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Instagram Toolbox: Website Platforms

By Jennifer Wu on August 29th 2016

With every artist comes the need for a gallery to put their hard work on display. Instagram is a great tool to use because it is so user-friendly and gathers some amazing traffic to your profile that might get lost on another platform, but only goes so far in showcasing it in the best way possible. Having a separate site that links to your Instagram not only directs traffic to a gallery that is geared specifically to your needs, but can also be a wonderful marketing tool if you are trying to open up a shop to sell products (i.e. cosmetics, hair care, bodily organs, cats, etc.), or just become more personable with your viewers and not have them believe you are some crazy psychopath behind a well constructed feed. Especially now, since Instagram has added analytics that show you how many visitors click into your website linked in your profile, it is even more beneficial to have a separate site!

Below I’ll discuss some popular website choices you can choose from to add to your bookmarks. Let’s hop to it!

FORMAT

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 6.09.31 AMThis is a great, visually-appealing platform to utilize if you are very visual heavy and like more control over how things are laid out on your website. They have a ton of responsive themes that are easy to navigate and user friendly to obtain a look you’re desiring, while having flexibility to go a little into the backend and code it to suit you better.

Another feature that Format brings is Proofing, which allows you to manage and deliver images directly from your website to your client vs. going through a third party to do so. If you are a designer or photographer, this web platform is a great way to go! The only downside I can see with format is the pricing, because while it does say you are given an option of $6/month, you are only allowed to upload a mere 100 photos! If you are using this to send images to clients, you realize this isn’t a lot of space. The prices ends up jumping to $12, $24, and to a whooping $44 just to fit all your images. It’s like a committed relationship where you think you’re getting a great deal in the beginning but realize at the end you’re being used.

I mocked up a simple site to just give you guys an idea of where you could potentially start your creative direction. They give you a free trial to mess with before you commit to paying for a monthly rate. It was super easy to start and very user friendly, which is perfect for those of you that don’t really like to delve deep into the inner workings of things to decipher what button does what.

SHOPIFY

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 6.37.30 AMIf you like having even more flexibility with your website, Shopify is another web platform to look into. It’s great because starting a shop and adding it to an existing site is pretty easy. This commitment, however, is not for the feebleminded because the pricing is even steeper than Format. It’s great if you are pretty stuck on having a shop included and marketing yourself as a business—They have an option where you can opt for a plan of $9/month for their Shopify Lite—but it’s a very basic package that’s usually added to a site you’ve already built.

As for user interfacing, Format definitely takes the cake on this one. Format gives you step by step instructions as soon as you enter their site with visuals to help you on your journey. As soon as I created my Shopify account, despite the trial, it wanted me to set up my credit card and pick a plan before I fully committed. I think Shopify is a great add on to your site if you work through Tumblr, Squarespace, WordPress, etc. and $9/month to make even more revenue through an online shop doesn’t seem too steep to me. If you are adamant about launching your product though, doing it directly through Shopify may be the best option, mainly because of the perks they have included with their other plans such as a better shipping solution, lighter rates, more maneuverability, and checkout analytics.

SQUARESPACE

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 2.43.48 PMWhere Format ears more towards portfolio/blogging platforms and Shopify towards online retailing, Squarespace walks that fine line in between where it offers both options with competitive pricing that isn’t to be found in the other two. User interfacing when trying to set up your website is around the same as Shopify where you kind of have to click around for a bit to figure out how to mess with the settings.

Their themes, however, are not up to the same level and standard as the former 2. Format and Shopify both have a wide variety of themes to choose from, responsive themes with dynamic features that set them apart from just a simple scrolling blog format. I feel as though Squarespace’s themes are sleek, simple, and to the point, but doesn’t capture my attention when I am browsing through them.

WORDPRESS

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 5.09.44 PMNeither friend nor foe, WordPress will always be there when you have nowhere to go. The great thing about WordPress is that if you don’t mind having their name plastered on your domain, your site is technically free. However, you do have to sell your creative soul and work with whatever themes they concocted for you. Their themes are always a hit or miss, and if you do commit to purchasing one, you’re pretty much stuck with it until you take another leap of faith for another one.

If you do end up purchasing a domain and using WordPress as a platform, you have way more freedom and control over your site as well as access to themes created by other developers that you can implement into your site. It’s still not the best way to go if you want complete control over your aesthetic because trying to fiddle with the backend of WordPress is usually not too pretty.

For a blogging site, I consider WordPress as one of the easiest to use. There are specific places you can organize your posts, schedule, add hashtags, google analytics/search, comment sections, hyperlinks, and more. It is a very well rounded blogging platform and can also get good traffic from the WordPress community as well as Google search.

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TUMBLR

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 5.10.17 PMI remember back in the day when Tumblr used to be my go-to for everything! It wasa great start to a visual platform that paved the way for many picture-heavy dashboards (not saying it was a catalyst, but it was definitely one of the first blog sites that got me into shooting and posting my photography back in my good ol high school days). It is still a platform used by many of the younger generations as well as some who benefited off of their tumblr fame. If you like a mess-free website that also has decent traffic once coupled with those numerous hashtags we’ve all come to know and love (#cats, #cutecats, #cutercats, #cutestcats, #catsoftumblr, #ilovemycat), it’s a decent way to post your work. Their themes are easy to come by and not impossible to code on your own, so there is a lot of room for customization.

There are so many other resources out there for you which I haven’t discussed, but test the waters before committing to a specific site! Once you decide and import all your images/information, it is a little more trickier to back out. Let me know if you want me to review any other platforms and I would be more than happy to include them in a future article!

About

Jennifer is a photographer and graphic designer out in Los Angeles. When she’s not shooting fashion bloggers or creating social media content for brands, she’s usually bombarding her snapchat with too many photos of her adorable cat or coming up with terrible puns that her friends don’t find a-meow-sing

9 Comments

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  1. Eduardo Benitez

    Thanks very helpful, I use SmugMug with my own domain and works really well.

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  2. Lenzy Ruffin

    Squarespace combined with Pixieset for image delivery works for me.

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  3. Ravi Teja

    Great article jennifer, infact i am in the process of developing my website. I have squarespace in mind, but as you said their themes are very limited. Could you please review WIX.

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    • Jennifer Wu

      I’ve actually used wix in the past for another client of mine and I’ve got to say that their structure is very weak and design is just not up to the standards of the other web platforms. It is very difficult to keep a consistent alignment when inputting text and images throughout the website, customer service was abysmal and hard to reach, and there are a lot of bugs that they claimed on fixing that they didn’t get to when I was using it. Overall, it was a huge headache for me to use when designing for another client. If you like just having the freedom to just drag and drop information onto your page like a clipboard, it’s very useful in that aspect. In the professional setting, however, I would strongly advise against it.

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    • Ravi Teja

      Thanks jennifer.

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    • Jennifer Wu

      of course :)!

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    • Dennis Christians

      So, you’re a fan? ;)

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