Welcome to the completely new The Ninth website!
In this blog post I would like to write a few lines on why I choose my new website platform Format, and about my experiences in setting up this website with them.
The original site launched in 2007 was based on my own custom development, which I constantly enhanced with new features and improvements till 2017. At that point the site already looked a bit outdated, and the lack of support of mobile devices became an increasing issue. Also the formerly widespread use of photo blogs and RSS feeds has been replaced by photo sharing sites like Instagram or Flickr. I wanted to catch up to these trends but was not willing to put in the work for a major overhaul of the custom development, so I started to look at commercially available platforms.
But before we get into that, here a few screenshots of the last version of the old site, which is still available here. I will especially miss the unique world map, which allowed access to all photos via their location.
I am a subscriber to Adobe’s Creative Cloud photography plan, so the first option I evaluated was Adobe Portfolio, which is included in that plan. I really liked the platform, the customization options it offered and its integration into Lightroom.
I knew that one important feature for my new site is the grid view. I wanted to allow users to quickly browse through my photos in a reasonable size and without having to click from one photo to the next. And this is where Adobe could not satisfy me: their grid view favored photos in landscape orientation. Those are shown sufficiently large, but portrait photos were often displayed as tiny thumbnails. Since my portfolio has more photos in portrait orientation than in landscape, this was not acceptable.
Next I started to browse the Internet for reviews of the many other commercially available portfolio platforms, and came across this review. The Canadian company Format came in first and I decided to have a look at their offering.
The standard themes looked quite promising and I settled on their Amazon theme.
Most changes I wanted to do to the theme were easily implemented within the Format user interface. For a couple of things I had to add my own CSS code. There were a few remaining topics, which took me many days to resolve and some changes in the HTML and Liquid code, but I found satisfying resolutions for all of them.
CSS customizations are well separated from the website code and Format allows them to be migrated to new versions of the theme. HTML and Liquid modifications will require manual migration to new theme versions. It is important to note that though Format advertises and charges for these advanced customization options, they will not support you. To use them you need a degree of web development experience and the willingness and patience to reverse engineer and experiment.
I have also written a more detailed article on my experiences with customizing Format.
Update 23/07/2018: in the meantime I have written a few more blog articles and from that experience have to add that the blog feature of Format is quite basic and limiting. The editor is sometimes hard to work with, and the options to format and layout your articles are scarce. So if blogging is important to you, have a close look before you settle on Format.
In the end I was happy with all aspects of the site and replaced my old site near the end of the free trial period. To replace the photo blog of my old site I also started feeds on Instagram and Flickr. If you are looking for a commercial framework for your online portfolio, Format is for sure a very viable option. Especially noteworthy is their support team, which usually reacts quickly and competently. However, if you are not happy with the standard themes and want to do some advanced customization, you should bring some web development experience with you.
If you have any questions regarding Format, I’ll be happy to try to help. Feel free to contact me.
In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy my new website!
All the best, Robert