Need Ideas for Website Hosting and Templates

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Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
I'm trying to find a free or cheap host for a photography business website. I'm also looking for customizable templates and I'd like something that looks professional, yet very cheap if possible. I'm going to be creating a blog to link to it, probably using Wordpress. So, I'm wondering if there is anyplace that I can get affordable custom templates?? Any suggestions would be great!
 

christianyouth

Puritan Board Senior
Wordpress is used a lot for blogs, but it's also excellent for websites. There are so many themes and templates out there for WP that it's unbelievable. Seriously, you could probably find like 50 WP templates designed just for photographers, and then you could pay an Indian like $30-100 to make you a customized logo and then you have a legitimate website with a professional look.

I'm not sure where everyone goes to find the templates though, I have some friends who are big into affiliate marketing and put up a lot of websites regularly with WP. I'll ask them where they get their WP themes.

But yeah, WP is amazing now for any local website. The templates are extremely easy to customize and some of the themes are 10x better than what you could get from a under $2k developer.
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
For hosting: http://knapptech.com. I use them for my blog, and I'm quite satisfied. Plus they have WordPress available for easy install. I pay $5 a month and have no problems.

For a template, check out http://elegantthemes.com. You pay $20 and you have access to all of their premium WordPress themes. They have at least one that is specifically for photography, if I remember correctly (see here).
 

Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
Thanks so much guys! Yeah, WP does have a lot of themes, but I need something more customizable. I did find some good websites where they create custom templates but they charge at least $200 and I can't afford that right now. So, I'd like to start out with something more affordable.

Btw, do you know where I can find someone to create a business logo for cheap??
 

Der Pilger

Puritan Board Freshman
I recently set up a Wordpress blog for my church outreach ministry (link in sig) using Artisteer. It costs $49.95 for the version that lets you make Wordpress themes. They have a trial version for free download. I think it's great software because it is a snap to make custom, professional-looking themes of your own without having to know html/css. You can also export as regular HTML (regular web site, not a blog) if you don't want to use it for Wordpress.
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks so much guys! Yeah, WP does have a lot of themes, but I need something more customizable. I did find some good websites where they create custom templates but they charge at least $200 and I can't afford that right now. So, I'd like to start out with something more affordable.

Btw, do you know where I can find someone to create a business logo for cheap??

What customization features are you looking for? I'd highly recommend the themes of Elegant Themes, as they're professional looking, as opposed to many themes you'll find out there. If you tell me what you're looking to customize, then I can probably give you an idea of how hard it would be to customize the Elegant Theme I linked to (see demo here). Colors, layout, etc., can all be changed (I could probably do it for you). So just let me know what you're thinking of, and I can probably give more of an idea of what's possible.
 

Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
What customization features are you looking for? I'd highly recommend the themes of Elegant Themes, as they're professional looking, as opposed to many themes you'll find out there. If you tell me what you're looking to customize, then I can probably give you an idea of how hard it would be to customize the Elegant Theme I linked to (see demo here). Colors, layout, etc., can all be changed (I could probably do it for you). So just let me know what you're thinking of, and I can probably give more of an idea of what's possible.

Hi Joel, Thanks for being so willing to help! Actually, I'd like something that's pretty simple yet looks like a blogsite. Simple layout, categories near the top, nice background, and large photo's. I think that's my biggest desire is to have large photo's displayed. Most blogs show small images that you can click on to enlarge, but I'd like them to be large to begin with. Here is a sample of the type of layout that I'd like: Vancouver Wedding Photography If you happen to know if I could do something similar for a small nominal fee that would be great! Let me know what you think, thanks so much!
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
What customization features are you looking for? I'd highly recommend the themes of Elegant Themes, as they're professional looking, as opposed to many themes you'll find out there. If you tell me what you're looking to customize, then I can probably give you an idea of how hard it would be to customize the Elegant Theme I linked to (see demo here). Colors, layout, etc., can all be changed (I could probably do it for you). So just let me know what you're thinking of, and I can probably give more of an idea of what's possible.

