My Annual Review of Zenfolio (Updated 7/7/15)

Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,451
edited July 2015 in Using the Zenfolio Service
Here's my annual short review and report card for Zenfolio for anyone that is interested:

Design and Layouts Grade A

1. Design layouts are probably the best in the industry based on features, web functionality, and price.
2. While the learning cure is somewhat steep, Zenfolio does offer good training and support resources through their Support Center, direct email, and On-line chat (if you have a Premium Business Account.
3. Setting up price sheets, packages, digital products, self-fulfilled items, etc... and assigning them to galleries works very well.

Amin User Interface Grade D

1. Changes made to the new user interface earlier this year caught many of us off guard and unprepared to adopt to the new workflows. We still struggle to find things that were very easy to find in the old UI. Zenfolio should have released this as a public beta, asked for feedback and help from its customers, and made sure that all bugs were resolved before replacing the old UI. The development team lied to us indicating that they would not eliminate the Old UI until all bugs were resolved. That didn't happen. On March 3, 2015, Vitas said, "Also, I want to make it clear that the old edit view will not be discontinued until we address the defects...." On March 31, 2015, the old edit view was removed and the defects remained.

2. While I personally have learned to adapt to the new interface, I know that many still have issues and struggle with it. My heart goes out to all of you.

3. The D was given mostly for the manner in which the Zenfolio development team and support staff managed the entire rollout of the new UI.

4. We have sucked it up and are worn out trying to voice our concerns. You win. (7/7/15)

Mobile Web Application Grade F

1. Not much to say other than it doesn't work and is not usable by our clients.
2. Development team wasting their time with Photo Moments Ap. Doesn't solve anything! (added 7/7/15)


End User Client Experience Grade C Downgrade to D (7/7/15)

1. Zenfolio did make a few changes that improved the end user client experience. For example, when you add a product to your shopping cart, the system takes you right back to the gallery and picture you were on. No more have to hunt for the "Return to Gallery Button". Crop marks are less noticeable with the elimination of the orange lines causing less confusion to clients that purchase from photographers that do not allow their customers to crop images. The hashed shadow lines still cause some of my clients some confusion.

2. I took a bit of my own medicine and discovered that there were things that I was actually doing to cause confusion for my clients. I changed several things and simplified others with the help of many of my clients that offered their feedback. They still believe, however, that the crop lines around the images in the shopping cart are distracting.

3. The product descriptions for MPIX/MPIX Pro/Miller are absolutely HORRIBLE!! They imply options that I don't provide and are cheezy at best. Make these descriptions editable by the photographer like we can with digital products, packages, and self-fulfilled items!!!!! If you don't want to do that then at least change the descriptions so they are more generic in nature and apply to ALL Photographers. You could do this in about 10 minutues without any programming!!!!!!! Why wait?????

4. Renderings and shopping cart have become exceptionally slow in the past three weeks. Should clients really have to wait 5 minutes for images to be displayed or 3-4 minutes for order confirmations to go through? (added 7/7/15)

Lab Partners Grade F

1. MPIX and MPIX Pro are owned by Millers. This is not three lab partners. As such, they hold an iron grip over all of us (like anyone in a monopoly position). They don't offer anything more in terms of quality than any of their peers in the industry and charge prices that are anywhere from 25%-80% higher. Example prices for common print sizes are as follows:

MPIX / MPIXpro /Millers**/WHCC /Exposure Manager / BayPhoto / EZ Prints / Adorama

4x6 ........... .29 / .69/1.77/ .25 / .29 / .29 /.19 / .14
5x7 ........... 1.09 / 1.09/2.15/ .54 / .75 / 1.15 / .65 / .69
8x10 ......... 2.29 / 1.99/3.15/ 2.20 / 2.25 / 1.79 / 1.99 / 1.49
11x14 ....... 7.49 / 6.99/ 6.95/4.75 / 3.95 / 3.99 / 3.45 / 3.99
16x20 ....... 20.39 / 15.99/17.53/14.50 / 11.95 / 13.50 / 14.95 / 9.60

**Must Pay an additional $150 per year (Premium Business) to purchase from Millers

2. Zenfolio has made every excuse in the book in support of this partner. I for one would rather that Zenfolio support their clients first making sure that they get the best products, best prices, best customer service by creating multiple partnerships thus allowing them to compete for our business.

3. Guess Zenfolio doesn't care about the monopoly The Holy Trinity (MPIX/MPIXPro/Millers) has on it's customers and is unwilling to create a more competitive playing field. (7/7/15)

Support Response Grade B+

1. I'm not faulting the support team when they are held hostage by the development team. I think they do the best they can under those situations.

2. While I do appreciate their participation in the User Forum, it's really not where they do their best work. The Customer Support Center has great support documents and training videos, email support is very fast particularly when you have a urgent problem, and Chat works very well (but only when they are on-line).
Post edited by Kevin Krows on

Comments

  • ChessZenChessZen Administrator Posts: 465
    As someone that works on the help guide articles, I appreciate the kind words, Kevin.
  • Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,451
    What is Zenfolio doing to pull up their grades?
  • StephenZenStephenZen Administrator Posts: 607

    What is Zenfolio doing to pull up their grades?

