Over the last year, Photocrati has experienced incredible growth. This post is a behind-the-scenes glimpse what’s been happening, a fairly open review of where we’ve come from in the recent past and where we’re heading.
Before diving in, the first thing I want to do is to thank everyone in the Photocrati community – especially the 8,000 great photographers using our theme – for sharing this journey with us. It’s exciting for all of us at Photocrati to be a part of something that’s moving so fast and taking on a life of its own. We’re thankful and we feel a great deal of responsibility to give all of you the best experience that we can.
A SENSE OF HISTORY: WHERE WE’VE BEEN
People now know us as a maker of one of the leading photography WordPress themes. But as late as March/April 2010 (15 months ago), we weren’t primarily a theme seller. We were a general photography blog that happened to sell WordPress themes.
Our front page was a blog style front page, and we had a great team of writers covering diverse topics from gear reviews to travel photography. Below is screenshot of Photocrati.com from April 2009 (a little over two years ago). That was before we had themes at all. You’ll see some Google Adsense boxes and even a donation request on the sidebar!
We released our first theme in August of 2009. It was a clumsy first effort. We decided to recode it from scratch and we finally released what people know as Photocrati in April 2010.
In short, our main business is now 15 months old.
Since then, however, it has been a wild ride. We have:
- Added 7,000 customers.
- Doubled our team in the last 8 months. We’ve hired two new rockstar developers to improve our theme code and get releases out more quickly and we’ve added a second full time support person. Even with these additions, Photocrati is still just 7 people serving 8,000 customers and managing all of our other projects (below). We are a small, close-knit family, and we’ve been lucky to bring together some great people.
- Launched Photocrati versions 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, 3.0, 3.01, 3.1, 4.0, 4.05, 4.06, and 4.07. 4.1 is coming soon.
- Launched our own, built-in gallery management system (until V3.0 in October, we still based our theme on NextGen, the free gallery management plugin).
- Launched the first full-blown ecommerce system for photographers using WordPress. This is now a distinctive feature of our theme, but it is only 5 months old.
- Re-launched our members’ area to improve how we provide help and tutorials, and to increase the speed with which we reply to incoming support queries. This has dramatically improved our response times.
- Sponsored the first developer-focused WordCamp conference in Vancouver to give back to the WordPress community.
- Launched the Photographer’s SEO Community to help our users as well as others learn how to optimize their websites for search engines. I believe this is the most important thing that most photographers – or any businesses for that matter – can do to ensure success. Visit the Photographer’s SEO Community to learn more.
- Launched Best of Wedding Photography to promote excellence in wedding photography. BOWP is an invitation only association for some of the world’s top wedding photographers. Visit Best of Wedding Photography to learn more.
- Organized and given away our first two $5,000 Photocrati Fund grants, one for a project on Chilean fisheries, and the other on a conservation and development project in northern Canada. See 2011 winner and top finalists here: Photocrati Fund 2011 Finalists.
ROADMAP: A GLIMPSE AT THE FUTURE
In short, we’ve had a rockstar year.
That’s great news because it means we’re doing a lot of things right. But such rapid growth has created significant new challenges and demands that we need to tackle for the sake of our user community. We are in transition from a small photography blog and a small-time theme shop to an established software and hosting company, and that requires a completely new way of operating.
In the next 12 months, we’re planning for major changes, additions, and expansion, including:
- Putting in place best-practice systems for handling code updates and releases, as well as a completely new way of handling in-bound support queries, escalating them to developers, and delivering fixes quickly to customers.
- Photocrati 5.0. We’ll be recoding our theme framework to give it world-class foundations. This will be an epic and time-consuming undertaking, but we know it will be worth it. The recoded version, Photocrati 5.0, will be more robust and will provide a platform for awesome new features.
- Doubling our team by bringing on critical new people, including:
- A full time designer to improve our branding and theme styling.
- A full-time SEO professional to manage our SEO communities and help with SEO across our current sites.
- A third world-class developer.
- A dedicated system administrator to manage our hosting infrastructure.
- A community point person to blog, build social media followings, and to build a stronger sense of community around Photocrati.
- Two more support staff with outstanding WordPress expertise.
- Launching a Photocrati Gallery plugin that will make our gallery and ecommerce systems available to those using non-Photocrati themes.
- Launching a hosted solution that allows non-technical users or those new to WordPress to just set up an account with us and have their sites up and running in minutes. By this time next year, our hosting service will be as integral to our business as our theme is now.
- Beginning to tackle awesome new features like integrating with online print labs for automatic order fulfillment of ecommerce orders and creating a store in which designers can sell designs they create and export using our backend theme options.
- Making constant ongoing improvements to Photocrati’s other projects, including Best of Wedding Photography, the Photographer’s SEO Community, the Photocrati Fund, and a few new projects we have up our sleeves.
Our core team has been aware of these plans for a while, but we haven’t, until now, communicated them publicly.
We constantly get questions from our community about what we’re working on and when we’ll be delivering certain features. Normally, we respond individually to specific questions. What I wanted to do here was take a step back and provide a “big picture” view.
Thanks again to everyone in the Photocrati community. Without you, none of this would be possible. We look forward to creating and sharing an awesome future with you.