Whether you are thinking about creating a portfolio website or just have an intention to start your own photography-focused business, you will definitely encounter the need to use a specialized niche service to present your creative work to the target audience. This is where you will come across two website builders – Zenfolio and SmugMug, which are direct competitors and have similar specialization.
Both systems are used to create multifunctional portfolio websites. Such websites allow demonstrating and selling digital products (photos/videos). Although we have advertising relationships with these website builders, but that has no impact on the comparison.
A Quick Snapshot:
Zenfolio is a contemporary portfolio website builder that is geared towards the needs of professional photographers. The system makes it possible to launch multifunctional projects and it also supports eCommerce functionality, blogging and photo/video uploading.
SmugMug is an advanced multi-functional website builder, which is also created with the needs of photographers and creatives in mind. The system lets you build quality portfolios and online galleries to further offer them for sale or stock directly in the system.
The target audience of the systems includes photographers of all levels, irrespective of their skills and expertise. These services are almost identical in their functionality. Minor distinctions exist, of course, but we’ll put the emphasis on the ease of use when comparing Zenfolio and SmugMug. This is the most crucial comparison parameter in this case. The cost of the systems ranks second on the comparison list of the most important criteria.
Let’s analyze the most crucial aspects of both services to decide, which system is the leader – Zenfolio or SmugMug?
1. Ease of Use
- Zenfolio. The system comes with a logically structured interface, the design of which may not appeal to everyone. The sign up process is easy and quick, while the dashboard structure looks quite similar at first sight. However, as you keep working with the platform, it proves to be more complicated than you could imagine from the start. It’s possible to get used to it, but not right from the start. For user convenience, the working area is organized into sections, which help effectively organize the photos to simplify user search. As to the web page design creation, this is the most inconvenient stage here. The editor lacks informational value: you won’t understand how the changes you make will affect the design until you confirm them.
Rich customer support section compensates for the interface inconvenience a bit. The service works well for newbies and web design pros, but you shouldn’t hope for a quick start. Instead, you’ll have to explore the system and learn the basics of it. The complexity rate is above the average.
- SmugMug. It’s quite complicated to call the website builder an intuitive service as it comes with extraordinary interface that requires preliminary exploration. It is appealing, stringent and provides nice ergonomics. It won’t take you long to sign up with the system due to the quick and simple web design procedure that involves a couple of steps only. You won’t have to bother about picking the design or providing your payment details at once. Instead, the service will offer tips throughout the testing process, which simplifies it for newbies.
An interesting thing about SmugMug is its fixed block-based structure. The service is comprised of content blocks, which provide fixed photo editing environment. A user with insufficient experience may find this feature somewhat complicated at once, but it’s quite possible to master the service options in around 2-3 hours. FAQ fans will also appreciate the extensive availability of educative text and video materials. Generally, the complexity of mastering/using the system is on the average level.
Zenfolio vs SmugMug. Both systems make it possible to complete identical tasks, but the web building experience you get when using the systems somewhat differs. SmugMug generally has a simpler and more ergonomic interface, which is especially manifested in the web page editor features. It is easier to master and use it. However, both systems can boast the availability of tips and FAQ sections, which will be of great help to many users. The services require attentive approach. They are specific, but it’s still simpler and quicker to explore SmugMug.
2. Feature Set and Flexibility
- Zenfolio. The system allows creating an appealing portfolio, making use of the unlimited feature set included. The dashboard of the website builder is conveniently subdivided into sections, each granting access to a variety of features. It’s a bit oversaturated with settings at first sight, but users easily get used to it due to its logical interface, structure and convenience. Zenfolio does not only allow creating and managing a full-featured portfolio, but it also makes it possible to add a blog to the project and update it on a regular basis.
Likewise, the website builder comes with the integrated eCommerce engine. It’s up to you to create and sell separate images or photo collections to those users, who are interested in your services. There is an integrated shopping cart, which supports over 18 currency types and lets you popularize your own brand as you need. The system additionally provides extensive worldwide shipping options, multiple payment solutions, CSV file import/export feature and it also regularly issues discount certificates on first orders. All in all, you can upload and sell over 2000 products with the website builder.