Hi Joel, Thanks for being so willing to help! Actually, I'd like something that's pretty simple yet looks like a blogsite. Simple layout, categories near the top, nice background, and large photo's. I think that's my biggest desire is to have large photo's displayed. Most blogs show small images that you can click on to enlarge, but I'd like them to be large to begin with. Here is a sample of the type of layout that I'd like: Vancouver Wedding Photography If you happen to know if I could do something similar for a small nominal fee that would be great! Let me know what you think, thanks so much!

Okay, I'll look into that a little, but another question:

The site you linked to is her blog page. It has the large photos basically just inserted into blog posts. That's quite easy to do. But if you click on "Website" on the page you linked to, it takes you to her main page, which is set up quite differently (uses Flash). Are you wanting to have something like both of those? Or just one main site like her blog page which will also have links to your galleries?
 

Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
Okay, I'll look into that a little, but another question:

The site you linked to is her blog page. It has the large photos basically just inserted into blog posts. That's quite easy to do. But if you click on "Website" on the page you linked to, it takes you to her main page, which is set up quite differently (uses Flash). Are you wanting to have something like both of those? Or just one main site like her blog page which will also have links to your galleries?

I was thinking more along the lines of one main site similar to her blog page that will have links to galleries. But, doesn't the blog header use some sort of flash?? You'd probably know better than I do.
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
I was thinking more along the lines of one main site similar to her blog page that will have links to galleries. But, doesn't the blog header use some sort of flash?? You'd probably know better than I do.

If so, then WordPress is very doable. Her blog (the site you linked to) is run with WordPress. So that wouldn't be hard to set up. Her theme is quite simple, and to do something like that wouldn't be hard. Let me see what I can come up with and you can take a look.

Her header is Flash. I didn't notice it before. But you can do the same thing without too much difficulty.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
If you want to make it "easy" on the Blogging thing then just blog from Wordpress.com or Blogger.com. No sense in paying for web hosting just to host a blog.

I don't really have a sense for what it is you want to do with your "photography business". If you are a photographer and want to sell photos and advertise your work on the main site then, again, go with Smugmug. I haven't seen advice here from anybody actually running a photography business and generic knowledge about what might be available for other kinds of hosting is not germane. I've been building websites for over 16 years now - everything from straight HTML to blogging to Church sites to large forums to photography to many other kinds of sites.

There is not a "Oh, this worked for my blog so it will work for your photography business" solution.

Having a blog in conjunction with your photography website is a good idea but your goal here is not to spend/waste time trying to maintain a blog but to blog in order to promote your photography. If you host your own Wordpress instance then you'll be spending money and time that you don't need.

The only reason to host your own Wordpress blog is because you enjoy the "hobby" aspect of self-hosting and administration of the back end.

The other mistake most people make is an assumption that aesthetics is the key factor to web success. It's not even close. The most successful websites in the world are also the most austere. I recommend a free account on Wordpress.com or Blogger.com and just find a theme you like. Don't spend a dime on a theme. If your business was big enough to worry about a custom blogging theme then you wouldn't need to come to us for advice but your IT person dedicated to supporting you would be doing this research for you.

Go with what's simple and focus your time on what really matters. Get the blog up and the site up to start advertising your work and then start using keywords that will attract the right kind of traffic.
 

Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
If you want to make it "easy" on the Blogging thing then just blog from Wordpress.com or Blogger.com. No sense in paying for web hosting just to host a blog.

I don't really have a sense for what it is you want to do with your "photography business". If you are a photographer and want to sell photos and advertise your work on the main site then, again, go with Smugmug. I haven't seen advice here from anybody actually running a photography business and generic knowledge about what might be available for other kinds of hosting is not germane. I've been building websites for over 16 years now - everything from straight HTML to blogging to Church sites to large forums to photography to many other kinds of sites.

There is not a "Oh, this worked for my blog so it will work for your photography business" solution.

