Regular visitors to my website would notice a change in the look and feel of entire site. This is because I completely revamped my WordPress powered site. A huge change was switching the WordPress theme. Earlier, I had used a customized, older version of free theme, F8 – created by Graph Paper Press. Now, I’ve switched to a paid and premium theme – Photocrati WordPress theme.
Below, I share the reasons behind the switch and some of the notable features introduced on this site using various WordPress plugins along with the Photocrati theme. Hope this information be of help to other independent photographers and artists who maintain their own websites.
One thing I must mention, this isn’t the final look. The site continues to evolve.
Keeping up with the change
Nothing is permanent! Change is the only constant… clichéd but true. And especially in technology changes are rapid. When I started my online presence years back, it was on Blogger. Later, I switched to this WordPress powered site and migrated all the content here. I made the shift because WordPress offered better blogging tools, and went beyond the conventional blog look with its rich themes. My site began to look like a Portfolio+Blog site.
That was the beginning of my journey on WordPress. I selected F8 free WordPress theme created by Graph Paper Press and began creating content on my site. Over the years I did a lot of tweaking to it. But, WordPress evolved a great deal since then and my theme was obsolete to use the latest features of WordPress. Either I needed to upgrade F8 or get a new theme. F8 is free, so it had its limitations. This is where I started thinking of investing in a paid theme.
Focus on real task: Photography
Lot of my time was getting used up in tweaking the code of the theme to customize it. I was looking for a better (and faster) way to customize the theme such that more of my time could be devoted in creating the actual content that went into my website – photography, multimedia, blogging and so on. The theme I had to buy needed to have an User Interface which could help me save time.
There wasn’t any uniformity with the galleries that I used in my posts. Galleries ranged from SimpleViewer galleries to Soundslides projects. My existing theme did not have its own gallery management feature. This was a vital need to maintain coherence in my blogs.
Experiments with E-Commerce
Last year, I went completely independent and freelance with my work. So, there were newer avenues and business models that I needed to embrace for continuing Visual Story-telling as a profession. During this period, I self-published my first book, and subsequently an E-book for tablets. Learnings from this exercise is that the future of independent photography needs channels where you can directly share your stories to your audience without necessarily depending on media houses and old business models. The new channels should allow the photographer to earn a livelihood by directly reaching the audience without inter-mediation. So, I needed a theme where I can build strong E-Commerce platform for future. Would need to offer the audience various ways of owning copies of my work : books, e-books, prints, and other derivatives of my works.
Drop Down Menu Navigation
Drop-down menus have helped better navigation in websites. It has also allowed archived content to have better readership. New WordPress platform supported custom drop-down menus but my old theme could not make use of this new feature. The updated version of the free theme claimed to support the Drop-down menu system. But, on testing it, I found it to be cumbersome.
The free theme I was using had one major draw back – all the widgets appeared below the posts. So my web pages were bottom heavy! Very bad design. Readers of my blog failed to see these widgets. I didn’t have the time to dig through php, HTML and css to rework the entire layout. I needed a theme where widgets could be placed on either left or right side of the web pages. So, this requirement ruled out my old theme straight away. It indeed was a time for some good-bye!
I found Photocrati for 89 USD
After months of research I narrowed down on handful of premium WordPress themes. They all had their Pros and Cons. Cost was big deciding factor in the end. Majority of them were way too expensive. Graph Paper Press had many premium themes but I found it to be slightly over my budget. One of the themes that fit in my budget was Photocrati. It has a good internal gallery management system. It gave an easy UI to customize the look and feel of the website. I didn’t need to get down to changing CSS , HTML or PHP codes for majority of customization needs. It made use of the latest WordPress features including drop-down custom menus. Also, for the fee that I paid I was guaranteed tech support and updates for an entire year. And the latest version of Photocrati provides E-Commerce support by making use of PayPal. E-Commerce of Photocrati needs to evolve. It still is a long way before this theme has an end-to-end E-Commerce system. But, it indeed has given me a starting point for direct selling. At time of writing this blog I still need to implement this feature.
There have been many instances where a publication, NGO or some other client located me via search engines. I am not alone and there billions of independent photographers, journalists, artists and small businesses for whom being found on Google or any other search engine is a game changer in earning a livelihood. SEO or Search Engine Optimization is vital for the websites to be found. My website design was miserable when it came to SEO. To streamline it, I have added a WordPress plugin called All in One SEO Pack. The free version of this plugin does most of the tweaks that one would need while starting of with a SEO plan for their website. It seems to be working as this website is receiving many hits from search engines. Also, the rankings of my website on search engine for my target keywords have improved after installation of this plugin.
But do remember one thing. SEO along can’t do the trick. It needs to have a website with strong content. So, do not sit back with just SEO plugin on your site. Keep the good work going.
Spam mails are a nightmare for website owners. Earlier, I had publicly listed my email on the website. There was considerable amount of SPAM email I was receiving due to this. Hence, I decided to implement a Contact form and hide my email-Id. Visitors to my website could now directly contact me using the Contact Form provided on the site. There are many Contact Form plugins available for WordPress, but I have used the Contact Form 7 WordPress plugin. The Contact form still needs to be made stronger by adding CAPTCHA or text verification plugins.
(Update: Now I don’t need this plugin. As I have started using the Contact form provided by Jetpack plugin)
Related Posts Plugin
Every time a visitor to the website reads a post till the last word it means he/she is interested in a particular subject. Why not offer them archived posts which may be related to their subject of interest? This not only provides visitors with more content, but it also allows readership to your archived content by bringing them back to life. Earlier, I never had a such feature except for a widget that showed last five posts. Hence, another addition to this website has been a Related Posts Plugin. There are many such plugins in the WordPress repository. But, for a photography website, it would be ideal to have a plugin that can show thumbnails of images from the related posts. I found the answer in nrelate Related Content WordPress Plugin.
What you see below this post is the implementation of this plugin. (Temporarily the related posts plugin has been disabled)