Since launching norebbo.com back in the fall of 2007, I’ve experimented with several different formats for the site. I started out with a simple HTML/CSS template, and then I tested the waters with a pre-packaged photo store script several months later. I eventually got fed up with that after about a year, and decided to try a blog. Not happy with the results of that experiment, I went back to a store format and tried two different pre-packaged scripts: PhotoStore from ktools.net, and Photo Video Store from cmsaccount.com. Which one is better? Having spent a lot of time working with both, I have some opinions. But first, here are my impressions of both:
Ktools PhotoStore (v3.8)
This template has been around for a long time, and it shows. The design is very “2002”, meaning that it offers very little in the way of interactivity and a rich user experience. The template is built on a dated HTML/PHP platform, some of which is very difficult and confusing to tinker with if you don’t have a moderate understanding of PHP. However, those negatives aside, it’s a rock solid script. They development team is actively refining this product, and there are frequent updates and patches. Ktools.net also hosts an active user forum (only accessible by those with an account) where you can get help or interact directly with the developers.
Here is what I liked about PhotoStore:
- It’s a very stable script, and I never had browser compatibility issues. It worked perfectly from the first time that I set it up, and I didn’t need help to get things working perfectly. It works as advertised right out of the box.
- Organization of my images and galleries was easy and simple to understand (for both myself and my customers). Plus, the ability to create nicely organized sub-categories was a big plus for me.
- Batch uploading, and batch editing. Worked like a charm, every time.
- The back-end content management system was very well organized and contained many features. It made setting up my site for the first time very easy! I like the stats area as well.
- Site performance was good, and I didn’t notice any sluggishness when browsing categories with a lot of images.
This is what I did not like about PhotoStore:
- The front-end design just looks so old, and there are very few alternate templates available. If you want something that looks halfway decent, you are going to have to do it yourself.
- The shopping cart (and other text/data pages) looked like an afterthought. Of course they worked flawlessly – but they looked very poorly designed. This was very important to me, because as someone who buys things on the internet, I am not comfortable buying from a cheesy looking site. And I sure didn’t want my customers to feel that way either.
Photo Video Store
The main advantage that cmsaccount.com’s Photo Video Store has over PhotoStore from ktools.net is the appearance of the front end template. I’ll be honest – the biggest reason I purchased this script was because I was absolutely sick and tired of the dated look of PhotoStore v3.8, and I desperately wanted a change. It simply looks better, which I believe makes for a better user experience.
Here is what I liked about Photo Video Store:
- The visual design was very good, and there are a lot of different free templates available to change the look of the site. And the nice thing was that some of these templates changed the look rather dramatically.
- It’s extremely easy to sell content other than photos – the script contains good support for selling other types of files such as vector graphics or Flash media.
This is what I did not like about Photo Video Store:
- Support documentation is very poor, and I couldn’t get it to work exactly as advertised without a lot of help. The first problem I had was that clicking on an image would take me to a dead link. This is because when uploading the script to the server for the first time, I didn’t see that there were hidden files that needed to be included. Adding these hidden files fixed the problem. Then I couldn’t get the “purchase” button to work – again, it would send my customers to a dead link. Support eventually solved this problem for me (it was an .htaccess issue). And finally, I never could get the “blog” section working, and support had no solution for me other than to contact my hosting company and ask why the server was blocking access to certain strings in the .htaccess file. I will give the support team credit though – they were very helpful and responded quickly to my questions.
- Using the batch upload feature in the back-end content management system would strip out the IPTC data (keywords and titles) from my images. So my only choice was to upload everything one by one, or upload via FTP.
- Batch editing of images that had already been uploaded and categorized was not possible.
So which one is better?
Definitely PhotoStore by ktools.net – but only by a slim margin. While the visual design (appearance) of the interface is very dated, the script is rock solid. Everything just works. It’s easy to upload photos, organization of the content is made to be very simple, and the template is highly configurable. The back-end content management system is also very good, allowing easy batch-editing of photos and galleries. The only thing that keeps PhotoStore from blowing away cmsaccount.com’s Photo Video Store is that there is very little support for other content such as vector or Flash media. If you want to sell anything other than photos, you’ll have to zip them up – and sell your customers those zip files. But for me (who only needed to sell jpg’s), the script was perfect for my needs.