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General Discussion

10,223 Points

Need help in deciding the right approach to take for building a photography portfolio website.

Hi, I have been learning HTML,CSS,Javascript and jQuery at treehouse for some time now and felt confident enough in my skills to approach a friend and offer my services to build a portfolio website for her, who is starting out as a professional photographer.

Initially I wanted to build the website from scratch using the skills I have learned - HTML, CSS and Javascript/jQuery. But, since the website would involve image gallery and slideshows, I did some research and now I am wondering if its best to build the website using a CMS such as WordPress. With a CMS it would be easy for my friend to update the website and add new images.

I haven't done the WordPress course offered at treehouse and if i decide to go that route, i will have to spend some time learning WordPress before i can start the project.

My questions are:

  1. What is the best approach to building a photography portfolio website? Build from scratch or use WordPress.
  2. What's the learning curve for WordPress?
  3. If I build the website from scratch, what is the process to updating and maintaing the website. Will my friend be easily able to update the images?

I'm really excited about this first project and cant wait to start :)

Any advice from all you designers and developers is much appreciated. Thank You.

3 Answers

1.The approach to building a custom site on wordpress would be by building a theme for it, and maybe some plugins, depending on how much customizability you're looking at. This however requires a solid background in php as wordpress runs on it, plus html, css and javascript. Treehouse has an excellent track for wordpress development.

  1. There is a decent learning curve, but php is still a scripting language so it's not very complicated.

  2. After building the site on wordpress, keeping it up is easy, and suposed to be under the owners control, not so much yours. They would do it as if they are posting a blog post.

Hope this helps

10,223 Points

Thank you for your quick response.

I really wanted to hand code this website, since it would allow me to apply the skills I have already learned. From your response I now understand that WordPress is the way to go, since updating the content would be easier.

I would love to build a custom theme, but since I am not yet familiar with PHP, i was thinking of picking a already available theme and customize it a little bit so as not to delay the start of the project too much. This approach would still allow me to apply the HTML and CSS skills I have learned - Right? I will definitely be starting the wordpress development track soon.

Do you have any suggestions for a WordPress theme suitable for a photography portfolio site? Also any plugins that I should look into. Also, any recommendations on hosting?

Thank you so much for your time.

If you are considering starting from a pre-built theme you have to choose between a standard one or a premium one. Usually you'd have to buy the premium ones, and they come with more customizability options.

I've purchased themes from themeforest before and customized them to fit my clients. Look for the closest thing to the layout you want. After that, you can edit the html and css as you wish. Also some premium themes come with excellent documentation. That's something I would look for in my themes especially if it's your first time modifying a theme.

Most themes come with the plugins needed included in them. But if you want to look for plugins yourself you can check out wordpress.org plugins. They have over 30,000 plugins for you to choose from.

As for the hosting I can't really recommend any, as most do the same job for a basic hosting plan. Here's a nice side by side comparison of the most widely used ones, Web Hosting review.

Hope this helps

10,223 Points

Thank you for your detailed response. My friend has a SmugMug portfolio account (http://www.smugmug.com/) and she wants to know if we can build a website using their service. Event hough the answer is a yes, I having been reading up some blog articles and realize that It might not be a best choice for SEO considerations. So, now I'm deciding between a SmugMug website or a wordpress website. Any thoughts? Even though I might end up not using wordPress for this project, all the research and your answers have been very helpful and will come in handy for a future project. Thank you.

The reason I would go with WordPress is to have more control. You can customize the design to any extent you like. The issue with these portfolio website services is that it doesn't offer enough customizations the websites are often similar. You are right about the SEO problems with websites on smugmug or squarespace and that's a big dowdownside considering how important it is to rank well for portfolio websites.