    Kevin, as always, we appreciate your feedback and insights. As you know, we are continuously looking for ways to improve our product and our service. We have a solid history of improvements and plan on continuing this going forward.
  • Geografpix PhotographyGeografpix Photography Member Posts: 164
    @StephenZen

    Problem is Zenfolio seem to be only making changes that Zenfolio staff decide are needed instead of listening to your paying customers and delivering what we need. Unfortunately, Zenfolio's ongoing failure to listen and arrogant "we know best" attitude is making the gap between what Zenfolio delivers and what your customers need continue to grow larger.

    When will the new Admin UI be chucked out and replaced with one that restores the system's productivity to something close to the efficiency we had with the old Admin UI? Zenfoilio has said it loud and clear - Never!
  • Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,451
    Agree
  • StephenZenStephenZen Administrator Posts: 607
    I can assure you we are listening to everyone's input on what's needed to make Zenfolio the best platform it can be. We have a solid track record of making improvements based on feedback from our users via e-mail, this forum, along with feature requests from our User Voice forum. This link shows you all the completed ideas.

    Also, you can see the improvements that have been implemented on our News page here.

    I would like to emphasize that we do pay very close attention to the User Voice forum. However, there are times when a highly requested feature may be more of an undertaking that what it seems. This doesn't make it any less important, but we do have to balance resources to accomplish these ideas. All ideas are important and valued!

    Speaking of user requested features...mobile buying is coming soon! This has been a highly requested feature and one we're very proud to announce ahead of time.

    If you have any specific ideas or features you'd like to see, just let us know! The best place to do this is the User Voice Forum!
  • Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,451
    edited July 2015
    @StephenZen

    My agreement is based more on a "qualified" rather than "quantified" position. It's great to have a long list of things the development team has accomplished .... but are they the RIGHT THINGS? Are they the things that can make a big difference in the success and profitability of the full-time photographers who count on Zenfolio's platform to help them earn a living? Personally, the development team has done very little to advance the cause for improved E-commerce functionality both with small issues with easy fixes and those that, as you say, may be " more of an undertaking ". Many of those that could be classified as "more of an undertaking" were suggested 24 months ago (or more) and haven't moved any further than the "Under Review" stage.

    Almost all of the suggestions made in the E-Commerce area are for things that eliminate the confusion our clients have when using our sites. Big or small, they need to be Priority #1 and put first! Even before spending all of your resources and months on end developing a new Administrative User Interface that nobody asked for because the existing one was 100% PERFECT (at least from where I and others sat). When you rolled it out there was a major outcry calling into question why you were even doing this in the first place. This eventually lead to many of us spending hours trying to help identify and trouble shoot the new UI so we could find things and actually use it before the mandated 3/31/15 deadline. You gave us something we didn't ask for, forced us to change, and didn't give us any heads up at all. It was more painful for us than what you think.

    So that you will understand where I am coming from on the "quantified" e-commerce side, let me give you a couple of examples from the "small" issues that don't require a major undertaking. Keep in mind, this is just a small sample of things that Zenfolio has chosen to ignore.


    1. Shipping Options -Almost all on-line retailers list their shipping options in a logical order with the lowest cost option set as the default. Zenfolio is the only on-line retailer I have ever experienced that elects to set the default to a high cost option. Don't you realize that in our customers eyes this is confusing and defies logic? They are accustomed to Upgrading their shipping options (if needed) not downgrading. Our customers sometimes miss all of that and then tell us that our shipping costs are too high! I hear all the time.

    So, Stephen, how much programming effort does it take to change the default setting on shipping to the $4.25 first class option?


    2. Product Descriptions -The product description that our clients see when ordering show a picture that is not one that we shot and includes the following information:

    X" x X" size print made on professional grade photographic paper. You can select cropping and other options after adding photos to the Cart. No charge for professional color correction, if enabled.

    You can select from the following paper types:

    E-Surface Color Paper

    E-Surface Paper is our most popular photographic paper. Accurate color, lifelike skin tones, archival quality and a traditional photo finish are just a few reasons why customers love E-Surface Prints.

    NOTE: B&W images will still print in black and white on this paper.

    Can't you see how misleading this information is? Can't you see that it makes me look bad by saying things that are not true? My clients don't know you and they don't know the lab. I don't allow cropping or color conversions by my clients! My clients assume that all of my images are color corrected... what photographer would not automatically do this at NO CHARGE or make it OPTIONAL if enabled??? E-Surface Color Paper .... clients could care less about the technical aspects of the paper that is used. Only I care as the photographer.

    So, Stephan, how much programming effort would it take to remove the cheesy photograph that is used as the sample and then modify the description that is used? Should I start referring all the phone calls and emails from my clients that ask, "It says I can crop ... but I cant!" or "What's your price if you don't color correct?" or "What are the other options in addition to cropping?" or "Only one paper type is listed...are there others?" or "I didn't know that you did portraits of Children? ... (I'm a sports photographer and I don't).

