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Site Outage

Yesterday at about 1pm EST 4/16/14 our main website http://www.prophoto.com/ went down and was completely unavailable for close to 18 hours. As a result, many of you were unable to purchase designs, upgrade, read tutorials, watch help videos, and contact us for support during that time. We’re not certain, but it is also possible that any support emails you sent us during that window were lost.

For all of this we are extremely, extremely sorry. We know you rely on our site being up for customer support, and that you rely on being able to contact us and get a speedy reply. To make matters worse, the timing was particularly awful: we had just partially released an auto-update to P5 that negatively affected a small percentage of users, temporarily adversely affecting their site’s appearance. Just when we were hoping to quickly help that small but important group of customers, our site went down and our support went offline. To those customers, again, we are extremely sorry. Please contact us again today if you don’t hear back from us, and we will help you get fixed up as fast as we possibly can.

For the sake of transparency we wanted to give you some details about what happened, and what we’re doing about it. You may know that we recommend Bluehost as our preferred webhost. That recommendation is sincere, we host our own site on Bluehost. For the past 18 months we’ve been on one of their top of the line dedicated servers, and have had almost exclusively excellent uptime and performance. Until yesterday. Apparently, a bug in a firmware update brought down many or all of their Virtual Private Server (VPS) and Dedicated Server clients. Because we have a dedicated server (ostensibly to make sure we don’t ever have problems like this, ironically) we went down, and stayed down for far too long.

The good news is that it appears that all of their standard, shared hosting (which 95% of our ProPhoto customers are on) servers were not affected by this outage.

You might ask if this type of problem would give us cause to reconsider our recommendation of Bluehost to customers. That is a good question and it certainly does. Since Bluehost was purchased by Endurance International Group not too long ago, our perception has been that performance and customer support has suffered some. Because we are one of their largest affiliates, we have some pretty high-level contacts at Bluehost. Well before this outage yesterday we have been in dialogue with those contacts about our frustrations, and we have been assured that they are fixing things.

The truth is, at this point we don’t have a better replacement for Bluehost as our default recommendation. Despite some of the recent problems we still encounter fewer host-related problems with customers on Bluehost than on any other hosting company. Until that changes, we will likely keep recommending them. That said, in the last 6-8 months GoDaddy (who used to be one of our least favorite and most problematic hosts) has been making steady strides towards a more reliable, fast, and user-friendly hosting ecosystem. If they keep improving and address some of our last remaining major concerns (we also have high level contacts at GoDaddy), we may at some point in the future switch to recommending them.

We will also be reconsidering hosting our own site with Bluehost in the months to come. If we do not feel that have adequately responded to the incident yesterday, it’s likely that when things slow down for us a bit in the summer months that we will pursue moving out site to another company, and will explore options for mirroring and greater redundancy. We really would like to prevent what happened yesterday from happening again, if possible.

Once again, we’re very sorry for the downtime and any way it may have adversely affected you, our clients. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

P5 Auto Update, build #116

If you are experiencing problems with the appearance of your site after updating to the latest build that you aren’t able to fix, take a look at this tutorial that addresses some common problems.

botanica-menu

This morning we’re pushing a free update to ProPhoto version 5. Included in this update is a moderately significant re-working of how your logo is handled, and how your primary and secondary menus are sized. A lot of the work was done under the hood, but there are some new options available in this latest update.

logo-menu-item-and-widget

The new Logo menu item and ProPhoto Logo widget

In the “ProPhoto” > “Customize” > “Header Area” > “Layout & Appearance” area, there are some small but significant changes. When selecting the option for logo position, there is now a “in menu or widget area” option.  When you select this option and save, there will be two new logo options available in ProPhoto.  First, you can go to “Appearance” > “Widgets” and add a new “ProPhoto logo widget” to any of your widget areas.  Secondly, if you go to “ProPhoto” > “Customize” > “Menus”, you will be able to add a new “Logo image” menu item to any of your menus (available as a “special link type”).  Both the widget and menu item will automatically pull in the logo image uploaded in your “ProPhoto” > “Customize” > “Header Area” > “Logo” area.  Our hope is that this will make ProPhoto easier to use as your logo can always be modified from the one upload area.

split-centered-logo

A centered logo menu item (also shown in image at top of this post)

Also available are a few new layout options for your logo and menu.  If you have a Logo menu item in your primary or secondary menu, and you have selected the “split some items left, some right” menu alignment, you can choose to center your logo in the middle of your menu.  This was a layout that required some advanced custom CSS before.

masthead-overlay

Admin controls for positioning an overlaid logo in front of your masthead

When selecting the “on same line as masthead” logo position under “ProPhoto” > “Customize” > “Header Area” > “Layout & Appearance”, you can position the logo to the left or right of the masthead (as before), or you can select “overlay”.  While left and right positions will downsize your masthead based on the size of your logo, the overlay position will display your masthead at full size and allow you to set a specific position for your logo to display in front of your masthead.  This is another layout that was previously difficult to achieve.

menu-custom-spacing

New menu spacing options

A few other additions/changes since the last auto-update:

  • Added new options under “Menu link custom spacing” in your menu areas. You now have more control over the vertical alignment of menu items and can set a minimum menu height
  • Overlay-style grids with slide up/down overlay display now allow you to set the starting and ending opacity
  • Added a recommended image size box to the Post/Page editor.  This gives the recommended widths to upload images for both retina and non-retina devices based on your current settings
  • A bunch of bug fixes

We hope you are able to utilize and enjoy some of these new features, and that they help to provide a simpler, more satisfying ProPhoto experience.  As always, contact us using our contact form above if you run into any bugs as a result of the update.

Proofing Plugin Beta

As part of our announcement of the release of ProPhoto version 5, we mentioned that we have a proofing/ordering plugin in the works for later this spring. For those waiting for news on this, here are a few bits of additional detail.

This may or may not be a screenshot of part of the beta proofing plugin...

This may or may not be a screenshot of part of the beta proofing plugin…

The Timeframe

We’ve already entered into a period of beta-testing for the new proofing plugin. At this point the beta period is invitation only. As we expand the private beta in the weeks to come, we may be looking for some more volunteers, so keep an eye on our twitter and here on the blog if you’re anxious to try it out at the earliest possible date.

At the end of April, we plan to switch into a “public” beta period. At that point, the proofing plugin will be publicly available for sale and we should have *most* of the major kinks ironed out. But it will still be beta software — you can expect some glitches to be fixed and a few features to be added and refined after the public beta commences. If you’re moderately tech-savvy and not afraid of a bit of instability, you can plan on jumping on board during the public beta.

Finally, in mid-July we hope to bring the Proofing plugin out of beta-completely, with all of the major functionality planned for the initial release in and stable.

Seeking some input

In order to communicate with our private beta testers, I recently made a temporary Facebook Page dedicated to communication and gathering feedback regarding the proofing plugin. If you’re really interested in following what’s happening in the beta period (even if you you’re not a beta tester) or just want to weigh in on some of the discussions and polls we’ll be putting up there, feel free to head over there and read and comment.

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