Having a blog in conjunction with your photography website is a good idea but your goal here is not to spend/waste time trying to maintain a blog but to blog in order to promote your photography. If you host your own Wordpress instance then you'll be spending money and time that you don't need.

The only reason to host your own Wordpress blog is because you enjoy the "hobby" aspect of self-hosting and administration of the back end.

The other mistake most people make is an assumption that aesthetics is the key factor to web success. It's not even close. The most successful websites in the world are also the most austere. I recommend a free account on Wordpress.com or Blogger.com and just find a theme you like. Don't spend a dime on a theme. If your business was big enough to worry about a custom blogging theme then you wouldn't need to come to us for advice but your IT person dedicated to supporting you would be doing this research for you.

Go with what's simple and focus your time on what really matters. Get the blog up and the site up to start advertising your work and then start using keywords that will attract the right kind of traffic.

Rich,

To be quite frank, I found your first post to be helpful, but this one just seems a bit arrogant to me. I may be wrong, but that's the way it came across to me. I appreciate your opinion, and I also appreciate the opinion of others as well. I don't mind the fact that others have chimed in here, in fact they have been incredibly helpful to me so I'm glad that they have! But what I don't appreciate is putting my "photography business" in quotations, I'm not sure what your purpose was in doing that. I also don't find this helpful at all: "If your business was big enough to worry about a custom blogging theme then you wouldn't need to come to us for advice but your IT person dedicated to supporting you would be doing this research for you."

If you look at previous posts, you'll see that I expressed a desire to have a "blogsite" which is both a website and blog in one. Eventually, I would like to have a custom website and separate blog, but for now, I will be using a blogsite to promote my business. For the type of photography that I'm doing, a blog/blogsite is actually the best promotional tool. I've done plenty of research on marketing and SEO etc. So, I'm quite aware of what's most important when dealing with web success. I didn't ask about that specifically, I asked about suggestions for web-hosting and custom templates.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Yvonne,

I was not attempting to be arrogant but to provide some help. Web boards don't communicate intent well. Not to speak as a fool, but I do speak with a bit of technical "know how". I've been in IT for over 20 years and plan/design networks for over 100,000 users in my current capacity. I'm trying to scope the advice to what's relevant to what your stated needs are.

The quoting of photography business was to put what you were looking to promote into context. Building a website for a blog or for a Church or another type of business leads to one decision for hosting over another. If you want a place that will host your photos as well as giving you maximal ability to sell your photos and provide the ability to put packages together then you won't want to go with a traditional hosting plan. If you ever intend to sell your photos then creating a Shopping Cart into your blog decision for hosting will prove to be very complex and add expense that you can avoid up front.

Add to this equation that many shared hosting plans won't provide the degree of physical diversity and long term storage of your photos that Smugmug will offer as they host the photos on the Amazon S3 architecture.

My point about your size is that your initial size lends itself to simplicity and usability over aesthetics and most people focus on aesthetics at the expense of building a site that will really promote what they do. If you feel like you've done enough research and understand SEO and blogs enough I will refrain from further help.
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
If you want to make it "easy" on the Blogging thing then just blog from Wordpress.com or Blogger.com. No sense in paying for web hosting just to host a blog.

I don't really have a sense for what it is you want to do with your "photography business". If you are a photographer and want to sell photos and advertise your work on the main site then, again, go with Smugmug. I haven't seen advice here from anybody actually running a photography business and generic knowledge about what might be available for other kinds of hosting is not germane. I've been building websites for over 16 years now - everything from straight HTML to blogging to Church sites to large forums to photography to many other kinds of sites.

I wouldn't necessarily disagree with this. Rich is definitely right in that a lot of this depends on what you're wanting to do. If you want to actually sell pictures off the site, with a shopping cart, etc., etc., hosting your own WordPress account is not the way to go, as it would take a lot more than you probably know how to do or are willing to pay for. So if you want to really run a business through the site, you need to look at other options.

There is not a "Oh, this worked for my blog so it will work for your photography business" solution.