    3. Real Lab Choices -Why is it so hard for Zenfolio not to see the monopolist grip that the Holy Trinity (MPIX/MPIXpro/Millers) has on Zenfolio Photographers. Are we asking too much that you bring other top labs to the table to create options for Zen Photographers as well as a competitive playing field. You yourself, said months ago that the Trinity was competitive with their piers in the industry. YOU ARE DEAD WRONG and I gave you the facts to support it. Self-fulfillment you say?? Doesn't that defeat having a fully integrated turnkey ecommerce solution that makes it easy for photographers to sell high quality prints to their clients????

    So Stephen, how much programming effort does it take to include another print vendor like Bay Photo or EZ Prints to your list of product and vendor choices? Or, is Zenfolio fine with allowing the Trinity to continue pushing out 40%+ price increases and promotions we can't really take advantage of?
  • StephenZenStephenZen Administrator Posts: 607
    I certainly understand your frustration with these elements that you're wanting to see improved. I have even passed along the information on the idea to eliminate the ordering options that aren't applicable but are still mentioned in the product description myself based on a previous mention you made of this.

    Everyone has things they would like to see changed or improved upon, and these may be unique to each individual and the needs of their clients and business. This is why we have the User Voice forum, so these ideas are able to be voted on. As you can see, there are a lot of ideas out there.

    Please know we're always considering all ideas as possible improvements or feature enhancements to be implemented in the future and we truly value your opinion!
  • andreasweberandreasweber Stuttgart, GermanyMember Posts: 1,001

    I have even passed along the information on the idea to eliminate the ordering options that aren't applicable but are still mentioned in the product description myself based on a previous mention you made of this.

    Yet it will take years to fix that bug with critical impact for the impression your customers make on their customers, despite negligible effort needed. And yes, it is a bug to still advertise a feature that has specifically been disabled.

    Please know we're always considering all ideas as possible improvements or feature enhancements to be implemented in the future and we truly value your opinion!

    2609 Feature Suggestions without any status, not even under review ...
    And we're supposed to add requests for bug fixes as well?

    Not to mention the topics where your developers actually put a lot of work into a really important topic, just to drop the ball on the last step. Case in point would be the "completed" request for "Multi-Language / Localisation", which could have been a great feature. As it is it's mostly useless to those who requested it - a waste of the doubtless huge effort spent.
    Should a Canadian photographer set his site to French or to English? Which language would you suggest for a US photographer catering mostly to Hispanic customers? Or like me, a German who'd like to greet those speaking the same language in his mother tongue? Which part of "Multi-Language" didn't you understand?
    Our sites already detect the locale of our visitors and adapt to it (selection of lab partners, currencies, etc). Why can't I display a German site to visitors from a "de-XX" locale and an English version to anyone else?
  • Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,451
    For the record, I'm not advocating those things that only benefit myself. These are not "wish list" items but rather flaws that defy logic and cause confusion with our clients and any reasonable person should understand why. Like Andreasweber, who has posted many well thought out ideas over the years, we shouldn't have to put these types of things on the User Suggestion Site. They either belong here or they need to be sent directly to support and advanced to the development team.

    These are not FEATURE REQUESTS they are flaws, bugs, or the result of poor decisions by your development team leaders. They cause our clients to become confused, frustrated, angry because they waste so much of their time trying to place orders. YOU DON'T GET HEAT ... WE DO and we pay for it in lost sales and declining revenues.

    I'm sorry Stephen that you don't like what I have to say. I'm on the front line here on the ecommerce battle field doing my best to report the facts back to HQ. Pacifying responses are not what we need out here in the trenches... we need firm answers even if they are .... "Thanks for the feedback but we are going to keep things as they are." At least we can move forward with that. We just can't sit here in the bunker waiting and waiting.

    You could also take time to suggest "work-around" ideas. "Kevin...the developers are not going to change the descriptions so here's what I suggest. Create packages that include only one single print. As you know, with packages you have 100% full control over the product description, and the details about your print offering. This would include the ability to upload your own custom sample image that would appear above the description. Once you create all of your packages that have just one single image, then you can add these to your price list and then remove the default single prints that you are using now. It's unfortunate that we don't allow clients to customize descriptions on normal single prints but at least this will allow you to accomplish what you want done."

    WE DON'T NEED .... put it in the feature request box to be voted on. We need resolution and solutions.
  • Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,451
    edited July 2015
    Here's a Test Gallery that I put together that uses single image packages which allow you to fully customize the sample image, product description, and the product details as I described about. We should not have to do things like this. If you can do this customization for packages you should be able to do it for all single print products offered by vendors.

    http://www.kevinkrows.com/p311239336

    Just select an image to buy and then cruise through the items for sale. Note different description and images used for prints, wallets, and personal use downloads.
    Post edited by Kevin Krows on
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