Goodbye Flickr, Hello SmugMug
It was over a year ago that I first tried out SmugMug. At first, I wasn't pleased, however the CEO, Don MacAskill, had responded that they were experiencing issues. Couldn't hold it against them too much, since it was the same day Flickr was having issues. I had taken a little bit of a further look, and loved that the CEO was proactive with seeking out customer issues, but at the time, I was rather passive about my overall photo gallery needs. I was already with Flickr, had a Pro account, and it filled my need. So I let my SmugMug trial expire and continue on as things were.
Recently though, the things I've been wanting in a photo gallery were changing. Namely, my Flickr Pro account expired, and I wasn't really motivated at all to renew it. You don't really gain that much beyond more bandwidth (which I never went over 100mb), being able to have more than 200 photos, and being able to get originals. So pay to get more than 200 photos and view originals? Not running to pull out my credit card.
SmugMug fits the bill though. They provide several options that make them far more attractive for my new needs/wants. Something other than the boring white layout? Check, several themes, and also widely customizable. Better gallery structure? Check, Flickr's one-long-list thing called sets is too generic. Advanced privacy settings for gallery level vs photo level? Check, now I can have some private galleries for photos to send to family and such.
I had been planning to switch, though finally took the dive when I ran across a video of Scoble interviewing Don, the SmugMug CEO. I was roam TechCrunch Saturday afternoon and ran across a link to it and started watching. I actually signed up while watching the video. It motivated me that much. One reason: SmugMug is actually innovating, while Flickr is rather boring. Two features they rolled out recently truly appealed to me.
First, they support videos, and not those crappy YouTube quality videos, actual high definition H.264 video. I had been looking for a way to easily post videos of Nick for family members and make them both streaming and downloadable, with a nice gallery interface, and have them private. They fit the bill 100%.
Second, in the video, they were showing off their new feature called SmugMungous and it totally appealed to the geek in me. They dynamically adjust the content of the page to maximize your browser. Take photos of my vacation last year. Try resizing your browser window (need to release it for the event to trigger). It will automatically change the size of the picture on the right side of the photo that you are viewing, it will add and remove thumbnails on the right side, and the number of pages will dynamically update. How sweet is that? They make use of your whole browser window instead of some slim center area like Flickr! Take a gallery with another theme like my photos of Nick. It doesn't scale as much (since it is theme dependent), but note how the header image of the toy train will add and remove portions as you adjust the size.
Another thing that impressed me, I was trying out their "Create a Card" feature and was having a problem with it, so I emailed their support on a Saturday afternoon, and got a response from them that fixed it in under an hour. I was surprised, I was expecting to hear back Monday morning, or maybe the next day, but I got a prompt response on a Saturday afternoon. And I believe the response was from the CEO's sister who works in support.
SmugMug definitely costs more than Flickr, since I even went for SmugMug Pro. I guess it can be summed up in three points. First, they are for people who are passionate about their photos. Flickr doesn't have the same passion. Second, I like companies that seek out discussions about them. Ever post about Flickr and have their CEO respond to you? Third, they are a strong family business. It is a father and son business, and 7 of the 24 employees are family. You don't see that much these days, especially in the tech field.