Zenfolio does not offer mobile-optimized layouts only, but it also has free mobile applications for iOS and Android. By installing and using these apps for your mobile device, you can create and manage your projects even on the go – in those places, where there is Internet access. What’s more, there are one-of-a-kind Client Memory apps for easy and hassle-free photo uploading and management.
The website builder comes with integrated Google Analytics, StatCounter and Webmaster Tools. Application of these services makes it possible to track the most important website parameters, find out website traffic fluctuations and sources, control user behaviour, percentage of conversions and sales as well as other statistic parameters that may notably affect your business promotion. As a photo-oriented service, Zenfolio comes with advanced content management options. This lets you effectively organize your photos into galleries, assign tags to them, create image categories, arrange uploaded photos and videos, switch files between the categories, import and present IPTC and EXIF metadata, use integrated upload tools, such as HTML5 or ActiveX, for example.
Zenfolio is also known for its advanced import/export features that matter a lot for any photography-related business. If you are already an owner of a photo collection (or even several of them) hosted on other platforms (like Adobe Lightroom, Microsoft Live Photo Gallery, Photo Mechanic, command line etc.), Zenfolio lets you move them to the system in a matter of minutes. The website builder also provides secure and free photo and video hosting, supporting multiple photo and video file formats. To boost the quality of content displayed at the website, Zenfolio comes with the Dim-the-Lights mode that ensures perfect look of large-screen images. Triple Scoop Music collection the service offers makes it possible to choose over 50 audio tracks at no cost at all.
When it comes to portfolio or photography websites, social media sharing is a must-have. Zenfolio offers an opportunity to share photo collections in Pinterest, Google+, Facebook, Twitter and other popular social networks. As a result, potential customers can preview your image collections and pick the shots they are looking for. There is also a chance to order the required photo or video files from the integrated system labs to diversity the choice of products offered for sale. Mind that all Zenfolio websites are SEO-friendly. It’s up to you to adjust SEO-settings as soon as you start working on your project to make sure it will rank high on the search engines. There is not need to create and submit a sitemap to the search engines on your own – the system automatically does that for you.
Zenfolio users can upload the unlimited number of photos, including those is the RAW format (files up to 60 MB). You can connect the RAW Files Edit service for convenient photo editing within the system, which is another distinct highlight of the system.
- SmugMug pays much attention to structure customization and design of a portfolio. Visual editor comes with drag-and-drop support, which is a notable benefit. You can edit photos by using integrated system tools (effects, cut and rotate options etc.) or connect Lightroom and work with it. There is a possibility of adding watermarks to the photos as well as location and SEO data.
You can also use widgets (text, gallery, share buttons, logo, map, calendar etc.) by dragging them to the pages. The website builder comes with a powerful set of eCommerce tools, which make it possible to set up and manage contemporary and full-featured online stores, where you will be able to sell photos and other digital content you create. These include price lists, discount coupons, product packs, sales, photo collection organization, security settings etc. All these tools come with flexible customization options. SmugMug also comes with a fully-hosted integrated shopping cart, several payment, delivery and checkout options, brand name promotion tools, logo uploading feature and other opportunities to boost your web store performance. Keep in mind that whatever price you will set for your products, you will eventually get 85% of the final profit.
SmugMug makes it possible to add, organize and manage photos by means of the Lightroom Plugin integration. The plugin automatically synchronizes with the platform, leaving your SEO meta data and project structure intact.
As a photo-oriented website builder, SmugMug puts photo safety, control and storage above all. Users can adjust their photos’ accessibility, assign the access rights to certain user groups, set up unique passwords for VIP users, store their image collections on a system cloud etc. If needed, you can completely restrict image access or grant it to certain users only. All the newly uploaded images are automatically backed up with Amazon Web Services to boost customer attention and increase sales volume. Additionally, you can protect any image with your branded watermarks to boost its safety.
SmugMug unveils multiple impressive image sharing options. Thus, you can share your creative collections, galleries, web pages in the world-popular social networks like Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Facebook etc. The service also comes with the integrated mobile application you can download at no cost at all to edit, upload, archive and share photos anywhere you are. What’s more, you can share the access rights with any people you wish to boost the security of your photo collections and increase user engagement rate at a time. The website builder regularly issues gift certificates, discounts and special offers for clients to encourage them for further cooperation.
