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Implementing a photo gallery site with WordPress

Jim Kasson
 


Most serious photographers these days have or want to share/advertise their work on the web. I've recently completed a project to convert my web site (coded by Robin Ward; thank you, Robin) to a (actually three, but that's an implementation detail) WordPress-based web sites. I've written up my experiences, and they may prove useful to anyone contemplating a similar move. I'll provide a link at the bottom of this post, but first I'd like to talk about web photo sharing in general.

Here are the choices for Internet sharing, in order of photographer involvement (low to high), and customizability (low to high as well). I've included examples for each.


  1. General services with photos: Facebook, Twitter, etc
  2. Mass market photo services: SnapChat, Flickr, SmugMug etc
  3. Pro photographer oriented photo services: Portfoliobox, Zenfolio
  4. Hosted WordPress with predefined templates: Imagely
  5. Roll your own WordPress with or without hosting, but with themes and apps to eliminate coding: Genesis, Genesis child themes, NextGEN Galleries.
  6. Roll your own WordPress with CSS coding
  7. Writing CSS code with a visual app like Dreamweaver
  8. Writing CSS code with a text editor.


In the past, I've done 7) and 8), starting in 1995, and ending about five years ago when Robin implemented my site. I just reimplemented my site using 5). I think it was a big success. I recommend WordPress for photo sites to those folks who don't want to write much (or any) code, who want to make changes in seconds that would take at least half an hour using Dreamweaver, who want a fast implementation, who want to be able to change the whole look of the site without starting over, and who want to make daily, weekly, or monthly changes to the site.

Note that I didn't implement any E-commerce. That makes things quite a bit more complicated.

Here's a link to the first post in my recounting of my experiences:

http://blog.kasson.com/?p=15644

If you scroll all the way down to the bottom, you'll see trackbacks to all the posts in the series. If you click on one of them, it will take you to that post. Control-click if you want to keep the trackback page open in a tab.

I'll be happy to answer any questions if you post them on my blog as comments or in this thread.

Jim



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Jim Kasson

ImageMaker

Blog: blog.kasson.com

Gallery: www.kasson.com

 

Only to complete the list of options in Jim's post (and, well, because I do it for a living) there is one other option: hire a professional to build a custom website for you. That's not inexpensive, (a few thousand dollars) but the results will be exactly to your liking. And, a properly designed CMS (Content Management Site, similar to WordPress) will free you from the designer once the site is done, and allow you to edit the contents, posting new photos and/or text yourself.
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Tracy Valleau, moderator

Imagemakers

www.valleau.gallery

Michael Fryd
 

While there are advantages to a custom designed web site, don’t fall into the trap of believing that you don’t need a web developer for on-going maintenance.

If the developer has made a mistake in coding your site, he may have left a security hole.  Examining web logs for various sites, I estimate that your site will get probed a few times an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by robots or hackers looking for security holes.  If there is a hole, it will be found.  With a custom coded site, you will want the original coder to find and fix the bugs.  A new coder will need to get up to speed on your site’s custom design, and therefore may be expensive.

Even if there is no hole in the custom code, they may be holes in various open software packages he has used.   Such holes are far more likely to be found and exploited.  You will need someone to watch for updates, and install those patches into your site.

There will even be security updates and feature updates to the web hosting software.  Some of these updates will break things on your site, and they will need to be updated for the new software.

I am not suggesting that a custom site is a bad thing.  I am merely pointing out that the content management system only handles updates to your content.  You will still need a web developer on call to maintain the site, and add new features when desired.


On Oct 9, 2016, at 1:20 PM, Tracy Valleau <tracy@...> wrote:

Only to complete the list of options in Jim's post (and, well, because I do it for a living) there is one other option: hire a professional to build a custom website for you. That's not inexpensive, (a few thousand dollars) but the results will be exactly to your liking. And, a properly designed CMS (Content Management Site, similar to WordPress) will free you from the designer once the site is done, and allow you to edit the contents, posting new photos and/or text yourself.
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Tracy Valleau, moderator

 

All very good points, Michael. Thank you.

I should note, however, that those points are true of all types of sites, not just custom-coded ones. For example, WordPress sites too must be maintained. I know: I maintain several of them.

Ultimately, the choice of how to proceed is a trade-off of three things: site quality vs your time vs your money. That is, you can go with the one-size-fits all Flickr-type (where maintenance is beyond your control, but so is the design, for the most part) to a site you build & maintain yourself or on to paying a pro to do it for you.

Ain't the marketplace wunnerful?   :-)
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Tracy Valleau, moderator

Imagemakers

www.valleau.gallery

Jim Kasson
 

Actually, Tracy, I meant that hiring someone to do the work to be orthogonal to the choice of tools and platform. I hired Robin to do the CSS implementation that I just migrated from, after all. She used Dw and a lot of hand coding to implement the site that she did. But there are people who will help you at any of those levels. There are even people who make their living as Facebook consultants.

AFAIC, having someone do the design and setup, turning it over to the photographer, who is then expected to maintain the site, may very well not work. The CPA tried it with a WordPress instance, and not only were they unable to maintain the site themselves, for lack of adequate security, it got hacked and they had to start from scratch. After Robin did my site, I fired up Dw, had a look at the code, and rapidly got lost. After that, she did all the maintenance, with the result that the site wasn't very dynamic.

That's not to say that an expert is not useful. After my WP implementation, there are some things that I can't figure out how to make right. I'm thinking about hiring an expert in the Genesis framework theme -- know any? -- to help me fix them.

