Online portfolios & websites


Been ages since I posted, it's been a busy Summer but I thought this might help someone in a similar position to myself.

It's never been more important to have a strong online presence, social media, flickr, behance etc. but the most important is the website, your online portfolio, it's your shop window! I've jumped from online portfolio providers to building my own and back again, this year with my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription I suddenly had access to all these new toys so gave Muse a go, built a website I liked, designed the way I wanted it to look and function and put it out there in May, now at that time I came up on page one on a google search for London beauty and fashion photographers... now I'm around 7 pages down or more, I'd spent so much time on the design, the content and how it all looked that I omitted to sort out proper page titles and basic SEO... massive fail, talk about shoot myself in the foot! A few weeks ago I set to putting this right and update the new site, this is when I realised though I had a nice looking site etc. it was taking me an age to add new content! Those nice rollovers for each new story I'd shot needed to be built from scratch every time, a new page made, images sized, more SEO... I could have shot new work, spent time on marketing, even seen a bit more of my wife for a change!! The SEO cock up aside I knew going the bespoke route was a mistake, the designer in me coming out again I guess but that's when I stopped the update I was working on and set to finding an online portfolio provider.

Now I'd previously been a viewbook user so I headed there first as I knew they were pretty good, I was expecting big things but was a bit shocked to find that they were still working on the new V3 platform, one of my prime reasons for leaving them in the first place was that I wanted more design options, that ruled them out despite the fact that viewbook works well on it's current version. I looked at Photoshelter, good but pricey, Dripbook was a similar story having been with them for a brief period I never even looked again this time, I found a couple with templates I liked that could be bent around a bit to look roughly how I'd like, one of these was Squarespace, price was about average with an annual option saving 20% on the monthly price, I signed up for the trial period and adapted a template to something I was quite keen on, it ticked alot of boxes... it was easy to edit, easy to update, SEO was straight forward enough and a big one for me was that it was a dynamic site as in it resized to the browser somewhat. It was a horizontal scroll but with a click through which I preferred to actually scrolling. Well my trial at an end I took the plunge and signed up for a year, a couple of days passed and I went back in to put it all together properly, it dawned on me that it was too busy still, while there was only one image actually fully viewable at a time the faded out shots either side were distracting to my eye and here is where the penny dropped for me and kind of the whole point of this post, the design was taking over... again... I was back to what I was trying to avoid all over again, I needed simplicity, suddenly it was blindingly obvious where I'd gone wrong time and again!! I'm a photographer not a web designer, the photographs should be the whole focus of the site, the design should be functional but almost invisible!

I found a different template that's plain, the images resize to the browser, the navigation is tucked away so the images take up 90% of the browser, my logo is there but not distracting and there's only one or two images on screen at once and there's a nice feature to switch to a thumbnail view... perfect! Well not perfect but it's about as close as I've got in the last 6/7 years.

New and simplified www.brianrolfe.com big on images but simple and understated design


Now I'm not writing this for the guys at Squarespace, yes I'm happy with my choice but this is the kind of thing I wish I'd read somewhere years ago. My advice if you're looking for that perfect platform to showcase your work, firstly there isn't one perfect platform, no template does exactly what you want or tick every box, you need to make compromises, find a template/provider that you like and ask yourself if you can live without that one or two things it doesn't do, for me I was unsure about the side navigation but it's growing on me, remember what I said about design, it's your portfolio, your work that's important, not how nice the design is, nobody is coming to look at the design of your website, they are there to see your art, your photography, they want to get around your site easily and view your work, that's it, as long as they can do that and have a way to contact you then that website has done it's job and you can get back to creating more & living your life... not web designing!!