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ProPhoto 6 Public Beta Update

In my last two blog posts, I’ve outlined some of the progress we’re making on the next major version of ProPhoto. I also indicated that our desire was to move to a wider, paid public beta period in mid-January, if possible.

A lot of you have been clamoring for an update, so here goes. We are not 100% fixed on this date, but, barring something unforeseen, we are tentatively planning to stick very close to that announced timeframe by going to public beta on Tuesday, January 26.

As I’ve indicated in previous blog posts, the beta version of the new ProPhoto has been re-written nearly from scratch to be natively responsive and unbelievably flexible. Because of the breadth and depth of the changes we’re making, the early weeks of the public beta period will be best suited for customers with a bit of tech-savvy and a stomach for lots of changes. There will be some good-sized features not implemented, and probably some small bumps along the way for some users. If that doesn’t bother you, we definitely welcome you to jump on board and purchase at the earliest opportunity. If you want just a little bit more stability and a few more features, just hang tight for a few weeks — we are going to be iterating super-fast in the early lifecycle of the beta release.

We will also be very shortly publishing a roadmap of features and capabilities not yet in the new version and our approximate order and timeframe for adding them, that will help you decide when to jump in, based on which things are most important to you. Stay tuned here for more info.

Teaser: Multiple Templates

We are just now finishing up one of the biggest new features coming in the next version: a feature we call “Multiple templates”.

In the new ProPhoto, a “Design” is composed of at least one, but possibly many “templates”. Templates are like sub-designs — they constitute both the arrangement/layout of your site, and it’s customized appearance. Templates are hierarchical and inherit from each other.

What does all that mean? It means, basically that you can set up a base layout and look and feel (that is, a base “template”) that your site will use on every visited page. But then, if you want certain page types or blog post categories, or even specific pages to look differently, you can create a child template with as few or as many modifications as you like, and apply that template to whatever pages or page types you desire.

A commmon scenario might be this: you have a basic site layout and appearance you love. But on your galleries pages, you want to eliminate some widgets, part of the header, the footer, and also make your site use the absolute full-width of the browser window to really show off your images. With multiple templates, you’ll just create a child template, make the changes to your layout and appearance you want, and set that template to be used by your galleries.

Here’s a screenshot of what the management screen for your templates looks like:

LittleSnapper

Then, you apply your templates in a screen that looks like this:

Google Chrome

Your alternate templates can differ just a little – or differ wildly. You can reorder elements, remove things, add things, whatever you want. This will allow different parts of your site to have totally different (or slightly different) designs and appearances, and will give you a ton of granular flexibility. We think you’re going to be pretty excited about the possibilities.

ProPhoto6 Private Beta

As previously announced, today we’re moving into the next phase of our ProPhoto6 release process — a limited, private beta.

beta

We’ve got about 20 beta testers starting out today, and we’ll be adding more throughout the month. We still are tentatively planning on switching to a public beta testing period in early to mid January, where anyone can purchase the beta version of the new ProPhoto.

Here are a few screenshots of the current P6 default design “Crafted”, adapted to be responsive, including a video below which gives you an idea of how P6 designs will reflow and adapt to different screensizes.

crafted_side_by_side

Update: ProPhoto 6 Beta

Last month I shared that we were beginning an alpha testing phase of ProPhoto version 6 with the designers in our designer network. The next step on our release roadmap for P6 is a wider phase of beta testing, starting in just a few weeks.

Starting next month, on December 7, we are going to move ProPhoto 6 into a phase of limited, private beta testing. What this means is that we will be inviting a limited number of regular ProPhoto users to begin using, testing, and providing feedback on a beta-version of the new ProPhoto. We expect to start with a relatively small number of beta testers, but to be adding new testers throughout the month of December.

Private beta means that ProPhoto is closer to being ready for use in real websites, but still has a ways to go before it is full-featured and stable enough to be used by the majority of our customers.

Our next major milestone is tentatively slated for early or mid January. At that point we hope to move to public beta testing — meaning that we will begin offering ProPhoto 6 for sale to anyone interested in purchasing and using it while we iron out the final features and flaws. This means that, if all goes according to plan, anyone who is willing to jump on board early and deal with some bumpiness from the beta stage can start using ProPhoto 6 as early as mid-January.

A word about ProPhoto 6

ProPhoto 6 is unlike any other product we’ve ever released. ProPhoto 1-5 were all incremental improvements and additions of features on top of a stable, underlying concept: a fixed-width website. Now, for the first time in our company’s history we’ve had to throw out the whole underlying concept of how ProPhoto is built in order to lay a new foundation for truly device-agnostic, mobile friendly, responsive websites.

