This year seemed like it would never end, yet here we are. It’s nearly over. We accomplished several celebration-worthy updates here at PhotoShelter for Photographers, but not everything was perfect. I want to look back at 2020 so I can share the successes, be open about the key lessons we learned, and detail some key changes for 2021.
Although a lot of the work we do is behind-the-scenes, under-the-hood, and barely noticeable, these are some of the noteworthy updates that the PhotoShelter Product Development team was able to release in 2020:
Killer SEO: Search engine optimization is of critical importance to our members. It’s also confusing and time consuming to keep up with. One of the benefits that comes baked into a PhotoShelter account is that we take care of that for our members.
This year we put a lot of energy into this area. From website code tuneups, faster page rendering speed, clearly labeling which IPTC fields need to be filled in for best results, to a comprehensive guide to SEO for Photographers.
I’m particularly proud of how the team was able to get this done. But, the SEO work never stops. More tweaks are coming in the first quarter of 2021.
Google Images’ “Licensable” Badge: We got some advanced notice from the Google Images team that this photographer-friendly licensing program was in the works, and we wasted no time in supporting it. Months later, when it was officially announced, we were ready on day one. As of today, we are still the only photo hosting platform providing support for this program, which means our members are likely to see traffic from buyers who are searching Google for images to license.
FileFlow for Android: Our popular image downloading mobile app for iOS is now available for Android devices. FileFlow is our free app that makes it easy for your clients to download your images to their phone, one-by-one or in batch.
Website Template Responsiveness: The responsive design updates we made to the website templates made sure they continue to look great on all of the modern mobile devices people are using today.
Expanding the Team: In the first quarter, we added three new members to our development team, and have been able to get them up to speed.
Here Come the Challenges …
This is where I get super honest and transparent.
The successes listed above are especially meaningful to me because they happened while we were overcoming obstacles, including changes that COVID-19 forced upon us. Although we’re proud that we didn’t have to lay off a single employee, the plans we had early in the year to add members to our development team needed to be put on hold.
In addition, working entirely from home took some adjustment. The team needed to learn how to communicate in a new way, without organic in-person meetings that can easily be taken for granted back when life was “normal.”
We have great developers at PhotoShelter, but because our 2020 product release plans required expanding the team, we lost some of the horsepower I expected to have when I planned out the year. The work we did on the new website templates and Site Builder took a direct hit, and we missed our release target dates.
We promised a mid-December “early pre-release” for the new Site Builder and accompanying templates, and we did meet that date. You wouldn’t know it because we decided not to promote it, and for one really good reason.
We are fortunate to have a group of users who provide us with valuable feedback along the way. Although we’ve made outstanding progress, the feedback we got from that group suggests we’re not ready to roll this out to the broader community of PhotoShelter members because there are still features missing. I am so grateful for the folks who have volunteered their time to share critical feedback — it’s helping us make a much stronger new Site Builder.
The new Site Builder is a massive project with a lot of moving parts. It’s incredibly innovative and will change the way you think of designing and updating your website. The “templates” become just a starting point for your own creativity. This is an innovative approach because it means you’re not limited to anything that’s been pre-designed by someone else. It gives you control over every component of your website without having to touch any code at all.
I am anxious to get the first version launched so we can start collecting member feedback.
On a personal note, I know that I need to be doing a better job of communicating with you along the way. To do that we have created a members-only article you can follow in our Support Center that will give weekly updates on our development progress. The goal is to provide more frequent, yet smaller updates on what we’re doing. Those who are interested can keep track and contact me directly with questions or feedback.
Another change: I’m not going to commit to specific launch dates anymore. I’ve learned my lesson. Instead I’m going to be radically transparent as I share our progress with you along the way.
I’m anxious to get into 2021 because I know that it’s going to be a year filled with exciting product releases, including the new Site Builder and other things that I’ve successfully managed to keep quiet about.
We continue to be impressed with the members of our community, who have shown such resilience through the pandemic. If you’re looking for some inspiration, you should take a look at our most recent guide, The Photographer’s Outlook on 2021.
Thanks for getting through 2020 with us.