Having a blog in conjunction with your photography website is a good idea but your goal here is not to spend/waste time trying to maintain a blog but to blog in order to promote your photography. If you host your own Wordpress instance then you'll be spending money and time that you don't need.

Except that by hosting one's own WP install, you can customize your site so that the main WP page is not the blog, but you can have the blog as a separate part if you want.

The only reason to host your own Wordpress blog is because you enjoy the "hobby" aspect of self-hosting and administration of the back end.

I'm not sure that this is entirely true. You can do a lot more customization and the themes available on Wordpress.com, in my opinion, are free for a reason.

The other mistake most people make is an assumption that aesthetics is the key factor to web success. It's not even close. The most successful websites in the world are also the most austere. I recommend a free account on Wordpress.com or Blogger.com and just find a theme you like. Don't spend a dime on a theme. If your business was big enough to worry about a custom blogging theme then you wouldn't need to come to us for advice but your IT person dedicated to supporting you would be doing this research for you.

Go with what's simple and focus your time on what really matters. Get the blog up and the site up to start advertising your work and then start using keywords that will attract the right kind of traffic.

Again, I don't necessarily disagree with this in its entirety. However, I think aesthetics (particularly for anything related to photography or graphic design) are quite important. When it comes to businesses I am considering using, if I think the website looks amateur, I assume the same about the quality of the product. I'm sure lots of people don't think like that, but I definitely do, and I know a lot of people who are the same. So again, Rich is right in that you really need to know exactly what you want this website for. If you just want to blog and put some pictures up, using a free Wordpress.com account may be the way to go. If you want to have a more professional looking site with full info on your business, along with a blogging feature, I'm not convinced the the free option is really the way to go.

---------- Post added at 03:41 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:30 PM ----------

And let me add this:

I would trust Rich much more than myself about anything to do with the technical aspect, the "function" of all of this. I've been really talking more about the form or the look and feel of everything. To me, that is very important. To Rich, he's trying to clarify for you the function of your site. E.g., if you look at his SmugMug page, it appears (correct me if I'm wrong, Rich) that one can view the galleries, look at them in different sizes, and buy them all right off of the site. Those are all great functions that to have up on your own site would be more than you're probably wanting to deal with. So again, trust Rich about the function stuff.

I wasn't thinking, as he said, so much about the business side of it, but rather the look of a site where people could go to get a feel for your photography and contact you for projects, etc. I think that a site like that needs to look sharp. Anyhow, just some thoughts.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Joel,

I'm a big fan of a custom Wordpress site where it makes sense. Some examples of what I've built in Wordpress:

Naphtali Press
The Confessional Presbyterian
AFCEA Quantico-Potomac
http://www.hopeofchrist.net
http://www.temeculaopc.org

The reason I mention the "hobby" aspect is that keeping up with a Wordpress install on your own host requires more work and customization than many even intermediate web folks know how to keep secure. New patches for plugins are released regularly and you also need a good plan on how to back up the site and the database in the event of a crash. If you don't know how to script backups that can be a challenge.

Also, as you can see from some of the sites, I've integrated a shopping cart but that presents its own challenges of setting up an SSL cert (another cost) to provide a Secure Sockets layer link for transactions. You can set up Paypal but then that's another aspect of the problem.

Aesthetically speaking, I was not advocating a "cheap look" but there are many Blogger and Wordpress themes that are very elegant for the purposes of blogging. If I were to set it up, I would focus on making a place to host the photos and provide all the backend processing built into the solution. That's why Smugmug. It's got everything one could need for a photo business (including the ability to make custom packages, etc) along with allowing them to worry about all the shopping cart and security functions. All that for $10 a month with unlimited storage of photos on a physically diverse and rock solid infrastructure. I've got thousands of photos uploaded that I never have to worry about losing.

