If you’re a creative professional, you probably have enough to do between working on projects, managing clients and keeping track of finances — so where’s the time to set up and maintain an online portfolio? There are several apps out there for this very purpose, but many users might find the current crop of portfolio builders a bit too demanding — wouldn’t it be nice if you could throw together a site by simply uploading a few images, without the hassle of a CMS?
That’s the thinking behind RetinaFolio, a new app that creates portfolio sites using images and video from your Dropbox folder. With RetinaFolio, you can update your content by simply adding and removing images in Dropbox, without even having to fire up your web browser. Easy peasy indeed, but is it enough to impress your clients? Let’s build a portfolio for ourselves and find out.
RetinaFolio connects to your Dropbox account to create and read images and videos from a set of folders, where you can drop images to create a portfolio site that you can use your own domain name with. You can also create private password-protected galleries to share with clients for previews, as well as a portfolio tab for your Facebook page. Setting up only takes a few minutes and requires no web design skills. Plus, you can try the app for free with a 14-day trial.
You’ll need a Dropbox account to sign up with RetinaFolio, and the amount of space you have there applies to how many photos and videos you can display with the latter app. There are two plans available, with Premium at $20/year that scores you most features and unlimited bandwidth, and Professional at $30/year that adds video gallery support.
Once you’ve registered with RetinaFolio, you can begin setting up your portfolio by following the instructions on the site, which require you to download a sample zip file, which will illustrate the necessary folder structure that you need to replicate in your Dropbox folder. When you’re done with this, you can populate your portfolio by copying images and video into appropriately-named subfolders to create galleries.
You can then dive into your site settings on the web app to fine-tune things. The Content page allows you to add up to five pages (excluding your portfolio), which you could use for an About page, case studies and process explanations. These pages also support slideshows, but they didn’t display correctly for me and I suspect this is still in the works. Other than that, you can add links to your blog and online store.
Each of the pages you create can have custom background images, which you upload into their corresponding folders within Dropbox. While it’s a piece of cake to add text to these pages, you can’t format it with HTML code or add any images, and links read as URLs, which isn’t the way I like to do things. The Contact page promises a form, but that’s currently missing as well. As for customizing the look of your site, all you can do is change up a few colors, such as those used for text, menus and links.
Behold your creation
What does the finished product look like, you ask? Not too bad, I’d say — but that definitely has a lot to do with the quality of images you use. The typography is simple and unfussy and looks good with large backgrounds. The portfolio page is a bit underwhelming, as the page layouts are uninspired and don’t really make you feel like clicking on images to load up a sparse lightbox, any more than you would when viewing your images in a desktop OS folder.
There’s plenty of room for improvement on this front — a few themes and color schemes, better layouts for images, a working slideshow module, options to display branding and a little more control over content sections would really help.
RetinaFolio has a few more tricks up its sleeve that are worth checking out — for one, you can add Google Analytics to your site to keep track of visitors and bounce rates. You can also create galleries outside of your site to share privately with clients, by following the same procedure that you did to create your portfolio. These galleries can be displayed on their own pages, or even within a tab for your Facebook page using TabFusion, a Facebook app generator developed by the folks behind RetinaFolio.
While I appreciate the effort put in towards creating a dead simple app for building a portfolio, I can’t say that I enjoyed the lack of customization options, or even the process I went through setting everything up — it wasn’t straightforward, and the directions for going about things weren’t always as clear as I’d have liked. More documentation, and perhaps an explanatory video or two could help users get started more easily.
The setup process is unwieldy and doesn’t let users know when something goes wrong. It’d be great to see this overhauled so that users can complete the procedure step-by-step and be able to see how their inputs affect their sites. For example, the Content section requires you to fill out 5 pages’ worth of text on a single page, without any previews — I really didn’t feel comfortable working this way.
Even with its present issues (that I hope are resolved soon enough), RetinaFolio is a great solution for creative folks looking to showcase their work on the web — not only because it’s easy to set up, but also because it’s easy to maintain. It’s also reasonably priced at about $1.50/month — and for that amount, your images are served from the app’s own CDN so you won’t run out of your daily Dropbox bandwidth.
The app could do well to offer a similar CMS for blogs (simply upload text files to Dropbox, perhaps?) and domain names as well, so as to fully cover non-technical users’ web presence needs. Until then, this is a great way to get started showing off your work online. If you’re intimidated by more involved portfolio apps like Sidengo, 4ormat and Salon.io, give RetinaFolio a try by checking out the free two-week trial.