Anyone who knows me well knows that I am for transparency in business, even when, and especially when, it means a change in plans. That’s why I am writing to tell you that our new website templates will be delayed a bit, and why that’s actually good news.
As we got deeper into the code planning process, we realized that this was an opportunity to break away from our previous template-based structure and restructure the Site Builder itself. This would allow our websites to be more dynamic and flexible than anything we’ve seen. Of course this adjustment meant that we needed more time.
In addition, although we’ve been working on the new websites platform all year, we also ended up spending a lot of 2020 working on the existing templates and tools you are currently using in response to user requests for improved SEO and responsive design updates, among other things.
Our decision to create a new Site Builder for the new website templates is actually good news because we now get to architect the entire system with the most modern technology and user interface standards. This means nearly unlimited potential for years to come. The extra time this requires will be worth it, I promise. What we are building is truly innovative.
Our plan for the release of new website templates and Site Builder is now targeted for mid-December. At this time, PhotoShelter members will be given access to an early beta version (more on that below) of our amazing new Site Builder, and 3 new templates that they can use to begin testing.
Despite being a very strange and unpredictable year, for us, and for you, I’m sure, it has been a very productive year for our developers.
Here’s what we were able to accomplish so far:
1) Mobile-friendly Shopping Cart: The shopping cart interface was rebuilt so that it would work on all mobile devices.
2) Several updates to the PhotoShelter Mobile App: The app got several updates and now works with all modern mobile devices. It was made to fit large screen phones, it now supports the current operating systems, and half a dozen bugs were fixed.
3) Huge improvements in SEO: We re-tooled all of the templates so that they are fully optimized for search engines.
4) Responsiveness improvements for all websites: All of the website templates received updates so that they would display perfectly on any type of device.
5) Full support for Google’s Licensable Images program: This one was a surprise addition to our list of projects, but it was so important that we jumped all over it.
6) Fixes and improvements to website custom pages: Custom pages have been updated with new features and were made SEO-friendly, too.
7) A long list of bug fixes and product improvements: In the past four months our team has been spending an average of 83% of their time working on the new templates and Site Builder, but many other little things tend to pop up and steal some attention. Take a look at the Changelog to get a better sense of that.
Now let’s talk about why I am so excited about the future.
The key objective is to put something in your hands as soon as possible. That’s why we made the decision to break from the normal product development and release cycle by giving all members early access to the tools as we are building them.
In mid-December you’ll be able to start using an early beta version of the new Site Builder. As new features roll out they’ll be added to the Site Builder. We’ll also be releasing a feedback system so you can give us your opinion and make suggestions.
The new Site Builder is a lot different than what we have today. It will let you fine tune just about any element (or “component”) in a gallery or on any page. (That’s the innovative part.) This means you will have more control, and won’t be restricted to the default design of the site. If you don’t like how one part of a template looks, you can go right ahead and change it.
For example, you will be able to adjust the way thumbnails appear on a gallery page by choosing from a variety of smart grids. You can adjust the spacing between the thumbnails, or even if you want rounded corners (or not). You will be able to specify a different design for each gallery if you want.
This is possible because, within the new Site Builder, each component on the website will come with a set of controls just for it. In the examples above, thumbnails on a page, the navigation bar and your site’s color palette are each unique components.
When the new Site Builder is available in December, it will be considered an “early beta,” which means you’ll be able to start using the tools to create a website, but you won’t be able to publish that site for the world to see yet. After we receive member feedback and our QA process has been completed, we will make it possible to publish websites.
I am excited about what I see in our weekly developer update meetings, and I think it’s a real game changer for PhotoShelter. I’m also anxious to get your feedback so that’s why we are going to share our work with members earlier than we normally would. Consider yourself part of the development team, because you will have a lot of input on what we’re building. Seriously.
We also plan to keep you updated on this topic by posting more frequently to the blog. You should expect to see something every few weeks with news of our progress on the new templates and Site Builder, so keep an eye out for that!