This is a continuation of a series of posts about reworking my website into one that is entirely WordPress based. The series starts here:
Having decided on WordPress, the key decision is what theme to use. If I get the right theme, customization to my specific needs and aesthetics will be easy, and done with no more than trivial code changes. Starting with the right theme is crucial. I don’t want to get hours and hours of my time (or a high-priced designer’s time) invested in an implementation, only to discover that the theme can’t be bent to do what I want.
So I thought I’d start my search for a theme by making a list of what I’d like it to do.
Be stable. This should go without saying. Don’t we all want our software to be stable? Of course we do. But there are tradeoffs. Stable software tends to be old and tested. That means it may lack modern features. I would be willing to sacrifice some features, for improved stability, but I’m not hard over on this one. The kinds of devices that people use to access the web are changing rapidly, and the server side software has to keep up with that.
Be secure. Another obvious one, huh? There are tradeoffs here, too. Security means defensive coding and thorough testing. I’m all for that. But complex web code is going to have errors that could lead to security breaches, and a big measure of how secure a them is is how diligent the developers are at tracking users experience, and how rapidly they fix problems when they crop up. Already we have treadoffs between my objectives, and we only have two so far, since rapid fixes are more likely to contain bugs.
Have lots of users. This is in one sense in conflict with the security objective, and in one sense not. A small number of users means that you’re too small a target for the script writers to go after. That’s good, and it’s the reason that for a long time, Macintoshes were safe from viruses. But having lots of users means that there are lots of people out there beating on the sites every day, and security holes are more likely to be discovered. At the end of the day, I come down on the side of being part of a big crowd. Having lots of users also has beneficial implications for support, and for the providing company staying in business.
Be provided by a large company with a track record. WordPress continues to evolve. Themes need to be updated for compatibility. Users’ device change. Bugs need to be fixed. When you choose a theme, you’re not just getting a bunch of code, you’re — hopefully — getting a continuing and bountiful stream of future enhancements. You need your theme provider to stay in business, but not just that, you want them to flourish.
The main part of my web site is a series of what I call galleries. They are sometimes called portfolios by theme designers and marketeers. I am willing, if necessary, to have the gallery section of my website run on its own WordPress instance, so I don’t need to do blogging or post a lot of text pages using the theme that drives the galleries.. The next set of requirements deals with the gallery theme.
- Support up to 50 galleries, each with up to 50 images.
- Have a slide show feature.
- Have a light table feature, with thumbnails and a large version of the selected image shown.
- Have intuitive, simple navigation, and (ideally) support moving to the next image with the right arrow key, and going back to the previous on with the left arrow key.
- Support artist’s statements for each gallery.
- Allow captioning each image. Take the caption information from the image metadata. Allow it to be edited if need be.
- Show captions in large and thumbnail views. Hover captions are OK.
- Allow searching by caption and gallery (not essential, but nice to have).
- Have a top-level page that allow selection of galleries.
- Be able to add top-of-page banner links to all of the other parts of my site, like this blog.
- Be able to support top-level gallery access, and to go from there wither directly to a gallery, or to another page that has access to further galleries. I use this on my site currently for the underwater images, but I could decide to categorize the projects by type.
- Compatible with common WordPress plug-ins such as WordFence, VaultPress, Akismet, etc.
- SEO friendly.
And, carrying the general requirements from yesterday over:
- Automatically format content appropriately for personal computers, tablets, and phones.
- Use HTTP5
It’s not too long a list. I don’t need to sell images from the site. My problem is that there are an immense number of themes out there. How to choose?
Matt O'Brien says
“Allow captioning each image. Take the caption information from the image metadata. Allow it to be edited if need be.”
This is the area I had greatest level of grief when I built a WordPress site several years ago. I started with most of the same objectives as yourself. Make sure your theme and plug-ins can handle Title as well as Caption.
I eventually gave up on WordPress (having solved most of my initial needs) becasue it became too much effort to maintain, ie not just WordPress, but all the supporting layers as well.
I notice many services respect Title and Caption metadata now (eg Flickr) so hopefully this will be less of a challenge for you.
Max Davis says
Look forward to your next instalment. I’m trying to set up my own photo website to showcase my wedding business, but I haven’t any website experience . A friend suggested looking at theme forest but its kind of difficult to choose with little guidance. Do you have any suggestions as to a way of approaching this, please?
With no website experience, it makes little sense for you to separate the hosting and template decisions, I think. Why not go with an all-in-one service, like this one?
Downside: your site won’t be portable.
Lynn Allan says
I’ve been using Zenfolio for several years, and have been generally satisfied. However, I don’t have much of a basis of comparison … I shifted from another photo sharing host that went out of business. Also, I don’t use Zenfolio to sell photos, so I have no experience with how they handle a “shopping cart”.
Rajan Parrikar says
I use the ProPhoto theme that is extremely customizable. Their latest release is terrific. In fact, my complaint now is that it is saddled with too many options.