Sunday, 18 March 2012

Websiting and looking at Zenfolio, Smugmug, and Photoshelter

The past week I had some food photos to take and process, so that took a bit of time. But most of the week was spent working on the CTH website, which I took over administration duties of on monday.

I thought it was going to be a simple job of just updating it when people email me something to add on it. But actually it turns out I may have to be a bit more pro-active and request any info for updating it myself. The main problem was that it hadn't been updated since 2010, and all the pages were static HTML pages that must've been created using a visual editor.

This meant that the pages were full of loads of span tags, inline style declarations, font tags, etc. They even had quite a lot of layer tags. I'm not exactly sure what they are, but have a faint memory that they might have been Netscape's version of divs. Anyway, this mess of tags meant that the pages were practically impossible to update with hand coding as there were just too many tags interspersed throughout the content.

So I had to rewrite the entire site from scratch. I used PHP on my end, so that I had one file containing the header and nav, and then one file for each page that contained the content, header, and title for that page. To rewrite each page I copied the text from the existing page on the website (when viewed in a browser), and then marked up the text in HTML.

On Friday I had finished this, and then wrote a PHP script to loop through all the re-written pages and save as .html files. There were a few problems I'd missed (mostly CSS issues in IE). After fixing these, I could then upload the .html files to the website so it was up to date.

The main CSS issue I had in IE was that I had a dl where the dt had clear: left and float: left, and the dd had float: left. In 'normal' browsers, this meant that each dt would start on a new line, and would be followed inline by the dd. But in IE, each dt started on a new line (correctly), while the dds were all floated next to each other at the top of the dl. The solution was in IE not to float the dds (so add *float: none to target IE6-7).

Another issue I found after uploading the files was that urls with an & in them (url encoded as %26) didn't work. I think they generated a 400 Bad Request error. I couldn't be bothered trying to find out why, so I just changed those urls to remove the ampersands. I think the problem is just that it is a windows server (which is probably buggy).

For today, I watched 'How Green Is My Valley', and made some Choux Pastry. I thought it would be difficult, but actually it was really easy.

I have also been looking (the last couple of days) at different options for handling image licensing and prints for my photo website. I looked at Smugmug, Zenfolio, and Photoshelter. Smugmug only has very limited licensing options, just based on the size of the image the user wants to purchase. Zenfolio lets you create your own licenses, so you can have as many as you want, and set your own prices for each license.

But what I didn't like about Zenfolio is that the 'products' are just all listed together. So if you have 100 different licenses, the user would have to scroll through them all, looking for the one they wanted. I also thought the products part wasn't highlighted particularly well. Zenfolio seems to make use of AJAX, but with javascript turned off, images don't even load. There is no way to link to the products page for a particular image either.

Photoshelter meanwhile has a drill-down system for licensing, so it is easy for a user to get exactly the license they want for an image. Unfortunately, they also make use of AJAX/js, and there seems to be no way to link to the licensing or print ordering page for an image. Photoshelter is also extremely expensive ($30/month).

Smugmug, Zenfolio, and Photoshelter all seem to offer a range of printed options from printers in both the US and Europe.

It's annoying, because all three services have a considerable cost, but none do what I need. But I can't really code the functionality needed myself, as it would mean setting up a merchant account with a bank to take credit card payments. And I would also need to set up some system with the different printers (which would likely be very difficult for an individual with no known demand for print products to negotiate).

I think that I may well try Photoshelter for a couple of months as they come closest to what I need. But if I don't get any sales, then it won't be worth the $30/month cost. I am guessing that it will be money down the drain since I have only had two requests for licensing so far (over 2 years) via email, and neither of the requests ended in a purchase. But I won't know if I don't try.

I still need to look at it a bit further to see how I link my existing images to Photoshelter so that I can link through to Photoshelter from each image on my website to allow purchasing a print or license.


sibastschn said...

hi rusty, just came across your blog post. i have compared the two sites a bit, if you like, go to to read my findings, maybe it can help with your decision. cheers

Rusty Roy said...

Thanks for the comment, I thought your comparison was quite good. I didn't even think to look at the image quality each website shows (mainly because I already have my own website).

Since I already have my own website I've actually decided to just go with Fotomoto for prints, and do the image licensing myself (with paypal as payment processor).