Part 1 of 2
This blog certainly isn't my first attempt at creating an online identity. I have had several websites and owned several domain names over the years (most recently, www.poetryandlight.com). I have always enjoyed the challenge and creative freedom that comes about from creating a webpage. Even so, I frequently struggled to choose the right domain name for my sites and create the right "expressive" look for me. Recently, while reading a digital photography forum, I ran across a thread discussing the best photo sharing sites. The most popular of these are SmugMug and Zenfolio (subscription required) although many others (some free) exist. Given the staleness of my existing site and lack of time needed to design a really good looking website these photo sharing sites were worth considering. They are built from the ground up to be photo gallery sites, my biggest need in a website. Uploading photos is a snap and they have built in photo editor programs. They are also highly customizable, when a yearly subscription is purchased.
By the way, these yearly fees are much less than one would pay to host your own site for a year. Some (including SmugMug and Zenfolio) have a "pro" option that allows professional photographers the ability to sell prints without ever lifting a finger. Customers simply add the photos they like to a shopping cart, select the desired size as well as other options and checkout. Then the photos are printed by one of several reputable online photo printers and shipped to the customer. The photographer then receives his cut. The 'pro' package also allows the use of a regular domain name (joephotographer.com) vs the SmugMug domain name (joephotographer.smugmug.com).
But I digress.
I did the free 14 day trials for both SmugMug and Zenfolio. In a matter of minutes I had a decent looking site set up on each. When the trials expired I choose SmugMug but it wasn't an easy choice. Zenfolio has a more user friendly interface than SmugMug. Zenfolio has a neat looking control panel were every option can be accessed without going to a different page. SmugMug can be tedious to navigate and change something or customize a page. So why SmugMug you ask? Currently, SmugMug is way more customizable than Zenfolio, although I am sure Zenfolio will catch them soon. Also, because I have a free Flickr account I received 50% off my first year of SmugMug just for trying them out (I choose the Power user level). I am hoping that when Zenfolio catches up to SmugMug on the customizable front that SmugMug will have to update their control panel to be more user friendly to stay competitive
Now I have a custom photography website that looks pretty decent and can be edited without using Dreamweaver, uploading to the sever, remembering to update hyperlinks, etc. I choose a simple name, my real name, for my site instead of something catchy (which I am never good at coming up with as it is). I spent tonight learning how to make many custom changes to my SmugMug site. The learning curve is still a little steep but I am getting the hang of it. I was able to add a slideshow, a nav bar, and change my whole site's layout in the same amount of time it use to take to create one page on my old site!
More to come on this latter. I am going to have to divide this into two parts. My dogs are being neglected!