As if creative professionals already didn’t have their hands full managing their careers and keeping their work relevant, they also have to maintain strong online presences in order to be visible to clients. The first step in this direction is a website that introduces you and your work to the world – but who has the time to build and maintain sites these days?
The team behind 4ormat believes that you can do it yourself. Their app gives you the tools you need to create beautiful portfolio websites with ease, without having to know how to design or code. There’s a lot you can do with 4ormat and the results are stunning, so if you’re ready to take the plunge and put your work online for all to see, let’s take a look at how we can build our own site.
4ormat is a website builder geared towards photographers, graphic designers, artists and videographers who want to build portfolio sites quickly and easily. There are a variety of templates available to suit your style and look great on desktops, and mobile devices are accommodated with touch-optimized themes too. You don’t need any prior experience building sites to get started and can try out any of the app’s plans at no charge before you begin paying for it.
4ormat has three plans, starting at US$6.99/month which include custom domains, drag-and-drop editing, fully customizable themes, 100 pages and 100 images, unlimited videos and bandwidth, CSS customization, touch-enabled sites for iPhone, iPad, mobiles and tablets, Google Analytics and email support – and go up to US$24.99/month (which also scores you HTML customization and private pages).
You can sign up to use 4ormat (one site per account) and try any of the plans for free for 30 days. Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be prompted to create your site by giving it a title and selecting a site theme to work with. There are more themes available within the app and new ones are added monthly. You can then proceed to build the rest of your site by delving into the four sections – Pages, Design, Settings and Promote.
Building a 4ormat site
One of the great things about 4ormat is that your pages and content can remain completely intact even when you switch themes. I decided to put together a small photography portfolio featuring my pictures from a recent metal concert (with Lamb of God, Bhayanak Maut and Skyharbor) and began by editing the homepage Gallery in the Pages section.
The Gallery is one of three page types (apart from a Listing page type with linked thumbnails and a Simple page type with text and image content), and allows you to add text, video and images. Videos can be added by pasting a YouTube or Vimeo URL, and images can be added by uploading in batches. Text doesn’t look great when added to the gallery, though – not without some CSS styling, anyway.
By default, the Gallery page is also your homepage and will suit most creative professionals’ needs. The page manager is very simple to use – you can easily rename pages and their URLs, reorder items by dragging and dropping, and can edit each item by clicking on them and adding captions with a simple HTML editor. Setting a page to Visible makes its link appear on the main site menu. You can always link to a page from another, even it’s not Visible.
Having done this, I next added a page to describe myself and again, it was very easy indeed – I just chose to use the Simple page type, added a picture and a short biography and voilà – my About page was ready! The process was made simpler by the helpful tutorial videos and instructional copy that’s all over 4ormat.
I then wanted to create a few galleries to house images of each band separately and was able to do so by first creating three gallery pages (one for each) and populating them with photos of the bands, one at a time. Having done that, I created a Listing page and added three thumbnails, labeled them with each band’s name and then linked each thumbnail to the galleries I’d put together. You can see the results here.
Designing your site
Once you’re done adding content to your site, you can customize the design by first selecting a theme and then customizing it. There’s a simple but robust WYSIWYG editor with four sections – Typography (to set fonts for various types of text), Color (to set background, button and text/link colors), Layout (to set button styles, gallery transitions and more) and General (to set logo and footer text, Twitter and Facebook page URLs, etc.).
The options available for customizing the site design should be enough for most users. However, if you’re experienced in messing with HTML and CSS, you can modify your preferred theme by adding your own code for styling, and upload assets to use as well. These skills will also come in handy if you want to add any components besides the multimedia elements that are available.
Additional settings and site promotion
The Settings panel has a few interesting things you can do with your site, including setting up a custom domain and favicon, adding your Google Analytics tracking code and viewing your payment plan. The Promote panel allows you to toggle sharing features on your page, and add keywords and a meta description for your site (for SEO).
Most graphic designers, photographers and artists don’t know the first thing about coding – because it’s not part of their skill set. With 4ormat, creative professionals can easily build a solid portfolio site with designs that strongly showcase their work and remain easy to maintain and update. I personally maintain my portfolio site with WordPress and enjoy the flexibility, but I can see how that might be overkill for most users in my field.
There are a few features I’d have liked included, such as a blog and a contact form. However, many people do without these on their sites and leaving them out possibly keeps the user experience simple. There are other options out there, such as Behance and Carbonmade (US12/month) which offer more control over your projects and layouts, but if you want to quickly put together a classy portfolio with minimal fuss, this is the way to go.