Welcome to my web development blog!

Using this blog I intend to look at how, as a photographer, I would go about building a professional looking online presence to work as a business tool. As part of my university course I need to create some kind of website to showcase some of my work and be used as sort of an online portfolio.
I intend to discuss what some of the better options are for doing this. As a pretty much a beginner when it comes to web design I will be looking at some of the easier and cheaper ways for someone like me to get their work online.

Initial Thoughts

In actual fact, getting your work online has never been easier! There are an awful lot of websites which cater for large photographic communities and give users opportunity to upload their own images, comment on other peoples work and create a list of favourites and contacts.
One of the best examples and my personal favourite is Flickr.

I've been using Flickr now for a number of years and I find it to be quite brilliant. I even pay to have a pro account on Flickr which enables me to upload as much as I want and as large as I want too.
I think it's a great way to keep and organise an online portfolio which you can link clients too. I've linked my own domain name up to this aswell so that when someone types in http://www.alexandermoore.co.uk/ on their address bar they are sent directly to my photostream on Flickr. This is useful because that is the website that my business card states and I can change where that domain name points too if I was to get my own dedicated website online.
The bad things about Flickr are, although you can surround yourself with some very skilled practitioners and find some great inspiration. The community is over run by amateurs who upload a lot of poor or irrelevant images, for example, lego or dolls in an unartistic fashion. It's almost like they are trying to run a community about something else within Flickr.
Another serious issue is that it's not 100% suitable for clients. When you link a client to your Flickr, they can see the work from a whole host of other photographers and this looks very unprofessional and quite distracting also.

In Short Flickr is a nice large community where you can share your work and observe other peoples and breed creativity and inspiration. However it's not a professional tool and is more aimed at amateurs, this will probably prevent clients from seeing you as a true professional. After all, a professional needs their own website, right?

Using Blogs as a Photographer

One of the first ideas I had about getting a website dedicated to me and my portfolio was using blogs. I hear about many photographers using blogs to showcase their work and this actually sounds like a great idea.
The great thing about blogs is that they are mostly free, they are very easy to create and maintain, because of the nature of them they are very good in terms of search engine optimisation, many allow customisation and the opportunity to use your own domain name and also they are a good way to keep your work in chronological order which is nice for the people who follow your work.

I'm a blog user myself, I have this web development blog on the go and I also have a wordpress which is used for university work: http://alexandermoore91.wordpress.com/

My experience with wordpress has been very good in all honesty. But I don't feel its the best way to showcase yourself or your portfolio, sure they are a great addition to your online presence, and when they go along side a main site they are fantastic!
The main problems I have with using blogs as a main site are:
They are just too busy, wordy and confusing. Blogs have a certain layout which makes them very wordy, after all they are mainly for people to share their thoughts or information about themselves, they aren't directly aimed at photographers and so aren't optimised for us either! Lets face it, if youre looking up a photographer, you want to see the images! You probably wont even read the text, especially if there is more than a couple of lines..

I think Blogs are a brilliant tool, when put along side with a main site a blog can be a great thing to have in your web presence arsenal. I Strongly advise you get yourself one.


One of the biggest names in website creators on the internet is WIX.com.
Wix has been running for years now, I remember looking at it a while back. Seeing it now, it's remarkable how its advanced in recent times! This says to me they are constantly updating it, improving it and adding new features to compete with its competitors. That is most certainly a good thing!
Wix websites are basically flash websites which have the capability to be all singing all dancing with animations etc etc. This is quite attractive to a photographer as it means your site could be very visual which is a definite bonus and helps to grab the eye of your audience.
The majority of people on Wix are in fact artists in one way or another, be it illustrators, photographers, graphic designers or painters. So theoretically this means that it's optimised for us, and it should be constantly improving for the likes of me and you.

