A Review of Photocrati – Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Heading

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.

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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.

Erick Danzer
Photocrati Founder

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for the openness in this post. This is all great to see!

  2. Andrew Worther says:

    i’m not surprised you’ve been this successful – your theme rocks! the only thing is I’d really like to get my hands on 4.1. there are some ecommerce improvements I’ve been waiting for for a while. any specifics on when it will be ready?

  3. Andrew Worther says:

    i’m not surprised you are this successful – your theme rocks! the only thing is i’d really like to get 4.1. there are some ecommerce updates i’ve been waiting for for a while. any specifics on when it will be out?

  4. Erick Danzer says:

    @Angie – Thanks!

    @ Andrew – Thanks for the kind words, too. Yup, we know 4.1 is overdue. We’re in the final stage of testing, and we feel a lot of urgency to get it out to everyone. I promise we’re working hard on it. Should be ready in about two weeks.

  5. Robert Speck says:

    This is awesome news, and I really appreciate the transparency. The custom features are already great, and I look forward to your next release.

  6. Mary Fabian says:

    I could not agree with you more about the quick support responses. Your team is great and have a in-depth knowledge not only of your theme but how it works with WordPress and hosting providers.

  7. Yvonne Dunnigham says:

    I have been happy with the Photocrati theme for some time now, and have eagerly been anticipating the changes in 4.1. It is wonderful that you wrote such a thorough and transparent blog posting on where the theme is going … pretty exciting!

  8. Nora Robinson says:

    Thank you so much for a summary of Photocrati. I was happy to see that you have given us more information on the release of 4.1. Really looking forward to it.

  9. Nancy Shaw says:

    Thanks so much for the transparency. I’m so glad that I continued to stick with Photocrati. Your, theme, by far, surpasses any others I have seen out there. Thanks again.

  10. Bernadette Kashuba says:

    I have been with Photocrati for over one year now … and it is the best investment I have ever made. You really do listen to your customers — the numerous releases are a true testament.

  11. Thank you Photocrati Team for your work, your theme and all the support you provided to me.

    I don’t remember how I discovered your Theme on the net, but that was a good finding!

    Cheers!
    Stephane – Geneva, Switzerland

  12. Aaron Howe says:

    And my thanks too for this very detailed post. I have been with you guys for quite some time … and know that your theme is already fantastic .. and getting better and better everyday just because you listen to us … your members. Thanks!!

  13. Abigail Winters says:

    Awesome post … so very much looking forward to what Photocrati plans to release in the next one! You guys rock!

  14. Paul Cunningham says:

    It is so refreshing to see how one idea led to such a great path. I look forward to watching Photocrati evolve.

  15. Madeline Jutras says:

    I’m not surprised at all at the growth of Photocrati. There are no other products out there that come close to the features you have at such a reasonable price. And whomever said creating your own website would cost thousands was wrong.

  16. Belinda Mango says:

    Your theme keeps getting better and better and better. I purchased it back in 2009 and loved it then. But, holey smoley, you have made such tremendous changes and options since then. Looking forward to your next release. Keep them coming!

  17. Julis McIntyre says:

    I am proud to be part of your community. You have helped me so much in setting up a dynamic website. Thanks Photocrati!!

  18. Thanks for developing the theme that has made it easy for me to easily improve my SEO yet still look great.

  19. Great transparency! Thanks.

    I had no idea when I started using the theme how “young” you guys were. You are handling the growth well, congratulations.

    We will be a demanding bunch I am sure, but that is a testament to how good you are at your business.

  20. Decided to rebuild my site from scratch and chose Photocrati – the design and functionality of the themes are great for artists. The blog is a great motivational and sharing aspect of the website. I could not have done this without a template for sure!

    Looking forward to all the updates!

  21. man this sounds like good new to me. cant wait till V5 comes out

  22. Alexandra says:

    Wonderful! So glad I purchased this theme. It is worth its weight in gold.

  23. Thanks so much for sharing this … I’m so glad I bought this theme. I was only looking for a website/theme … and you just keep adding feature after feature .. making my website and ROI incredible. Thank you Photocrati!

  24. This is great stuff! As soon as I started reading about future enhancements the first thing that came to mind was integration with print houses – it would be great to have a solid alternative to SmugMug that creates the same ease of use for the customer as well as the photographer. I’m sure that you are getting all sorts of requests for specific printers. I would like to throw my vote in for WHCC!

    Can’t wait for 4.1 and 5.x

  25. Martin Tavares says:

    Keep up the great work!

  26. Paul Cunningham says:

    WOW — just updated to 4.2 and am amazed at how you listen to your customers and continually to enhance your theme. So glad I am a member of the Photocrati community. Keep it up! I have never seen a theme updated so much … and even more, as a result of a company listening to customer requests.

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