An Inside Look At ‘Format’ As A Website & Portfolio Platform For Photographers
That is the average amount of time that your website has to grab a user’s attention before they bounce (apparently). What’s more, is that the average attention span is already less than that of a goldfish and it continues to dwindle with each passing year. That’s a lot of pressure when creating or updating a website that is representative of you in an effort to garner more business.
There are plenty of reputable platforms to choose from including Format, SquareSpace, Prophoto Blogs and WordPress among others, many of which offer a free 14-day trial. After signing up for the free trial and experimenting with all of the aforementioned, I kept coming back to the minimalist clean aesthetic and overall simplicity of Format, though we are fans of Squarespace also, and each do different things better than the other.
Like many of its counterparts, Format’s design center is very straightforward and includes 23 themes to choose from, four of which are considered premium for an extra few dollars a month. Pick the theme that you like and customize it from there. There is the option of keeping the exact theme verbatim and replacing each specific component with your own images, or you can start a page from scratch and design it to match your aesthetic.
Format has taken the stress out of editing and customizing an online portfolio on both the desktop version and the Format iPhone app. The interface is very user-friendly and easy to customize the galleries as you see fit and if you have ever used WordPress, this will be a breeze.
Preview Mode is available at all times to make sure everything is to one’s liking. But what happens if the current theme doesn’t hit a home run after all of that hard work? Format has made this a non-issue and allows for themes to be succinctly switched out without losing any previous progress.
There are questions that fall outside of the realm of easy self-discovery such as optimizing SEO and transferring of domains. Questions of any nature are submitted via the message center located in the bottom right corner and replies are received within 1 day (often within a few hours) via both the message center and in an email, both of which are possible to respond to and communicate with. They even offered to handle the transfer of my domain.
Each theme comes standard with an ‘About’ page that includes the option of automatically linking to one’s Instagram feed, making it even easier to build a social audience. Format also comes equipped with a built-in blog, advanced editor and client-proofing system with the option of password protection and watermarked images, all of which are ideal for photographers of any genre.
Unlike SquareSpace, Format isn’t necessarily synonymous with or particularly known for all things SEO, although they have created a “How-To” guide to make it as efficient as possible. The platform has also made it very easy to integrate Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools Integration within the site without having to manually change the code. Format’s websites are also optimized for search engine requirements.
Format utilizes a 3-tiered pricing model ranging from $7.99/mo ($6/mo if billed annually) up to $32.99/mo ($25/mo if billed annually) and includes the cost of hosting. Pick the best one that meets the requirements and demands of your business.
Format has made it possible to create an impactful and attractive portfolio with the ease of both the user and viewer in mind. While the platform has many benefits, it isn’t perfect. There are a few extra steps that need to be taken in order to be as SEO compatible as possible. I also found that the cover images for each page could use some work; the snippet that is shown when sharing a page to Facebook crops in and therefore isn’t ideal with portraiture. I am still looking to find the best dimensions for this particular theme.
It also seems that Format has listened to and continues to listen to its customer base. Former complaints of lack of video support and client proofing seem to have been addressed and it appears that this will continue to be the case as they continue to strive to be one of the best options for creatives.
The cons aren’t really a deal breaker when it comes to creating a very simple, clean and easy to navigate portfolio that is pretty to look at. The customization, customer service and price make Format a contender if you are in the market for a new website.