If you are a lucky owner of any image galleries hosted on Flickr, Amazon Drive or DropBox, you can effectively import them into your SmugMug website. This doesn’t require any coding skills, serious time or effort investment – just copy the images of your choice and move them to the required destination.
Mind that SmugMug is a SEO-friendly service, which allows filling out specific parameters and adjusting the settings to increase your portfolio website search engine positions. The website builder provides its users with website stats and analytics tools to let them track the major project parameters.
Zenfolio vs SmugMug. The functionality of the services is almost similar, but SmugMug has a better design editor, more billing settings and an option that allows connecting Lightroom to edit the photos for free. These are notable advantages. Zenfolio, in its turn, looks more powerful, due to its advanced feature set, image sharing options and eCommerce functionality. Thus, both services offer advanced functionality, tools and options that make them worthy competitors and leaders of the photography web design niche.
|Number of Themes:||12||29|
|Free Themes||✔ YES||✔ YES|
|Responsive Design||✘ NO||✔ YES|
|Sort by Industry:||✘ NO||✘ NO|
|CSS Code Editing:||✘ NO||✔ YES|
Zenfolio. The website builder doesn’t offer separate templates only. Instead, the system comes with 13 site presets, each of which has its own image display and presentation approach, menu positions, home pages and other elements. It’s up to you to pick the preferred design preset and customize it as you need.
Each preset comes with its own color palette, typography type, background and other customizable parameters. This eventually allows giving a website individual look. The system additionally offers an opportunity to pick a blank theme and customize it from scratch. If there are elements you don’t need for your project, you can activate/deactivate them, which also affects the eventual web page design. Generally, template quality and customization options are on a great level here. The only problem is that most users find it difficult to understand the design customization options right from the start. There are many settings that require exploration and it takes time to master and use them.
SmugMug. The system does not boast rich template collection, but it can definitely be proud of the template quality. All the designs are responsive by default and have contemporary look to come up to the latest web design trends. When browsing the SmugMug template collection, you will find 8 high quality ready-made themes only. To get access to the entire template collection comprised of 26 templates, you’ll have to upgrade to the “Power” plan.
Template customization options are quite diverse here as well. You can add new blocks to any template, change the background (slideshow and video), color scheme, spacing between the blocks etc. There is an opportunity to add sidebars to a template and edit HTML/CSS code. Gallery styles can be changed as well. Output of photos, the resolution of which is up to 4000, is supported as well. SmugMug supports the template switch feature, which makes it possible to pick another template during the website design process. Generally, the service offers nice design customization solutions.
Zenfolio vs SmugMug. Both systems make it possible to get appealing design. Web page editor is more convenient in SmugMug, because it supports drag-and-drop functionality and widgets: you can drag an element to the page, click on it and start editing the content (text, links, photo, button etc.). This is realized in a more convenient way. Template quality is almost identical. Zenfolio has a rich choice of layouts, which allows setting versatile website structure. SmugMug makes it possible to change gallery style and edit the code independently from a template. These are obvious benefits. Basically, both services provide similar design options, which allows creating visually-appealing and feature-rich portfolio websites.
4. Customer Support
Zenfolio. The Support Center of the website builder contains a rich amount of quality educative materials in the text and video formats. The section covers a broad spectrum of topics most first-time users are interested in. There is also a forum with a long list of thematic branches and categories here.
The website builder makes it possible to contact the customer support service via live chat or email. To be able to communicate with one of the Zenfolio experts, a user should complete a contact form available online or register from a free one-on-one session via the activation of a special link. All in all, Zenfolio customer support service is on a nice level.
SmugMug. The service may offer great educative materials subdivided into categories to simplify the search. There is the YouTube channel with a rich amount of educative videos covering all the major system nuances. Communication with tech support is done through the contact form and email. They are available 24/7.
The Support Center of the website builder delivers lots of reference materials to cover the most widespread topics. For user convenience, they are divided into thematic categories. If you cannot find the answer you are interested in, you are welcome to test the search filter option that simplifies the process. ‘Portfolio’ and ‘Business’ plan users can also get live chat support assistance provided during standard US hours. SmugMug user community is also pretty extensive and can provide you with multiple information sources in the following categories: Blog, Events, SmugMug Films and Forum. Finally, you can get access to the individual Product Feedback section – the official Feature Request Page of the website builder. This is where you can fill out an online form to enlist your product feature ideas or leave your comments and suggestions.
