I thought it might be helpful to share the decision-making process I went through before launching thads•world. Fortunately, I came to this project with a good frame of reference, having launched a wine blog (BeyondtheBottle.com) several years ago using MovableType. Even still, there was much to learn about designing a photography blog, which inevitably focuses on the presentation of one’s images.
The first decision I had to make was whether to use an all-encompassing, stand-alone service such as liveBooks, SmugMug, PhotoShelter, Zenfolio, Squarespace, or go with a WordPress, Drupal, MovableType solution that I could fully customize and host myself. I was also intent on staying away from Flash-based sites, due to the lack of support provided on the Apple iOS platform and issues with search engine optimization.
Since my needs are unique and may not align with yours, I recommend starting with a list of requirements before making any purchase/implementation decisions. The more time you spend investigating, considering, and deciding on your approach, the better results you will achieve and the happier you will be over the long run.
With my decision to go with a CMS tool, I focused on those that would offer a scalable platform not only for text, but more importantly presenting images, video and other digital media. My consideration set boiled down to a choice between WordPress and MovableType. While I had used MovableType for my wine blog, I wanted to try WordPress after seeing so many sites using it and hearing so many sing its praises. Thus far, I am very happy with WordPress as my CMS. In fact, as a result of using it here on thads•world, I am going to migrate my wine blog to WordPress in the next few months.
After deciding on WordPress as my content management system, I then started looking at various WordPress themes for photography blogs. A search for “wordpress photography templates” helped me locate a number of informative posts reviewing various themes. The most insightful review I found was here, one written by a web designer/developer. This ultimately led me to Photocrati, a company that appealed to me for several reasons.
First, I really liked the variety of themes Photocrati offers for WordPress users, and the flexibility one has in fully customizing these to make them unique. Second, I liked the fact that this company was founded by a photographer, someone who understands the needs of folks like me. Third, I loved the price ($79 for all 15 themes) and usage terms (multiple sites). Fourth, I liked the guidance offered in selecting and setting up Photocrati’s preferred hosting service, BlueHost (more on this later in the post). Finally, I really admired how this company is using part of the proceeds from my purchase to invest in the Photocrati Fund, which offers grants to photographers working on humanitarian and environmental projects.
Thus far, I have been really pleased with my experience setting up, installing, and using Photocrati on my WordPress blog. I am also glad to have chosen a service that offers a broad, relevant knowledge base via online help articles and user forum posts. And it was very helpful going with a web host that Photocrati recommended. Here too, I have been happy with the pricing and service of BlueHost thus far, with the exception of a recent Sunday when my site was down. It would have been nice had BlueHost sent notification of the downtime.
Finally, I made a post-launch decision that involved returning to one of the stand-alone services mentioned above. Due to storage and file size limitations with my web hosting service and the Flash-based Photocrati galleries, I decided to subscribe to SmugMug Pro as the repository for my portfolio and assorted galleries. I chose SmugMug based on recommendations from other photographers, including a very positive review by Trey Ratcliff at StuckinCustoms.com, whose promo code I used to sign up for a year’s subscription at a discounted rate (thanks Trey!).
SmugMug offers an excellent resource to store (unlimited storage), share (embedded links), and even sell (prints and online usage) my work. If you click on the “Portfolio” link above, then you will be redirected to my SmugMug site. While I have yet to fully integrate my Photocrati theme into SmugMug, this capability is available, one that I intend to undertake soon.
Essentially, thads•world comprises two sites in one: 1) a blog site built on WordPress and Photocrati hosted by BlueHost; and 2) a portfolio site served and hosted by SmugMug. For me (and for now), this offers the best combination of tools and services to share and comment on my work. Hope this helps in your efforts designing or redesigning your photography site.