Blue Melon approached me to review and check out their product. As most of you would know I’m a Photoshelter guy. I’ve been using it for awhile now, I’ve just finished redeveloping my site to incorporate it, into more of a custom design. I could have easily enough turned down Blue Melon however I was interested in what they were doing and I believe that competition can actually create better products. I’m going to try and not relate or compare everything to Photoshelter and review Blue Melon on it’s on merits. So lets begin.
I’ll start with the feature set. Blue Melon has pretty much everything you want and everything you could think of. This surprised me quite a bit, because at first glance it would be easy to right it off. There are various accounts to purchase, along with newly created add-on features. It’s ready for ecommerce and social networks. I’ve found it fairly easy to update, add and customise (to a certain point).
Now on to some of the more important features.
I said above that Blue Melon has all the features you could want, and that is true. After some checking out I’ve found that it has a fairly sophisticated album management module allowing you to control who sees, can download and access the files.
There are also controls for automatically watermarking your photos and disabling right clicking. These are all great little features to have.
As far as uploading goes it has the usual web uploading features as well as a hand desktop application. There are also wordpress and joomla plugins for those that have their own website.
It can work as a complete solution for delivering photos to your clients by using the permission settings along with the email invites. Couple that with some ecommerce and you’ll be good to go.
If I put my designers hat on, I can tell you straight away that they need to work on the design and UI. There are a ton of features in this product that could make it a very powerful competitor however the usability isn’t there. It’s difficult to work with and even though there is customisation available for those that want to step outside the templates provided, I don’t find it a complete customisation experience. You are still bound to certain variables that even a person like myself with a fair knowledge of html, php, jquery and css (some web coding languages) can not make something truly customised to how I would want to display my work.
If I look at it as a service for the general public, when I say general public I mean non pro photographers, then the customisation options and templates available are probably enough, but with features like ecommerce I have to assume that they are wanting to market this to those that are at least a little interested in selling fine art prints or portrait prints.
Thats my gripe about the design and user interface. However there is some great news, I’ve been in contact with the man behind Blue Melon and have had some great talks about my views. It’s my understanding that they have taken what I have said into consideration and are currently working on the issues that I have mentioned above. So some exciting things could be coming out of that web company soon.
Since they have been in contact with me they have already done quite a few updates to the site which include new services, themes and various other minor updates to increase it’s functionality.
Currently on offer are 3 plans which are tailored to suite everyone from families through to pros. What’s really great is that the storage space and photo count limit are unlimited across all 3 plans. Thats good news for someone looking to store their photos on the service as a backup.
Can I recommend it? For pro use I think the current themes and customisation options need to be looked at, and as I’ve mentioned they are doing that as I write this. For general public use I can’t see any problems with it at all.
You can check out BlueMelon and all that they have to offer over at their website.