To use a construction analogy, ProPhoto 2-5 were all additions and remodels made to a house — a house which kept getting bigger, nicer, and more fully-featured with each successive wave of work. When starting ProPhoto 6, we realized that we couldn’t build a truly responsive theme that would set us up for years of great improvements and iterations without first, to a great degree, starting over with a brand new foundation.

It’s the depth of the changes we’ve had to make, building a new foundation and rethinking all of the core concepts in ProPhoto, that have led to our missing our target release date of September 2015. But, we feel really great about the new foundation we’ve laid and the building that is already arising on top of that new foundation. We feel pretty confident that it is going to allow us to get awesome power, flexibility, and features in your hands for years to come — which will help your sites quickly adapt and evolve for the future of the web.

So, for all of you that are excited to start using ProPhoto 6 as soon as possible — please bear in mind that, in a sense, you will be moving into a brand new house. It’s not an expanded and improved version of ProPhoto5. In it’s early stages, there are many things that ProPhoto5 can do that ProPhoto 6 will not be able to do. In order to build the new responsive core of P6, we’ve had to concentrate on a small subset of what is most critical and crucial to building a responsive website.

Some of the features and concepts that will be missing from ProPhoto5 will never be able to come back, because they don’t make sense in a responsive world. But many of the polishing features and refinements we’ve added to ProPhoto over the years will definitely be coming back to P6 as quickly as we can build them back in. Users who jump in to P6 at the beta stage can expect a long stream of enhancements and new features to be added back in in the months to come.

In fact, by the time we go to public beta in January (or possibly earlier) we will be publicly releasing a roadmap document outlining features and enhancements that we are planning to release into P6, and the approximate order in which they will arrive. This, we hope, will help us communicate to you our knowledge of all the cool stuff we have planned, and let you know if there are key features you are hoping for, when you can expect them to arrive in P6. This will also be helpful, we think, during the public beta phase of P6 when we will be still selling P5 as an option. We hope our customers will be able to peruse the roadmap and decide based on what is already implemented and what else is coming and in what order, whether they should go with P5 or P6, or hold off upgrading if they so desire.

A Teaser

While it’s true, as I said above, that there will initially be many things that ProPhoto5 can do that 6 cannot, the opposite is true as well. ProPhoto 6 already has a ton of core functionality that delivers more flexibility than ProPhoto5 ever could, and we have a ton of new stuff we’re excited about getting in your hands. And, best of all, everything we’re building is designed from the ground up to function responsively, so your P6 site will intelligently adapt it’s single design and layout to look great on all devices and screen sizes.

One pretty cool thing we’ve just recently added to the alpha builds being used by our designers is a totally redesigned way of handling text and link styling. Instead of many disparate font controls area distributed throughout all of your customization option screens, each with loads of fine-grained controls, ProPhoto 6 allows you to manage your fonts in one central location, where you set up font templates we call “Font Styles”.

Grab

Each style is named, and customizable with a wide variety of customizations.

Google Chrome

Then, when you need to set fonts for various areas and types of content, instead of exposing all of the font controls, you get to choose from your pre-styled, named font styles.

Grab

Help!

It’s not just a Beatles song – ProPhoto users frequently tell us that our help and tech support is the best they’ve ever experienced, and is often the reason they choose to stick with ProPhoto for the long-run.

prophoto-help

As we draw closer to a new ProPhoto6 release, we’d like to get a bit of info from you, the ProPhoto users, about your experience getting help. We want to improve where we can to make sure you can find quickly the help you need.

Who better to answer these 5 quick questions than you?

ProPhoto 6 Alpha

In my last blog post announcing ProPhoto6’s delayed arrivial, I mentioned that we hoped to have the earliest form of P6 in the hands of our designers by mid October. Last week, we were able to get an alpha version of P6 to the designers in our designer network, as we had hoped.

We’re already getting some great feedback from our designers, fixing things as quick as we can, and still working quickly towards smoothing out what remains so that we can get to a more general beta testing period as soon as we possibly can.

Below are a few screenshots from the P6 alpha to whet your appetites, including some looks at the new layout customizer screen, and the mobile slideout navigation system that is coming.

P6 allows you to create your layout from any number of resizable rows and columns

P6 allows you to create your layout from any number of resizable rows and columns

Widget creation has been totally overhauled

Widget creation has been totally overhauled

Menu item creation is all new as well

Menu item creation is all new as well

Notice the mobile "hamburger" menu icon

Notice the mobile “hamburger” menu icon

...which slides out to reveal the hidden mobile nav menu

…which slides out to reveal the hidden mobile nav menu

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