A number of years ago, I implemented my website using Joomla! 1.5. It took a while to learn how to configure Joomla! to do what I wanted, but I found a good theme and I ended up with a good website.
Over the last few of years, my site was hacked twice, the latest being last summer. After the first hack, I was able to recover fairly easily. I removed the offending files and restore the site without too much difficulty. On a couple of occasions, I also had to handle errors from the database (which I learned how to fix) which led me to learn how to do MySQL backups. Occasionally I made backups of my site and even saved some of the backups on my home PC.
|Houses in Trinity, Newfoundland|
Last summer my site was hacked again while I was on vacation. A trojan horse was planted onto my website, and I had to quickly take the site down when I got back home. I guess I should have bought some virus protection from my web host!
I didn't have a recent backup available, so I decided to modernize my site and move up to Joomla! 3. I choose a "responsive" theme to handle smartphones, tablets and PCs, and I re-implemented most of my website. Finally, I decided to buy a virus scanning service from my website host which increased my web hosting cost by 50%. I wasn't too happy about having to invest a significant amount of time and money into this whole process.
It took a lot of time to get Joomla! 3 working especially with some installation glitches that were difficult to solve. I also ran into some flaws in the photo management component (RokGallery) as well. I liked the way RokGallery was set up, but it was difficult and slow to work with a large number of photographs. Overall though, I was satisfied even though I thought the website was a bit slow.
Later in the year there were some updates available for Joomla!, and I installed the update using Joomla!s handy update system. Unfortunately, the upgrade failed and left my site hobbled. The only option that I could see was to re-install Joomla!.
By this time, I was quite frustrated with the whole process, and I decided that I no longer wanted the hassle of dealing with Joomla!, doing database and website backups, and paying for virus checking. I started looking for a solution that let me create a photograph-centered website that provided all of those functions.
|Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Trinity Newfoundland|
I looked at a variety of options, including Flickr, 500px, Pixpa, SmugMug and Zenfolio. I was looking for a reasonable cost, built-in e-commerce, lots of storage space and flexibility in the design of the website. I wanted a site that could adapt to different screen sizes, from smart phones to large PC screens and I wanted to keep my domain name for the new site.
I quickly narrowed the choice down to SmugMug and Zenfolio. I felt that Flickr and 500px didn't provide enough flexibility in the design of the website. Their formats were okay, but I wanted to have my own design. Pixpa seemed more expensive than the rest at $200 per year versus $150 for SmugMug and $120 for Zenfolio, so I didn't evaluate it. If SmugMug and Zenfolio had not worked out, then I would have looked at Pixpa in more depth.
I started with Zenfolio. I signed up for a trial and started to build a prototype website. Over the course of a weekend, I was able to create a working website starting with a template provided by Zenfolio. I set up a keyword-based slideshow on the front page, and a set of menus for articles and photograph gallery pages. I also set up e-commerce on the site without any difficulty. I spent a few more evenings adjusting the design and loading enough photographs to find out how much work was involved.
I found Zenfolio quite easy to use, and I really liked their e-commerce system with multiple price lists and their built-in print service. I was able to specify myself as a print service for the sizes of prints I create myself, and to use the built-in service for larger sizes. Zenfolio was quite a bit faster than my Joomla! site so I was convinced that this would be a better choice.
I liked the look of the site, but I wanted to try a different page style that Zenfolio does not offer. Zenfolio provides several layout options of basically the same page style -- a main photograph with small thumbnails on the side, top or bottom of the page. I was hoping to use a "collage" layout with various photographs mixed on the page.
Next, I signed up for a trial with SmugMug. It offers the collage style of page layout that I wanted, but is a bit higher in cost from Zenfolio. I set up the same kind of website as I did in Zenfolio -- a front-page slideshow with various menus to see photograph galleries and articles. The design system was definitely more complicated than Zenfolio, and it took me a while to understand how it worked. There is a hierarchical set of layouts, starting with content that will appear on all pages, followed by gallery-specific content, and lastly, page-specific content. Once I understood the system, it was quite easy to set up the pages the way that I wanted.
I uploaded a number of photographs which went well. Both Zenfolio and SmugMug handled a large number of photographs quite well.
I also set up e-commerce on SmugMug withoug much difficulty. There are lots of different print options -- the kind of paper, framing, gallery wrap, etc. However, there is one big drawback to their e-commerce print service: I could not find a way to include myself as a print provider. I would rather make my own prints for 12"x18" down to 6"x9". The only way I could find to do this was to add a note on each gallery page saying that I make prints up to 12"x18". I could not integrate this into the "Buy Now" system.
Both SmugMug and Zenfolio sites were fast, and could handle tablets and phones. I occasionally had some trouble with viewing my Zenfolio site on my iPhone though. However it was the performance on a tablet that made the difference between the two. When I compared both sites on a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014), there was a clear difference in image quality. The SmugMug site was noticably sharper -- I suspect it is due to some sharpening done to the image. You can control sharpening with SmugMug, and although I didn't apply any extra sharpening, photographs from SmugMug were sharper on my tablet.
Ultimately a photography website is all about images, and image quality on a tablet turned out to be the deciding factor. Feel free to browse my current website, hosted through SmugMug at:
. . . Rob Williams