Zenfolio vs SmugMug. Both systems are almost equal in terms of quality and quantity of educative materials. Tech support is great in both services as well. They grant access to the live chat feature, email support, Knowledge Center with lots of manuals and educative videos. Both systems rank high, when it comes to customer support.
5. Pricing Policy
Zenfolio. This is a commercial website builder, which offers a 14-day free trial to test the major feature set of the service. Zenfolio subscriptions differ in terms of functionality, giving access to three paid plans. These are Starter ($5/mo), Pro ($20/mo) and Advanced ($30/mo) subscriptions. Starter Plan is a good choice for standard portfolios.
Pro Plan makes it possible to sell and brand your digital content, while the Advanced Plan guarantees professional tech support, availability of promo actions and lots of other undeniable privileges. When signing up for the annual plan, you can save up to 40% as compared to the plans billed monthly.
SmugMug. Just like Zenfolio, SmugMug is a commercial portfolio-focused website builder and it also offers a 14-day trial to test the feature set of the platform prior to upgrading to one of its paid versions. As to the paid plans, SmugMug currently offers four subscriptions. These include Basic ($48/year), Power ($72/year), Portfolio ($180/year) and Pro ($360/year).
All the plans offer unlimited storage space for video and photo content. Other terms differ with regard to the selected subscription, but if you have serious web design aspirations, it still makes sense to start your choice with the “Power” Plan. This is because the cheapest paid subscription does not imply doman connection feature. In case your major objective is the eCommerce focus and you expect to make profit selling your works, consider choosing between “Portfolio” and “Pro” plans. They are really worth the money invested.
Zenfolio and SmugMug Pricing Comparison Chart
|Pricing Plans:||✔ Starter ($5/mo);|
✔ Pro ($20/mo);
✔ Advanced ($30/mo);
|✔ Basic ($5.99/mo);|
✔ Power ($8.99/mo);
✔ Portfolio ($20.00/mo);
|Features:||✔ Multi-User Account Access;|
✔ Sell Digital Downloads;
✔ Offer Self-fulfilled Products;
✔ Offer Custom Packages;
✔ Full Suite of Marketing Tools;
✔ Define Shipping Methods;
✔ Offer Bonus Product with Package;
✔ Dedicated Live Chat;
✔ Phone Support.
|✔ Complete customization;|
✔ Privacy controls;
✔Gift Cards, Discounts, Coupons;
✔Site access password;
✔ Custom watermarks;
✔ Customized order branding;
✔Market and manage event photos;
✔24/7/365 Customer Support.
Zenfolio vs SmugMug. Both website builders have similar rates and they let you save big when choosing annual subscriptions. They don’t have free plans yet they allow testing the functionality of the platforms for 14 days. SmugMug offers more paid subscriptions, but Zenfolio Plans are also enough to cover versatile web design needs. The choice totally depends upon your budget, objectives and result you expect to avail in the long run.
Portfolio website creation definitely takes much effort and time. To be sure you are ready to offer a quality product to your potential target audience, you have to pick a website builder that will ideally cover the entire spectrum of your web design needs. Zenfolio and SmugMug are the best solutions in this respect.
Zenfolio is a portfolio website builder that comes up to contemporary web design trends and offers extensive functionality. The website builder comes with a powerful eCommerce engine, blogging option, social media sharing, convenient photo management options, responsive design collection and flexible template customization tools.
SmugMug is a worthy representative of the web design niche that has a strong photography focus. The system comes with a handy file manager, integrated image editing tools, flexible photo access settings, eCommerce specialization and other merits. Even though, its design collection is less rich and versatile, the website builder still provides advanced customization tools and coding skills to get started with ease and create a selling product.
Both website builders have minor functional distinctions, which do not compromise with the result. The systems make it possible to create and manage quality and visually appealing portfolios with an online store. Thus, we cannot define the leader of the comparison. Both Zenfolio and SmugMug have much to offer and the final choice should basically depend upon your expectations and short/long-term objectives.
Overview Comparison Chart
|Ease of Use:|