As previously announced, today we’re moving into the next phase of our ProPhoto6 release process — a limited, private 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.
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 ProPhoto6 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 ProPhoto6 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 ProPhoto6 as early as mid-January.
A word about ProPhoto6
ProPhoto6 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 ProPhoto6, 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 ProPhoto6 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 ProPhoto6 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.
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. ProPhoto6 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, ProPhoto6 allows you to manage your fonts in one central location, where you set up font templates we call “Font Styles”.
Each style is named, and customizable with a wide variety of customizations.
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.
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.
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?
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
Widget creation has been totally overhauled
Menu item creation is all new as well
Notice the mobile “hamburger” menu icon
…which slides out to reveal the hidden mobile nav menu
Since ProPhoto Proofing was released just over a year ago, we thought it might be a good time to post an update with some of our thoughts and observations. Now if you’ve somehow been out of the loop for the last year and weren’t aware we had a Proofing solution, you need to check it out!
Either way though, this post should help existing and prospective Proofing customers alike!
Over the last year, we’ve gotten a lot of support requests about the digital download functionality in ProPhoto Proofing and how to achieve a particular workflow. As a result, we determined that additional support documentation would be helpful and so we’ve recently made updates to a number of our Proofing tutorials. Additionally, we’ve created new videos that not only explain whatdigital downloads, products and packages are in Proofing, but more importantly, how they can be used to do sell digital downloads (and other products) in a variety of ways.
So, if you’re using Proofing and haven’t checked these resources out (or at least not in a good while), you might find them helpful! Or, if you’re interested in possibly using our plugin as your proofing solution, they may give you a good idea of how Proofing works and some of the things you can do when selling digital downloads:
Another popular Proofing support topic has been slow response times when uploading images to a proofing gallery, or viewing the gallery for the first time. In almost all cases where we investigate, we discover that the gallery has a significant number of images, and the images being uploaded are full size.
As stated in our Proofing FAQ page, ProPhoto Proofing does not impose any limitations on the size or number of images you can upload to a Proofing gallery. The only limitations would be those imposed by your particular hosting package/server setup.
Now we have designed ProPhoto Proofing so that it tries to create and load your Proofing galleries as fast as it can. One feature of the plugin that aides in this can be read about here. However, that being said, ProPhoto Proofing can only do so much. Even on a good server setup, uploading tons of full size images can cause problems, simply because it is a lot of data for the server to process.
So in general, to get the best performance out of ProPhoto Proofing, there are 2 things a user should consider beforehand when creating Proofing galleries:
1) Image File Size – We realize that it’s a lot easier to just upload all of the original, full-size images from your shoot, right to the Proofing gallery, as opposed to editing the images in any way. But, as our Proofing Image Optimization tutorial explains, if you were to do this, in almost all cases the full-size images you would be uploading would never even be seen by the client when they view your site. Nor would most clients have any need for a full-size, high resolution image if they are receiving digital downloads. (It’s way more image than they need if they plan on printing out an 8×10 for example.) So, if you take a bit of time to downsize and optimize your images, it will ensure that things go much faster on your end when uploading. And your clients will never know the difference, except that their galleries will likely load a lot faster 🙂
2) Image File Count – Similar to image file size, we also realize that it is much easier to just upload all (or most) of the images from a photo shoot right to the proofing gallery, rather than choosing a select number to display. However, if the gallery has 1,000 images or more (which is not uncommon at all from what we’ve seen), that is a lot of data for a hosting server to process when the images are uploaded, and displayed in the gallery itself. Not to mention that if these images were uploaded at their original full file size, that makes the task of the server even greater. For example, if you upload 1300 images at an average 12Mb, that’s 15.6Gb worth of initial data to be uploaded by the server, and then also processed for display in the gallery! Even on a good hosting setup, that’s going to take some time.
Not to mention, uploading all of the images from a shoot to a gallery seems a bit burdensome for the end customer. Admittedly, we do not actually sell images to customers ourselves, so it is possible we are quite wrong on this. But, based on our day to day experiences, asking a customer to go through 1,300 images for example would seem like a daunting task that could easily induce option paralysis.
So, similar to optimizing images before uploading, also curating a gallery’s images before uploading will likely ensure a much better experience for your customers. We don’t have any sort of magic number, but it would seem that several hundred, well sized images, should serve your clients very well. It will ensure that the galleries load fast, can be viewed in one sitting and hopefully mean quicker sales back to you.
All that being said, we would definitely appreciate any feedback on this subject. Maybe you’ve found that customers prefer having a lot of images to view and choose from? Based on your experiences, what seems to be an appropriate number of images to provide a customer in a proofing setting? Please feel free to comment below!
Along the very same vein as the previous section, if you are using or plan to use ProPhoto Proofing, the type of hosting account you use is very much worth your consideration. Most standard shared hosting plans are very reasonably priced, which is very attractive. And for a large number of our average light to moderate users, they work just fine. However, they are not really geared for folks looking to upload and display thousands and thousands of heavy images to a lot of people on a very frequent basis. Nor are they really intended to operate as a file backup system for you, in case your computer should die out.
It’s like traveling the PanAmerican Highway in a sub-compact car with hundreds of pounds of gear, it’s possible you could do it. But, that’s not really what the car was built for and it’s very likely you’re going to have troubles along the way.
Probably not my first choice…
So consider what you type of user you are. If you determine that you are more of a power user, check into upgrading to a more premium hosting package; one with more storage and better performance. Or, possibly even look into a dedicated hosting solution, whereby you’re not sharing server resources with anyone else. Yes, it will cost more than a basic shared hosting plan. But, just like anything else, you want to invest in the right tool for the job.