I suggest you ...

Allow us to customize sites with full-featured templates

I would really like to see the option to have full customization of my SmugMug site by using a fully-fledged template system. I realize that many users would not necessarily want to take advantage of such advanced customization, but I also really believe that there are others like me who are more experienced/proficient in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and who feel severely limited by the existing option only to inject our own markup into ‘custom header’ and ‘custom footer’ sections (as well as into the <strong>head</strong> section).

I have spent a fair bit of time reading about how to customize SmugMug sites using the existing system. As soon as someone wants to change the way something is worded—for example—then he has to resort to JavaScript hacks. I admit to being a purist, but this is definitely not good website-design methodology!

I remember reading a forum thread several months ago where someone asked if he could display the date a photo was taken below the photo itself. The answer came back, no he couldn’t do that, and he likely never would be able to since not enough customers would want such a thing. If, however, advanced customization was based around a complete template system, we could easily imagine a "date-taken" template tag which could be inserted into this user’s templates. (Incidentally, I am also someone who am interested in displaying the photos’ dates below the photos.)

I have also read forum threads where people have commented on the fact that users’ SmugMug sites do not—by default—conform to Web standards. Again the official response was to acknowledge this fact and to say, reasonably enough, that this is not a priority in any way, and that instead the SmugMug designers have aimed for the site to be as compatible as possible with a wide range of browsers—including, ahem, the less standards-conscious browser which predominates. Now, I freely admit that this is a laudable aim, but I am someone for whom Web standards are an important consideration: if you were to introduce a full template system, then I would be able to aim for my own SmugMug site to be standards-compliant while not affecting the ability of others’ sites to be seen identically by both IE and other browsers.

What I am talking about in this feature request is something massive, and something which will require a correspondingly massive amount of development. However, I really think that this is a way to offer SmugMug users the opportunity to design their sites to look how they want them to look, rather than making them fashion their sites around the slightly limiting framework which is currently offered.

Since joining SmugMug I have discovered that PhotoShelter offers the kind of templated customization that I am talking about (http://pa.photoshelter.com/help/tut/custom/manual). I read through their documentation for manual customization and kept thing ‘This is exactly what SmugMug needs.’ In fact it was the difficulties that I perceived in customizing my site that made me initially reluctant about joining SmugMug a year ago, but I decided to take the plunge on the basis that it was the best such service on the market. I am not going to jump ship just yet—apart from anything else PhotoShelter is quite a lot more expensive, and I am not a professional photographer—but am merely mentioning PhotoShelter as an example of a competitor’s product which is doing something along the lines of what I imagine. They have various standardized ‘widgets’ which users can drop in to their templated markup which provide the basic functions like photo-display, photo-switching, etc.

I don’t envisage that SmugMug would want to replace the existing customization options with this alone, but rather that the templating system would be an alternative method for users to customize their sites. The recent introduction of the Easy Customizer demonstrates that SmugMug is prepared to offer these alternative/parallel customization methods. Less-experienced users presumably wouldn’t want to go anywhere near this (unless they were to pay template designers to produce a custom SmugMug site for them). But it is evident from reading the forums that there are lots of more-experienced users who would be able to ‘cope’ with templates (if they wanted to!).

I hope people will feel free to add their own comments to this feature-request thread.

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      • Charlene commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        It took me a long time to accomplish some semblance of customization on my Smugmug site. I can read and follow directions but this was very difficult. I have a website for our dog breeding/showing hobby business and have no trouble maintaining it myself. It looks the same in all browsers on all devices. I expected this with Sumgmug. They are right. This is a great host for your photos if you aren't too picky abt how "professional" your site looks. I have yet to switch over to their new system because I'm afraid that will take hours, too.

        I wish we could get templates!!

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I would like to see templates more like SHOWITFAST! The only thing keeping me from switching to SHOWIT is the lack of integrated pro printlabs!

      • Tim Parnell commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I would use all my votes on this if I could. This is a really really good idea. I have come to SmugMug from OpenCart and my freedom to design has just vanished. Even the most basic customisation seems to be hard to accomplish.

      • Jerry commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I hope SM goes with full customization via templates as you suggest. I can't see a response supporting your idea. Do you think it will happen?

      • Craig commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Ya ya ya. I would be willing to bet that more the 1% of Smugmug users know CSS. So get off your hight horse. For most people In the consumer web marketplace this Is an antiquated system for website design. For power users it's wonderful I'm sure.

      • mateo commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        "like me who are more experienced/proficient in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript"

        As far as I can see there are infinite possibilities to customize with the API?

