PictureSurf is a new WordPress plugin that launches today (February 10, 2009). It aims to make it easier for bloggers to upload galleries to their WordPress sites.
I spoke with PictureSurf’s founder, Alan Rutledge, via chat this morning, and I wanted to find out what makes his plugin different from the standard WordPress functionality. You may or may not be aware of the fact that WordPress offers an Image Gallery feature that’s built into the core WP install.
From Alan’s perspective, the PictureSurf plugin differentiates itself by offering:
- An enhanced user interface, because it lets you drag and drop photos to rearrange them, label multiple photos at once and,
- A little more SEO juice, because of better permalinks and conditional nofollow tags on the thumbnail links. The nofollow tags are activated when there’s too little content on the photo page — for example, your description of the photo is too short, etc.
As I told Alan, I don’t see enough of a difference between this plugin and what WordPress already offers to convince me to use it myself. The PictureSurf website claims that it’s faster to build a gallery with their plugin than with WP, but I ran into a glitch when I tried to use it. I couldn’t upload any photos. The upload engine froze and even though I hit Cancel and tried to re-upload the photos a few more times, I wasn’t able to do it. Still, that’s not too important. I’m sure that if I had more time, I could have gotten it working properly.
The thing is, I built a WordPress Image Gallery for this review in under 30 seconds. Each thumbnail links to its own photo page, very much like PictureSurf does it. I was able to choose how many images I wanted in each row. And I was also able to drag and drop the images to change the order in which they appear in the gallery. You can see the gallery below.
Another claim made by the PictureSurf plugin is that you can monetize your blog much better when an image sits on its own page instead of displaying on a blank page. I’ll agree with that, but I’ll also add that WordPress lets you do the very same thing. In WP’s Image Gallery options page, you get to choose where the thumbnail links go: they can go to the images themselves, or to something called attachment pages, which are pages that WP generates dynamically for each photo, using your blog’s own theme. So I ask again, what is it that differentiates PictureSurf from WP’s built-in functionality?
As much as I love WordPress plugins, I’m a big believer in built-in functionality. I don’t want to be stuck in a situation where I need to stop using a plugin, for whatever reason, and have my post archives become unusable because the plugin is no longer there. I ran into that issue with a video plugin I used in the past. It stopped being supported, and then I had to modify all of my old posts where I embedded videos, in order to make them playable again. If the long-term survival of your content is not a concern for you, then don’t worry about it. It is a concern for me though.
Last, but not least, I found PictureSurf’s design somewhat rough. It just doesn’t integrate as well as it should into the WordPress Editor. Furthemore, if it aims to take over the image gallery role, then it should fully take over that role. If I install PictureSurf, once I click on the Image Upload button in the WordPress Editor toolbar, it’s the PictureSurf AJAX window that should open up, not the WordPress Image Uploader. And when I access an old post that uses an image gallery, written before I installed PictureSurf, it should automatically take over that gallery and display the images using the PictureSurf gallery settings. But none of this happens. Old posts remain the same. I’d have to modify each and every one, manually, in order to get PictureSurf working there. As a publisher and writer, that’s a labor I’m not willing to undergo.
For me, the PictureSurf plugin does not differentiate itself enough from the standard WordPress functionality and does not offer enough added value in order to make it to my roster of active plugins. I find the WordPress Image Gallery feature quite adequate and necessary, and therefore, using the PictureSurf plugin becomes a matter of preference, not need. I myself do not need it, therefore I won’t use it. Your situation may differ. Feel free to try it out and see what you think.