.

Another difference is that you won’t be restricted to having only one website within your account. The site builder will allow support for multiple domain names (CNAMES), each showing different images. This way you can create a different website for each type of photography you specialize in, all coming from the same collection of images within your PhotoShelter archive.

Adjustments to the roadmap

Roadmaps aren’t ever set in stone and are generally expected to evolve slightly with time. We published ours in late October of last year as a way of letting you know what our priorities are, and in which order you should expect to see the updated features. This part hasn’t changed, and our priorities remain the same.

Although the team has accomplished a lot in such a short time, our initial roadmap was admittedly a little too optimistic when it came to timing.

Some of the hires we made happened a few weeks later than we planned. Some work that we estimated as easy quick wins ended up taking much longer than expected. For example, the mobile-friendly shopping cart required a much longer QA period than we originally estimated.

Today, I am happy to say that the shopping cart works great on mobile devices. We are achieving our objectives, but it is taking us a bit longer than expected. This is the nature of development work, especially when you’re working on code that has been around for a while. Looking back, I should have added more padding around each of the assignments just to be safe.

The good news is that the team is now set to begin focusing entirely on the new website templates, and the foundation has been set for some truly innovative and inspiring work. I’ll be keeping you updated regularly with progress reports like this one.

Thanks for your patience and candid feedback. Our product is continuously improving because of the support of our members, and we are grateful for that and always listening. I am hugely excited about all of the exciting improvements we are building this year, and I know you will be too.

Until next time,
Grover

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PhotoShelter co-founder and GM

There are 28 comments for this article
  1. André Chung at 5:10 pm

    Glad to hear about all this. I was literally having a conversation about this an hour ago. Really looking forward to the new site builder and templates. What is the timetable for multiple domains with one account?

    • Grover Sanschagrin Author at 5:47 pm

      It will be part of the new site builder. Other than that, we don’t have an exact date. But don’t worry, I’ll be doing this updates via the blog regularly!

  2. Bill Moree at 5:38 pm

    I too find the transparency and new fresh attitude about the platform to be exciting.

    I had switched away a long time ago. Now I’ve gone from “entertaining the notion of switching back” to Photoshelter to thinking that it’s probably inevitable that I’m going to switch back.

    The thing that I need to see are these new templates…

  3. Claus Birch at 6:08 am

    Really interesting news – looking forward to continue with your great platform – having been a user since 2013. One big wish from a non-american: I dream of a possibility that allows me to translate a bigger part of the site to my own language (Danish). Maybe similar to the word string translation principle in WordPress plugins (using f.ex. Poedit)…..

  4. Chris Violette at 11:06 am

    Urgently need help making downloading files easy and bullet proof for clients! It used to happen only occasionally, now 75%+ of my clients either have issues with downloading (the files simply won’t download) or they aren’t able to figure it out and I have to deliver by other means. Every time I call for support the advice is usually about what the client may be doing wrong rather than what Photoshelter can do to help. I’ve spent a lot of money on Photoshelter over the years, this is not a new problem, and it’s directly hurting my business. Waiting until August for a solution isn’t tenable. Please address this ASAP. If I have to continue using Dropbox for delivery instead of Photoshelter it’s not worth staying with you.

    • Grover Sanschagrin Author at 7:15 pm

      Lucinda – good news – we are already working on this right now. It’s the top priority at this moment. We will have more details about it soon.

  5. AG at 5:01 pm

    Thanks for the detailed update. One improvement I hope you’ll add to the new templates is the ability to create custom URLs for the various galleries within a website. I have a Shuffle website, and my gallery URLs are distinguished from each other with names like “G0000rAnZoKeTGrU” and “G0000aRUDafyMPfo” instead of the actual names of the galleries.

  6. Erica at 8:35 pm

    Thanks for the update! This reminded me to check the play store to check for the Android app update. This new version fixed the constant crashes. Thank you.

  7. Patrick Cunningham at 9:04 am

    Re: Lightroom plugin.

    Yes! Thank you.

    I would be happy – sooooo happy!! – to be a beta tester.

    My Photoshelter-Lightroom archives are now a mess, since the plugin stopped working entirely and I have been doing things on a completely ad-hoc basis, having given up hope of the plugin ever being fixed.

    I am happy to work with you to help get it fixed. If you need a messed-up, broken archive where the synchronisation has been lost and will not now re-synchronise, I have just the job.

  8. Christy at 12:30 pm

    Thank you Grover! The updates are exciting and I’m looking forward to all the new creative ways we can customize and update our sites to keep the look fresh and forward!
    I do have one request, I get so many PS emails for offers and savings for new members…is there any way to offer something of a savings or incentives for all of us that have been on board for years? I appreciate your consideration in advance!

  9. Mark Joseph Tassoni at 4:23 pm

    So, am I reading this correctly? no updates to the antiquated client gallery platform? Only website building?
    I am desperately in need of a new platform for commercial proofing? Tired of using a combo of Smugmug, Pixieset, Format, Photodeck.

    • Grover Sanschagrin Author at 4:51 pm

      Are you talking about the client proofing tool? If so, we are hoping that we can resolve those issues with the way we are constructing the new galleries, which is all part of the new websites.

  10. Sam Kittner at 4:53 pm

    All sounds good.
    I have depended on the Marquee template for many years and overall love it.
    I would hope it could give the option of images in galleries first appearing as a large thumbnails page…then go to the larger single images as opposed to the opposite now…I hope that can be an option we users can decide on how it first appears for each gallery (either thumbnails or large single images). I’d be very happy to be involved as the template is developed further.
    I also hope that the client proofing tool will be improved…so that our clients who work in teams can see everyone’s selections to narrow down final selections. Ideally also with a way to communicate notes or retouching requests on specific images.

    Thanks,
    Sam

  11. Bill Miles at 8:03 pm

    Excellent to finally see movement from Photoshelter! Looking forward to the new East (my current theme). In addition to these wonderful improvements…I’d love to see beautiful galleries for showing/delivering images to clients. I now use Pass Gallery for that, because it’s a great experience when a client views their images. Is that in the works?? Please??

  12. Josh Levine at 7:39 pm

    The ability to create pages (outside the “portfolio” format) that look something like the existing “client galleries,” but branded and could perform as static portfolio pages, would be earth shattering. Add the option to choose style–universe shattering, for sure!
    Presently I’m cobbling together several services and still don’t have what I need, between presentation/marketing, client comms. incl. delivery, and commercial + fine art.
    Great comments & attitudes on this page.

  13. Dan Donovan at 4:26 am

    This is fantastic news. So much so that I just signed-up! I tried PhotoShelter a while back, but it just wasn’t right for me then. Now I am planning to sell my stock photos with PhotoShelter and possibly fine art prints. Looking forward to getting started!

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