      • jennadee commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I would love to set up clients with their own SmugMug accounts. The user interface is not Apple intuitive and I can't rationalize introducing people to such a large learning curve. It's a great tool for me and rock solid programming (LOVE the dependability, Smuggers - thanks!) but it is not pretty and it is not simple. Any relief in sight?

      • Christy Meek commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        It's nice to know that I'm not the only one completely put off by how their interface and customization works or should I say doesn't work. I just don't have the time to commit to making my Smugmug look like I want it to and flow with my existing webpage. Which is very frustrating. Then I find that they have people that they can recommend you to who take this frustrating interface and make a fairly nice page for you for a price of course. What a racket!

      • Sergio De Gregorio commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        And actually let me tell you, i made the mistake to rush into a customization (template) and spend 350$ for it, to obtain something I don't like because it makes smugmug a platform now that for any changes I have to go back to the designer and keep spendindg and spending. Only hands on I realised what a big mistake I did. Seriously thinking to your competitors, now that I've spent money, thinking about it as never before.
        When we customise our website using your themes becomes the most difficult thing to do. So if I have a client who is getting married why should I keep the standard background as black and grey like a funeral? each one of us have to make your smugmug certified designers rich when you can develop it one and we all benefit. I work in IT and smugmug i think seriously think like developers would do. We need smugmug to support and think our business (we pay for) not those of their partners.

      • Sergio De Gregorio commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        One of the biggest missing features. Enough to leave smugmug. We have to spend hundreds $ to customise and still have limitations or spend more more more.. or yes all become programmers.

      • Rad Benn commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        SmugMug could just solve all of this by creating/developing an Extension for an existing CMS (Content Management System) such as Joomla, It can't be that hard.. Just saying..

      • Craig commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I have to agree with most of these posts. Going back as far as 2009 people would like to have a better interface for creating their website please work on this please please! Please

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I had been using a free alternative which was basically PERFECT for my needs (and included a blog), zenphoto, until my page started getting hacked frequently and I needed something more secure. If a free site like zenphoto can offer so much flexibility and a very easy to use interface then why can't smugmug?

        Even simple things would make smugmug much better. Just having a simple way to customise text pages with text and photos etc would make a big difference.

        A big reason for choosing smugmug was that I wouldnt have to have a flash website. I think this makes smugmug offer something very special. But the ease of other sites makes you question if you should just go with flash! Surely cleaning up user-friendliness of smugmug would increase business for smugmug as well as creating happy customers?!

      • Alex Wayne commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        **** to the yes. Shopify does this right, and their ecosystem has a ton of exquisitely beautiful and unique looking sites because of it. Please make SmugMug a real option for real web developers by offering a robust templating solution like Shopify does.

        The visual quality of sites on your platform will drastically increase, guaranteed.

      • Jordan commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I'd give this 15 votes if I could. I've done a fair bit of customization on my site (mainly to the home page), but I'd love to do more.

        A few weeks ago, I customized a Shopify site for a client. In about an hour I had their online store matching their main site's look & feel, thanks mainly to Shopify's templating system called Liquid. (http://wiki.shopify.com/Liquid)

        I would absolutely love to see something like that for Smugmug.

      • Derek j McC commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I've been trying to customize my site for about 2 months now and have gone as far as to teach myself more CSS and HTML coding, and the use of dreamweaver, but I'm devoting so much time to this that it's just seeming as if it isn't worth it for what I'm paying for to begin with. Some simple CSS startup layouts that you tailor to the style you want would be a huge step in the right direction.

      • Matt Ford commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Before coming to Smug Mug I tried using Wix. It was pretty good for customizability but they don't do sales and the overall options are fairly limited. I would love to see customizable menu buttons, color, shape, different gradients for the background, various base templates, and a contact me sort of mini application. Also the idea of a "page manager" section in the customization would be great as it would allow us to manage separate pages, create new ones, manage the layout and look and feel of the pages. Just my two cents.

      • John commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I agree as well. I dont have the time or patience to constantly be going through CSS or Javascript every time I want to update my smugmug because (surprise!) I am not a web designer, I am a photographer. It got so frustrating I actually had to just get a snappages.com site and link it back to smugmug so I could do quick customizations from templates without CSS. Don't get me wrong, I love smugmug but it could be doing so much more in the area of ease of use when it comes to website customization for those of us who are website building pros.

      • dereksurfs commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I completely agree with the need for more design flexibility. I'm really tired of thumds to the left - primary photo to the right! That's how I know a site is SM. They're all the same! It's time for some additional options. While some things can be hacked in headers/footers, etc... other things like this can't in an effective way.

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