Why have I chosen Zenfolio for my website as opposed to any other portfolio hosting solutions or a Wordpress site? Essentially, why does Zenfolio matter? Let's take a look: First and foremost, Zenfoliio has easily customizable templates that make creating a unique folio site easy. The backend, which we'll get to in a bit, is uniquely built for ease of use, without any need (though some would feel otherwise) to know or learn coding or CSS. What this means is, if you have some graphics skill in Photoshop or other such programs, you can create a site that is totally you.
I have been with Zenfolio now since 2007. Before jumping on board and trusting my work to the Zen, I looked at every other folio site from LiveBooks to SmugMug, to Photoshelter and any other possible iteration I could Google. I researched obsessively for the best solution I could find. I even spent a year teaching myself HTML coding and learning Java Script to see if I could create my own site (remember Dreamweaver? Yeah, I tried
playing working with that too.)
I compared price, service, features, image quality, what other pro photographers were using, ease and aesthetics of navigation, everything about the feel of a website. I wanted to know what best fit me. I settled on Zenfolio, and since becoming a member, I have watched the platform grow and mature. I have spent a fair amount of time in the backend of my site, tweaking and altering each detail because it has been fun, creative, and I can be obsessive about these things. The Zen team also makes it so you can do as little or as much tweaking of your site as you like.
A recent update to the platform has brought new, more modern templates that you can adjust in a number of ways. It follows a trend I see on a number of the other folio sites mentioned, as well as some newer Wordpress themes. While I see a lot of pro photographers doing design refreshes to their sites, I don't always agree that new layouts and navigation features make for a better experience.
I personally hate scrolling continuously, either vertically or especially horizontally to see images. I'd rather have the freedom to be-bop around a small grid of thumbnails, and click to see an image larger as I have my folios set up to be. I've also never been a fan of the only navigation of images being a rigid sequence of backwards and forwards streaming. It feels locked in to the way the photographer wants their images sequenced, without allowing the end-user to easily go to the exact image(s) they want. Just like a portfolio book you would show a client, I think your website images should allow both a sequential viewing and an easy skipping around quality. That said, I am always looking at what is new, and what will make my images stand on their best footing. I have seen a number of photographers' sites that went from a great presentation of their work, to one that proved more annoying to navigate than was worth it. Always be open to what will best suite you, your images, and your clients.
The thing that makes Zenfolio so great to work with is the WYSIWYG design of the tools and features you can use to tweak your site. Pretty much everything can be adjusted to modify the look and layout.
Compared to many other platforms, especially Wordpress themes and Dashboards, Zenfolio is both feature rich and easy to modify. If you need any help with getting started or with a particular issue, The Zenfolio Support team is great to work with, plus you have a great built in resource with the Zenfolio Forums. As a member, you have access to a great and growing group of like-minded artists, at different levels of experience and skills, who are eager to help. In addition, you also have the ability to suggest new features and functionality to the Zen Team. Yes, they are listening, but like all things in technology, nothing happens fast enough for our instant gratification nature. That said, I've been totally happy with the roll-outs Zenfolio has made since I've joined.
Features including uploading or embedding videos, adding custom logos to your design, and even the subtle addition of a favicon (one of my favorite little touches) go a long way in my book for a quality experience. When the Zen team implemented a built in blogging platform, with SEO integration and the ability to add background coding for monitoring post traffic and comments, and that followed the design and formatting of your portfolio site, I did a Snoopy Dance! I could finally delete my Blogger blog (which had gotten a malware notice from Google that was erroneous and wouldn't go away!) and my foray into a short-lived Wordpress blog that got to be too much work in the backend and never had the look I wanted that resembled my Zen site. I think Zenfolio got the blog platform right, though I do see room for improving it.
Another really nice feature Zenfolio members can enjoy is a mobile app that allows access to your images on an iPhone. You can upload as well as download images to show your clients on the go, anywhere you are. Being able to use the mobile app to backup your entire iPhone camera roll ( I do this to a special iPhone gallery I've created) is great when your Apple iCloud account limits your storage. You can also view a Zenfolio website in a mobile browser (Safari on iPhone for example) using the mobile version of the site (if the photographer has enabled this feature in their site's backend). All in all, Zenfolio is a feature rich, beautiful and elegant platform that is highly and easily customizable, very affordable with great image quality and the ability to have a fully functioning shopping cart e-commerce features.
I've only scratched the surface here as to what Zenfolio offers the creative photographer, and I encourage you check out the full Zenfolio site for more information, tutorials, and a free trial. You can create and experiment with a free 30-day trial that only you see (you don't need to "go live" until you are ready) if you like. If you do choose Zenfolio as your portfolio site, please feel free to use my promotion code: ( KDG-AVH-TZY ) to get an additional $10.00 off your first year's fee (and yes, I get a discount too, so you, me and Zenfolio all benefit!).
I've been very happy working with this great team of creatives who are passionate about providing a great platform for photographers. Oh, and if I haven't mentioned it yet, the Zen Support team have been absolutely great, always available, even at 4:00 am if you need them!