Photocrati Review – Build Your Own Site
Recently I re-built my website at CNWPhoto.com using the photocrati theme and was so impressed, I had to write a review.
First off, the program is highly affordable and if you have any knowledge of web design, using wordpress, or hosting a site, then you'll find it incredibly easy to install and use. Even if you don't have the experience, it should be simple enough to figure out using PhotoCrati's own instructions on their site.
In the past, I have tried several methods for websites. I've used SmugMug.com which is a great program, but didn't really make the site my own. Then I moved on to building my own site in Dreamweaver, and to do this, I used freeware called Jalbum to create the galleries. It made for some nice looking galleries and site, but took a ton of work to create. It also made it such a hassle to change out the galleries that I neglected the site for over a year. Plus, I never figured out how to make a blog on the site as well without using seperate software that I couldn't integrate with the theme.
Even though I'm a fairly experienced web designer, it still took too much effort and tech skills for me to create and manage a site the way I envisioned it should be.
So about a month ago, I decided it was time for a change…. Enter PhotoCrati.
After much browsing on the internet, and reading different reviews for all kinds of options, I finally settled on PhotoCrati. It's not a complete solution, meaning you will still need to sign up for a host, domain, and install wordpress. Fortunately, they explain how to do all of this in detail on their website.
Once you have your host and domain setup with wordpress, you'll enter the backend of wordpress and install the theme (again, explained on the PhotoCrati Site). The process is fairly simple and straightforward, and thanks to clear instructions almost anyone with some tech know-how will be able to do this.
You can also use wordpress.com to setup your site for free (you'll have to pay extra for a different domain name) and this will be the easiest way to get up and running. Another great feature of photocrati is the ability to create an e-commerce solution. I have not played with this option yet, but if you are looking for a way to sell your images, this is the only wordpress theme that has e-commerce built-in.
Look and Feel
I've used wordpress for various websites over several years now, and have found that most themes share one downfall. They don't have simple instructions that will get you up and running, and require a ton of technical programming to make them look good. With PhotoCrati, there are literally 60 different designs to flip between right out of the box. All are part of one main wordpress theme, so you'll switch them from inside the "Theme Options" panel at the top. This panel has "Quick Setup" instructions that will instruct you on how to get your site up and running in no time.
Once you have a theme style you like, you can use the "Customize Theme" panel to change colors, and just about every aspect of the site you could want. The layout of the panel is simple and understandable right away, refreshing compared to so many other themes I've tried.
After following the directions for setup, you'll get to the last steps where you actually create the galleries. These are easy to follow, and give you several options for changing the style of each gallery. You can even put multiple galleries on the same page! On top of that, there is no limit to the amount of galleries your site can have. When it's time to change photos, simply remove them from the gallery and add others. Re-arrange the gallery with a drag-and-drop interface. It's all very intuitive.
Customization is the name of the game with PhotoCrati, most styles you can think of are easy and quick to setup. The menu is fully customizable to your needs. Don't want a blog, don't add one! Want a blog page, simply follow their instructions and you'll be up and running in less than 5 minutes. Need captions, check the box! Want a film strip below the slideshow, choose that setting. Want music in your gallery? Yup, that's built-in too and easy to do!
The Bottom Line
If you are looking to setup an impressive photography website while making it look custom, and retaining the ability to change the design and galleries with ease, PhotoCrati is an excellent solution. Its very inexpensive, takes little techy know-how, and lets you run a blog to keep your clients informed of your work. Add e-commerce, unlimited galleries, no monthly or yearly fee, and quick customization to the mix and you've got a grand slam! For more information about photocrati, check out their website here.
At APS, we give PhotoCrati a 10 out of 10. It's simply the best photo website tool we've ever used for a number of reasons.
(Update: This option is still the best we've found, and seems to be more customizable all the time. After having issues with other site templates and services not staying current with wordpress updates, we've found that PhotoCrati keeps it updated and is on it! This is vital since lagging behind on updates can mean malfunctioning and downed sites.)