I would buy a custom domain and set the www CNAME record to point to the Smugmug account and the blog CNAME record to point to the free blogging site with which I could promote the photos.
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
Joel,

I'm well aware of the advantages of hosting your own Wordpress site and all for it where it makes sense. Some examples of what I've built in Wordpress:

Naphtali Press
The Confessional Presbyterian
AFCEA Quantico-Potomac
Hope of Christ Church, Stafford, VA
http://www.temeculaopc.org

The reason I mention the "hobby" aspect is that keeping up with a Wordpress install on your own host requires more work and customization than many even intermediate web folks know how to keep secure. New patches for plugins are released regularly and you also need a good plan on how to back up the site and the database in the event of a crash. If you don't know how to script backups that can be a challenge.

Also, as you can see from some of the sites, I've integrated a shopping cart but that presents its own challenges of setting up an SSL cert (another cost) to provide a Secure Sockets layer link for transactions. You can set up Paypal but then that's another aspect of the problem.

Aesthetically speaking, I was not advocating a "cheap look" but there are many Blogger and Wordpress themes that are very elegant for the purposes of blogging. If I were to set it up, I would focus on making a place to host the photos and provide all the backend processing built into the solution. That's why Smugmug. It's got everything one could need for a photo business (including the ability to make custom packages, etc) along with allowing them to worry about all the shopping cart and security functions. All that for $10 a month with unlimited storage of photos on a physically diverse and rock solid infrastructure. I've got thousands of photos uploaded that I never have to worry about losing.

I would buy a custom domain and set the www CNAME record to point to the Smugmug account and the blog CNAME record to point to the free blogging site with which I could promote the photos.

Rich,

I wasn't questioning your knowledge on hosting WordPress. I've been on some of your various sites from time to time, so I know you know what you're doing. I guess you're thinking more of the business side of it...I was thinking more just of a site where people can go and find some sample photos, get info, and contact her about a project. And granted, one can do that on WP.com, and I realize that not all of the themes there are a "cheap look," but I'm not impressed by them either, particularly for a business. But as you say, hosting your own WP is easier with knowledge of CSS, etc.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Right, and I didn't take your response as challenging me. I was trying to gage where Yvonne is going long term so she can scope out the full requirement and make sure the solution chosen meets current as well as future requirements.
 

Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
Hi Rich,

Thanks for your clarification, I'm sorry that I overreacted! I guess when I read it, it came across to me as though you were implying that my business wasn't very professional and so I shouldn't even bother customizing anything and just stick to basics. So, I'm sorry that I read that into your post!

I do know quite a bit about marketing in general and SEO, but I know very little about websites and web design which is why I asked for some help. I appreciate you asking about my long term needs, and you're right I should definitely be considering those factors sooner than later. I would like to include a gallery where clients can view their session portraits. What I've seen other photog's do, is work with a printing merchant that provides an ordering link directly from the gallery. I've seen them be able to do that from blogs such as Wordpress. So, I'm not sure if that's necessarily a shopping cart? You would probably know more than I would about that.

I do like SmugMug, but the reason I don't want to go with it at this time, is because I'm more interested in creating a blogsite where I can provide updates and people can comment etc. The interaction is what will promote my business the most. And it can include galleries, contact info, session and pricing info. etc. At a later time, I'd like to create a nice website that will link to my blog. I understand what you mean about people focusing too much on aesthetics and not enough on functionality. And I'd like a good balance of both if possible! I guess I feel like Joel, that if a site is too basic it conveys an unprofessionalism about the product or service itself. And with photography...I'm not just selling a service but I'm branding myself as well. And so the layout and design is essential as it's part of my branding. Anyhow, I appreciate your insight and your help and your advice is more than welcomed!
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Yvonne,

What I'm trying to explain is you can do both. Let's say you get the domain: Yvonnesphotos.com

You could set up www.yvonnesphontos.com to go to Smugmug and blog.yvonnesphotos.com to go to a free Wordpress.com site.

Pay for Smugmug to host all your photos, sell them, set up packages, etc and then blog about them on your wordpress.com site. You can set custom domains for both and its just a matter of configuring the domain to go to the right site based on the CNAME records.

If you need help setting it up let me know.
 
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