Having done the implementation myself, I know a lot about the speeds and feeds, and that will make me much better able to manage it.

OTOH, I think I'd come down in a completely different place if two things were simultaneously true: a) I had no interest in maintaining the site myself, or time to do it, I could provide a sufficiently high income stream to a consultant to get her to implement any changes I wanted in, say, a day or two (an hour or two would be better; I'm big on instant gratification).

You may have customers who are successful in doing their own maintenance and content handling on their own. Maybe my experiences, and the CPA's experiences, are outliers. But I'm heard several photographers complain about their custom-designed web sites, so maybe I'm not an outlier.


Jim
--
Jim Kasson

ImageMaker

Blog: blog.kasson.com

Gallery: www.kasson.com

 
Edited

Hi Jim, and thanks for your usual salient comments.

I'm going to have to re-read my reply, since it's obvious that we are using the word "maintenance" to mean different things.

My point was NOT about the technical maintenance (which needs to be done by someone, somewhere on every site in existence.) It was instead that photographer's sites change public-facing contents frequently. Either the photographer does it, or someone else does it for him.

The nice thing about CMS sites is that such simple content updates take little to no technical skill, and provides your desired instant gratification. That is not the same as saying that the site's technical maintenance would be turned over to novices (the photographer in this case.)

WordPress is one of many CMS interfaces, however it can be very geeky. There are simpler implementations to allow the non-technical person to change text and images. (I use Pulse, Rapidweaver, TotalCMS or Armadillo.)

What I try to do for my clients is appraise each of their needs. If they only need a basically static website, I'll create that to their exact design (exact design is not possible with WordPress), but if they need to have content change daily or weekly, I'll use a combination of static and CMS, allowing them to change (directly on the page itself) only those items that need frequent changing.

I also host and maintain the technical side of the site for them, for a modest monthly fee.

I've been building websites for two decades now, so I'm pretty comfortable with all this. My clients range from solo entrepreneurs  to a multi-million dollar international corporation.

I too have heard many people disappointed in the create-it-and-walk-away "professional" site designers. That does not qualify as "professional" in my mind. I work to understand the client's needs, now and future; their level of competence; and their own desire to be involved. I decline work that is create-it-and-walk-away because I know the heart ache that can lead to, and selfishly perhaps, I don't need the grief.

So: we are in basic agreement here, and if I've clarified myself sufficiently, I hope you'll agree.

Finally, and just FYI, the CPA site was not hacked. In fact, the allocated space for their server was filled to overflowing (due at least in part to horrible server design, as that should never have been allowed to happen in the first place) and so without cache space, simply refused to work. Couldn't even FTP in until some caches were removed to allow some headroom. 

I am more than a little familiar with the aftermath of all that, and worked extensively with the CPA to get things up and running again. Now that mail is working and automated backups are in place, we're working on consolidating the non-website databases.

I'll contact you personally with a possible name regarding your Genesis query.

Thanks again, Jim. It's a benefit to everyone to have someone with your experience and savvy on this list.
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Tracy Valleau, moderator

Imagemakers

www.valleau.gallery

Jim Kasson
 
Edited

Tracy, speaking of hosting, do you use AWS? I use them for a few things, but not web hosting. I find the user interface to be daunting. Rackspace, who I use for Exchange server hosting, and who I've found extremely reliable, has a service where they will manage AWS services for you, but it's not aimed at small users, with a billing structure based on your AWS bill that appears reasonable, but with a monthly minimum that is way too high for me.


Jim
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Jim Kasson

ImageMaker

Blog: blog.kasson.com

Gallery: www.kasson.com

 

Actually, our email crossed, and in my explanation of the CPA site kerfuffle, I noted that I have my own dedicated server on the backbone, at RagingWire, in Virginia. www.ragingwire.com.
In short: no, I don't use AWS - because I do this commercially, I pay the big bucks for a dedicated machine.
Tracy
www.valleau.gallery

On 11 Oct 2016, at 9:19, Jim Kasson wrote:

[Edited Message Follows]

Tracy, speaking of hosting, do you use AWS? I use them for a few things, but not web hosting. I find the user interface to be daunting. Rackspace, who I use for Exchange server hosting, and who I've found extremely reliable, has a service where they will manage AWS services for you, but it's not aimed at small users, with a billing structure based on your AWS bill that appears reasonable, but with a monthly minimum that is way too high for me.


Jim
--
Jim Kasson

ImageMaker

Blog: blog.kasson.com

Gallery: www.kasson.com


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Tracy Valleau, moderator

Imagemakers

www.valleau.gallery

Jim Kasson
 

FWIW, here's a review of five WordPress backup solutions:


http://blog.kasson.com/?p=15925


Jim
--
Jim Kasson

ImageMaker

Blog: blog.kasson.com

Gallery: www.kasson.com

 

Thanks Jim. Very useful information, and needless to say, I agree with your choice for #1. :-)
Tracy
www.valleau.gallery

On 12 Oct 2016, at 15:46, Tracy Kent Valleau wrote:
Thanks Jim. Very useful information, and needless to say, I agree with your choice for #1. :-)
Tracy
www.valleau.gallery
On 12 Oct 2016, at 15:11, Jim Kasson wrote:

FWIW, here's a review of five WordPress backup solutions:


http://blog.kasson.com/?p=15925


Jim
--
Jim Kasson

ImageMaker

Blog: blog.kasson.com

Gallery: www.kasson.com


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Tracy Valleau, moderator

Imagemakers

www.valleau.gallery