I took the plunge and signed up for the free version of Wix myself. I managed to slap together a flash website using one of their many templates which is already quite aesthetically pleasing. To produce a site like this properly, from scratch using code would take months just to get it to the basic level ive managed in an hour or so.
The editor is very simple and it's basically a drag and drop interface which is perfect for people who aren't too confident with webdesign. You can clearly see that Wix isn't too word friendly, which for some people isn't a big deal. Flash websites dont tend to be wordy in general so this isnt a first.

The main problems with Flash websites are search engine optimisation (which shouldn't be a big problem as Wix is a substantial organisation and will be working to make the best of it), and the fact it wont work with mobile devices, such as iphones. Adobe has basically pulled Flash in favour of the new, lightning fast HTML5 and Javascript which IS mobile device friendly! To combat this problem, Wix provides a mobile site option too which is basically a simple interface specially designed for mobile devices, I must admit, this feature is utterly incredible and suddenly your worries about your site being compatible with your clients shiny new ipad vanish!

This all looks and feels very professional and you find yourself sold on the idea of Wix very quickly, untill you realise that youre being barraged with adverts! This is the unfortunate down side of the free version, and there is no way around it. This is a crying shame for those of us who wanted a nice, free, professional looking flash website. The adverts are simply too distracting and I think if you sent a potential client to a free Wix website, you would find them having great fun designing their own free wix site about their holiday in Benidorm rather than looking at your portfolio!!


Another of the big players in website creation is Weebly.com. I'd only recently found out about Weebly and it seems pretty simple to the Wix one I'd previosuly looked at in that its all user friendly drag and drop design. I signed myself up for a free account and started to play around with it.
At first Weebly feels a lot like a blog, I had a look through the huge number of free templates they had to offer and found one which I liked and then began to customise it to my own tastes. For those of you that are interested in code, or know a little already, I've got good news.. Weebly allows you to play with the HTML and the CSS till your hearts content, you can even steal the lot and use it as a template to build your own website on a program like Adobe Dreamweaver (which I hear some crafty webdesigners do to ensure stable foundations for their websites).
Weebly is all HTML5 which means it's very compatible with mobile devices without the need to create an entirely separate mobile site which is kind of nice. Not only this, but it means is pretty darn fast too which is something that is always sought after!

I didn't find Weebly the most intuitive however. It is of course very easy to design, but there were moments where I just couldn't work out how to do something and had to search the internet for an answer (this is embarrassing, I know. It's probably my fault as I didn't look at, listen to or read a single word of the tutorial or tips offerd). Bear in mind that I also walked into the Wix website creator without a clue and didn't find myself confused once!
Another bad thing about Weebly is that it just doesn't feel like it's aimed at people like me who just want to display a load of images in a porftolio gallery with minimal information. It's begging for text and this makes the images look quite awkward on the site. It's just too blog-like in my opinion. Of course you could change all this by playing around I'm sure, but its just not as quick, easy or obvious as some of its competitors.

A great upside though is that the advertising is pretty descrete, it's not too in your face at all which straight away makes it look much more professional.

Moon Fruit

In my travels I'd heard about a website creator called MoonFruit.com. Before I signed up to this one I had a look at what it was all about to make sure it was worth looking at. What I discovered was that it seems quite new in the website creation market and it looks pretty much aimed at artists which was very promising.
I quickly signed up for it whilst I was at university and claimed my URL of alexandermoore91.moonfruit.com. I was initially very disheartened as when I tried to access the editor at university I was quickly apprehended by Flash telling me I needed to update or install something for my browser in order to continue. This was a major put off straight away as none of the other creators ive been involved with had any compatability issues of any kind! Frustraitingly enough the Mac's (don't wanna start a debate here guys, but BOOO!!) at Uni disallowed me from updating Adobe's Flash plugin or whatever it was (I was so put out that it had a compatability issue that I didn't even wait around to find out what was wrong exactly!).
When I finally made it onto a machine which allowed me to install the plugin or whatever I was yet again faced with an editor which was very simple, drag and drop style. It looked as if it was ripped straight out of Windows 98 and didnt look half as contemporary or modern as the other creators, but that's not something I wasnt going to deduct marks on.
I began to play with the template I'd selected using the editor which I can only compare to an early version of Microsoft Publisher (not necessarily a bad thing, fiddly but I'm sure many of you would be right at home with the interface). However, I very quickly started to struggle with it and make quite a mess. This was extremely frustraiting and it got to the point where I literally walked away from it. I'm not saying it's impossible, it's still easy infact, it just takes more time to get used to and less of a cavalier attitude than the other editors I'd experienced.
As you can see from the screenshot, I didn't even manage to replace the sample images from the template with my own before needing a time out.

