Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Upgrading to Photoshelter's New Beam Platform

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My website, using Photoshelter's new "Marquee" layout for Beam
My website, using the "Marquee" layout.
What's that? You've noticed something different? Well thank you, I've been working ou...oh, you meant the website. Well that's cool, too. For the past month, I've been testing Photoshelter's new Beam portfolio platform. It's currently in beta, but so far, I really like where things are heading. It reflects a modern, minimalist layout that (ideally, see below) is better suited for our mobile/tablet-filled lives. Because who wants to look at photos from a computer tethered to a room, when you can do it from your couch? Or bathroom? I suppose you could even go outside.

Photoshelter first announced that across-the-board changes were coming ages ago, starting with the backend system. The upgrades on that end made things a simpler, both for me and for delivering to clients. Now it's good to finally see the frontend getting an overhaul as well. The current selection only has four designs, with plans to grow going forward. Each design has a fluid layout, meaning that it will easily adapt to any screen size. This is especially important with the variation in screen sizes across so many devices. The only problem is not all the bugs are worked. When viewing on a small screen,  I still get a pretty funky looking layout that covers up most of a photo on the home page.

Photoshelter's "Shuffle" layout for Beam
"Shuffle"
There are some other features that have great starts and some that still need work. Instagram integration is great, but the design lacks inspiration, simply pulling in the photos and lining them down the page. It doesn't quite mesh with how well other design aspects look. And as of right now, you need to have either a Tumblr or Wordpress.org blog if you want that to integrate. To be fair, using a custom Wordpress site is a fairly common practice (as is Tumblr) and you can still add a link to an externally hosted blog. The experience just isn't fully fleshed out yet.

Photoshelter's "Promenade" layout for Beam
"Promenade"
One of the things I did like about the old platform was the customization, which allowed you to edit HTML and CSS to your hearts content. While Photoshelter does not have plans to allow CSS editing in the future, they will allow more customization options in the future through their API.

Photoshelter's "Element" layout for Beam
"Element"
What I think I'm most impressed with is the amount of support and interaction the community is receiving from Photoshelter. Every problem, complaint and suggestion is being taken into consideration, often with direct and helpful responses.

Overall, I enjoy the new layout I have, even if there are probably a bunch of other people out there with a similar look. But I'm more excited to see where things will be going over the next couple of months as more features are brought in.

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