Zenfolio is a powerful and complex website builder for professional photographers. It allows creating multifunctional portfolio websites that support eCommerce functionality. As a result, we get a specific website, which features a unique combination of a portfolio (photo/video), a blog and an online store.
The major goal of using Zenfolio is stock photo and video sale. You design the display window (galleries, albums, collections, categories etc.), set access to your works (free or after the payment or registration), download opportunity, cost of product groups or separate photos, display parameters etc. You can just showcase your photos to please the audience by creating a nice free portfolio for website visitors. It’s up to you to decide what exactly you want.
Zenfolio has been in the market for quite a while already. The website builder was created in 2004. This is an old service, which makes it possible to monetize the photography business in the global network in the effective way. Let’s review it as a platform used to create digital product stores. It’s hardly possible that anyone will have a desire to use such a complicated web building tool to publish an ordinary portfolio. This service is meant for professionals and, thus, it comes with a rich amount of settings and a complex dashboard structure. The system is quite serious. Let’s see whether it’s really worth using.
1. Ease of Use
Zenfolio is more difficult to master as compared to the majority of other website builders. It is not an ordinary system. The dashboard structure is not similar to other services. If you have the experience of using cloud services, it won’t help you at all. Generally, it’s possible to explore the system effectively. As soon as you get used to it (which happens in a month or so), the dashboard will become more or less convenient. However, you will still feel unsure as to the choice of the required option from time to time.
The situation becomes a bit simpler due to the subdivision of the working area into sections. This subdivision is logical, but it’s still not easy to get used to it. Users generally expect a more user-friendly and ergonomic interface from a portfolio website builder, even if the system is advanced. What if I just wish to post 50-100 photos I’ve taken during my trip to Polinesia, for example? This won’t be simple. I’ll have to fight with complicated unnecessary settings for quite a long period of time, hoping that this will soon come to an end and people will see my photos.
Fortunately, the Support Center of the system consists of three sections, namely the knowledge base, training videos and resources. The YouTube channel of the service comes with a variety of videos, the duration of many of which exceeds 1 hour. This speaks in favor of two facts: the developers of the system try their best effort to help users explore the service successfully and they really have much to tell them about. Zenfolio really requires an informative support center. There is much to explain here. The text section contains over 200 articles, which are subdivided into categories. You can also consult the tech support directly any time of the day.
The service has an interesting blog with news, inspiring stories and recommendations on the effective use of website builder features. It generally takes around 5 days to master the most useful Zenfolio functionality. If there is something you don’t understand, go to the support section to get quick help. Your intuition and experience may not come in handy to you here, while the FAQ of the service is much more reliable.
2. Feature Set and Flexibility
Zenfolio interface looks pretty simple, if not even childish. There are many colours, angular element forms, lots of versatile icons and signs here. This, however, doesn’t distract users a lot. You quickly get used to this. The dashboard is structurally subdivided into 6 large sections of options:
“Dashboard” is a start-up screen containing quick links to access settings from other sections (you can add a gallery, blog post, set up the design, look through the comments etc. here).
“Photos” is a photo storage section that resembles Windows Explorer or MacOS Finder. The left sidebar contains galleries, photo groups and collections, while the working area includes folders with photos found there. You can add new sections, categories, photos, edit visibility settings and gallery access etc. In the right sidebar, it’s possible to add the description of photo groups, set up their visibility, download opportunity/prohibition, cost, album cover, free or registered access.
“Selling” is the eCommerce website builder section. This is where your price lists, order reports, lists of paid products (which can be edited/deleted or united into packages), albums, gift certificate settings, coupons and versatile promo actions are found.
“Website” is a list of static pages of your website containing the descriptions and links for their editing. This is the section, from which you can also add new blog posts, upload new PDF documents and create custom pages.
“Communications” is your own center of communication with visitors. This is where you can find a list of contacts, email history, a list of website comments and statistics of each registered user.
“Settings” is a powerful section of options, which are subdivided into 4 categories, namely:
- “Account” that makes it possible to set up the account data, passwords, copyright, a referral link, social profile settings etc.;
- “Billing”, which contains payment information (credit card type, number, address etc.), account statement (current balance, credits and charges) as well as information about the current plan. This is where you can also set up extra website services, like Triple Scoop Music, RAW Files Edit ($50/year) and Borrowlences Membership ($100/year);
- “Website”, which allows setting up custom domain, choosing the homepage of your website, getting SEO settings access, Webmaster Tools (Google, Bing), Visitor Tracking (Google Analytics), Cookie Warning Settings and Visitor View Settings (activation of the mobile website version, website search, slideshow effects etc.);
- “Selling”, where you can launch promo campaigns, set up default way of print ordering, vendor preferences, currency and tax settings, shopping cart, Zenfolio Fees Information (7% from all transactions) and other settings like these.