All of this sounds negative but I think Moon Fruit has a lot of potential. Looking at the sites other people had created using it I was very impressed. I saw a lot of fashion and clothing websites fully set up for ecommerce with shopping carts, baskets and checkouts etc. That just goes to show that with more time and patience you could create something brilliant with it. Not only that but again, the advertising is fairly subtle with a small Icon at the very top right away from the main content container, and a small sentence as the very bottom of the page. This is most certainly positive.

For me, Moon Fruit isn't the way to go, I feel it needs an awful lot of polishing to make is shine as much as some of the others. But I can sure see the potential!

Cargo Collective

Cargo Collective is probably the one which deviates most. Cargocollective.com is infact an invite only website builder which I was lucky enough to get my hands on thanks to a mate at university, I think the reason for this is to keep it quite exclusive to artists and designers and also as an attempt to keep the relevance and the body of work at a very high standard. Cargo is by far the most simple I've looked at, and its not pushing you for your hard earned cash at all which makes a nice change.
Another thing is that it's not another drag and drop editor. The way you design it (or the way I chose to design mine) is to select a template, of which there aren't thousands yet, but keep in mind this is very new. Then you input your own work with posts like you would a blog, however its not laid out like a blog at all, unless you want it to be!

You can edit the CSS which is nice if youre familliar with this already and the entire thing has the potential to look extremely clean, maybe even too clean. You might want to jazz it up with fancy graphics to grab your audience a bit more!

The advertising is almost non-existant appart from a tiny link at the bottom which says "Cargo", the URL and Favicon which is a little black lightning bolt (which is the Cargo logo strangely enough). The URL I got was cargocollective.com/alexandermoore91 which is quite tidy as it is but if you want rid you can "upgrade" to a paid account, this also enables you to add HTML to the site and also allows for more storage and badnwidth.

I think cargo is really quite nice and understated, however it just lacks that visual knock-out impact upon your audience. It's just too simple, and I suspect it will remain that way unless you pay to play with your own HTML (which isn't too easy to do anyway) because of these reasons, I could never use this as a main site where I'd direct client's.

The Results!

So far, I've looked at Flickr, Blogs(Wordpress), Wix, Weebly, Moon Fruit and Cargo Collective.

Best Aesthetic Potential: Wix
Least Money Grabbing: Cargo Collective & Weebly
Easiest to Design: Cargo Collective
Best Professional Feel: Wix
Best Community: Flickr
For Coders: Weebly
Best Archive: Wordpress
One to Keep an Eye on: Moon Fruit

So it's pretty hard to advise you on which to pick for yourself. Thats most certainly up to you and your own personal tastes! But for me its got to be Wix, its the one which looks the best, and at the end of the day thats what I'm after.
The main problem with Wix is the advertising, but if I were to use this as a full time professional website for my potential and existing clients I would probably pay for one of their packages (which compete with webhosting companies anyway!) which would get rid of all the down sides and make Wix simply the best of all worlds. Wix is also the site builder which I did the most work on and here is the URL to my free Wix website: http://www.wix.com/rem1858/alexandermoore91


I stumbled upon this cool website called about.me which is near enough a digital business card. I really liked the idea of having this single page website to link together all of your different pages across the internet so I signed up to it.
Basically youre supposed to put a huge image on (preferably of you or relevant to you) as the background, and then there is a box for you to put who you are, and what you do, below that there are a load of icons which you can have linking to your various sites and pages.

Obviously this has nothing to do with a main website for a professional but I just thought it was a cool thing to tie everything together.