Flickr far superior to SmugMug?
It sure is – if you’re not our target customer.
Andy Atkinson has a great write-up of some of the ways Flickr is better than SmugMug. And he’s right about lots of it.
I love reviews like this. First of all, SmugMug doesn’t do any competitive research – we just don’t have time. Instead, we listen voraciously to our customers and our todo list is almost exclusively made up of things our customers want us to add, fix, or change. (Sometimes we have to read between the lines, because they don’t always know exactly how to ask for it, but we do our best). Secondly, we’re awash in positive emails and reviews all the time. They’re nice, but they can give us a false sense of security and obscure the things that we really need to work on. Andy’s review nicely shines light on some areas where we’re weak and gives us a little insight into the competitive landscape at the same time. Thanks Andy!
Andy’s review is particularly refreshing because it’s the first one I can remember, either publicly or privately, where his point of view is that Flickr has more features than we do. Given that we release new features multiple times per month, and often once per week, we frequently (daily?) hear the opposite, and it’d be easy for us to assume we had every Flickr feature our customers wanted.
I left him a comment letting him know just how valuable his write-up is to us, and how much I enjoyed reading it, but he has moderation on. So I thought I’d talk about it here, on my blog, in case he doesn’t actually allow any comments.
As I told him, we’re not trying to be Flickr. We love Flickr, often refer customers that aren’t a great fit with SmugMug, and think it’s a great site that addresses a real mass-market need for photo sharing. But that’s not what SmugMug is – we’re not a mass-market brand, we’re not for everyone, and we think we have a very narrow bead on our target. Andy sure sounds like he’s much more of a Flickr customer than a SmugMug customer, so I’m surprised he lasted this long, but he makes some great points about things we should do better, even given our different focus:
- We don’t make it as easy to get your photos AND metadata back out of SmugMug. This one hit close to home because I’m very passionate about treating your photos as if they’re yours – not ours. We try very hard not to be the photo-sharing equivalent of the roach motel, where photos check in and never check out. We make it very easy to get your photos back out of SmugMug (they are your photos, after all, so you should be able to do whatever you want with them), but we don’t make it nearly as easy to get your metadata, like keywords and captions, back out too. Andy’s right on the money here, and I need to do a better job at this. You can use the API, of course, but we should make it easier than that.
- Our Geotagging interface is falling behind. We were first (we actually had two major releases of our mapping & geotagging stuff long before Flickr), but Flickr’s doing it better. We’re aware of it, and it’s on our radar – we just have to finish our next evolution. This sort of back-and-forth leapfrogging will always happen, I’m afraid. It’s the nature of a competitive business. One company does it best for a few months, then another takes the top spot. Back and forth.
- Our statistics could be better. He’s wrong about us not having per-photo statistics (we do), but he’s right that we don’t offer searching and sorting by other criteria, like comments. Doing better, richer statistics is something we’d like to do, and it’s good to see people like Andy calling us out on it.
- Photo books (and other similar items). He mentions QOOP specifically, but the real issue is that we don’t sell photo books (or calendars, greeting cards, etc). We want to, and we’re working hard on doing it (it’s an active project in the company right now, and has been for awhile), and I wish we’d done it by now, but QOOP just isn’t the answer. Their quality level wasn’t even close to our standards, either in terms of the finished product or the shopping cart experience. This is one area where Flickr’s target customers and ours are a big deciding factor – we’d rather not offer a product for awhile than offer something that’s not high-quality. Many of our customers build their businesses on SmugMug, and if we offer an embarassing level of quality, it reflects badly on them. We take that burden very seriously.
He has plenty of other good, interesting points that we’ll have to think about, but many of them are not really SmugMug’s focus, so I can safely shelve them for a later date. All the points above, though, are solid areas we need to work on. They’re core to our business, they’d enhance our customer’s experience, and we’re clearly not executing on all of them as well or as fast as we should be.
Anyway, great review and a good illustration of the differences between our two sites. I love reading stuff like this, so be sure to let me know if you blog about anything similar. We do, of course, read all of our email every day and usually respond in minutes – so keep the feedback coming!