Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Your Home On The Web, Part 1
Making a polished and professional-looking website doesn't have to be an all-consuming endeavor. A number of companies can have you up and running at a low cost and with a minimum of hassle.
If you need customization for your website beyond the available options, you can expect to pay $50 per hour and up. You might find this worthwhile, though, as a way to make your site stand out from everyone else using the same template. Most of the options covered here allow at least some level of customization, such as background colors, menu styles and font selections. With that in mind, let's take a look at what's available. We also feature a table for easy reference on each of the sites covered.
BIG Folio offers a complete set of web solutions for photographers, and it's clear that the designs are done with photography in mind. Both HTML and Flash templates are available, as well as custom design services through its consulting group.
BIG Folio has three levels of service and template styles, with each giving more features and storage space, starting at 100 MB for $25 a month. Template designs can be customized with your own logos, music, color and images to help your site stand out from others using the same basic template. Online administration tools enable you to easily add pages and galleries to your site, and reporting tools track visits to your site. Links can also be created for PayPal shopping carts and online proofing services such as Eventpix and Pictage.
A separate service, BIG Show, is available for studios that want to have custom slideshows online. Ideal for wedding and event photographers, this feature is only $99 per year for an unlimited number of slideshows.
ClickImage is launching a new option this spring, with many of the features needed for a pro photography site. myPhotoBiz will be offered as a free service to all members of ClickImage.com and MyPhotographer.com. Along with customizable templates, e-mail accounts and unlimited galleries and images, myPhotoBiz builds on the existing features of MyPhotographer for e-commerce. Rather than direct sales, ClickImage and MyPhotographer handle all image sales, including prints and novelty items (shirts, mugs, frames), taking a portion of the cost as its method of revenue generation. Online reporting tells you how many orders you've had and what your year-to-date sales are to allow you to track how much income you're generating from your site.
myPhotoBiz can create a website using your own domain name or you can create one on its domain. Whichever method you select, it's a simple process to select a template and add custom text and images. Once you've created your account, you have priority listing in MyPhotographer, which is billed as the leading photographer search engine in the U.S.
liveBooks offers very few options on site layout, but goes beyond many of the other sites in the service offered, as well as ease of use. The basic Folio package gives you one portfolio with up to 64 total images, while the Lite package bumps that to three portfolios, along with 1,000 images that can be stored online. The Pro package adds an additional portfolio, plus much larger image size viewing options.
All colors, fonts, music and other options can be customized, but your image presentation and navigation options are determined by the template. In the case of liveBooks, this is a good thing; it has a very fast and intuitive navigation system that puts the focus where you want it—on your images. Home page, About, Contact and custom pages can be created by you for uploading or by liveBooks at an hourly rate, and custom services such as shopping carts can be added.
liveBooks hosts your site (no option to host on your servers) and handles transfer of an existing domain name once your site is ready to go online. The editSuite tool makes image upload, selection and ordering extremely easy, mimicking the lightbox selection process with which many of us are familiar. Uploading images is as simple as a drag-and-drop from your computer onto the editSuite window. Images can be displayed one or two up on a page and can be changed anytime by dragging them from the library to the web page. You can group online archives into different libraries to make image selection and sorting easier.
Rather than charging a monthly or annual fee, you pay for your site creation one time and then own it. Hosting is a modest $90 per year.
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