Thus, the Dashboard contains sections of settings, which are not directly related to web page formation. Zenfolio editor is a separate settings area, where you can set up each page visually and functionally in details. We have partially described its options in the “Themes” section.
To sum it up, you can choose a layout and a set of displayed elements for each block. Each menu point may be assigned a Title, type (gallery, custom page, external page, PDF document), display and opening rules (in a new or current window). Dropdown menu can be created here as well. In the Site Settings section, you can set up website branding (logos and icons), language, mobile version, RSS news feed, photo information display etc.
Generally, the dashboard creates positive impression. It is a bit complicated and overloaded with settings, but it looks pretty logical and convenient as soon as you get used to it. Zenfolio functionality is on a decent level. You can design a photo/video store with a blog in several days. Everything you need is available here.
|Professional Templates:||✔ YES|
|Free Themes:||✔ YES|
|Responsive Design:||✘ NO|
|Sort by Industry:||✘ NO|
|CSS Code Editing:||✘ NO|
Zenfolio has 12 site presets. Each of them comes with its own photo presentation structure and has different gallery composition, home pages, menu positions etc. You will be able to additionally set the themes for each preset, which includes the color scheme of a website, background and typography. This is a very simple design customization method. There are many themes that can be edited here or you can create your own themes from scratch in the website builder.
It’s also possible to change the layout of any site preset. There are 25 different templates and you can select a separate layout for each page of your website. This is also a very powerful and easy to use way of design customization. What’s more, layout templates can be activated for header and footer separately. It doesn’t matter a lot, however, what template exactly you will select – its design and structure may be finally completely changed.
You can activate/deactivate a number of elements on any page, including header, footer, menu, contact info, search area, social network buttons etc. These options affect the webpage design a lot.
You can generally set up the alignment and display of all the elements on a page. You just need to find the required checkbox to do that. The majority of these options are found in the “Page Options” section. Zenfolio comes with rich design customization settings. The only problem is that it’s difficult to understand the result of activating of this or that option sometimes. There are many minor settings and it’s easy to get lost here. If you don’t bother about the checkbox, then you are more likely to succeed in this. The design editor is nice here.
4. Customer Support
Tech support is provided by email here. You can use live chat and phone communication with a service manager by upgrading to the Advanced Plan. The Support Center is professional and offers detailed questions on any answers. Each new client gets a chance to communicate with a manager for 1 hour to be able to understand the basics of using the system. Generally, Zenfolio tech support is organized well.
Zenfolio is a paid service, which offers a free 14-day trial to test the features of the system. Plans differ a lot in terms of functionality. Thus, we recommend learning the features of each plan prior to subscribing to it. So, the plans are as follows:
- Starter ($60 per year) – Customizable photo hosting website, fully-featured portfolio with blog, unlimited storage, mobile layouts, themes, 50 free songs for slideshows, access control with passwords, archive RAW files, domain name.
- Pro ($240 per year) – All the features included into Starter Plan plus an opportunity to order/sell products from Mpix, 7% order fee, shopping cart, 64 Mb max file size, add watermarks and logos, marketing tools, removed Zenfolio branding.
- Advanced ($360 per year) – Custom shipping option, multi-user account access, managing events with participant lists, complete order editing, instant live chat support, phone support, export favorites to Lightroom.
It’s worth mentioning that monthly payments are 40% more expensive as compared to yearly plans. Plans come at average cost in the website builders niche and differ a lot from each other. Starter Plan works well for creating a standard portfolio. Pro Plan allows branding and selling content. Advanced Plan ensures quality tech support and opportunity to work in a team or conduct promo actions for clients.
A 7% commission sales fee doesn’t seem reasonable here. On the other hand, though, the developers are personally interested in your success, which contributes to tech support performance and general Zenfolio quality. This is a standard practice.
6. Pros and Cons
Zenfolio is a quality product in its niche, but it’s not the best one. The major problem is the inconvenient editor. It is easy to use, but it isn’t informative at all: you won’t see the changes until you close the dialogue window with the settings. There are many options here and it’s not convenient to check the result each time you change anything. The settings are confusing and everything is based on multiple checkboxes, which look overloading. You can’t just mark the element on a page and edit the text, for example. Instead, you will have to go to the settings section to make the edits. To do that, however, you’ll need to find the option first. The ergonomics of this process is quite average.
Generally, the main Zenfolio problem is design editing. It’s difficult to gain the desired result because of the abundance of settings, design themes and weird editor interface nuances. If you manage to cope with that successfully, the rest will seem simpler and more convenient. Layout and color scheme variations give enough room for profile customization. This is a notable benefit. Another serious disadvantages is the 7% commission sales fee.
As to the rest of features, Zenfolio looks pretty nice. It offers flexible customization of quality templates, powerful eCommerce functionality, convenient management of photo catalogues, adequate SEO settings options, detailed statistics display etc. The website builder features decent functionality. The problems are mainly related to the ergonomics of its editor. Interface design may not appeal to everyone as well.
Zenfolio is an advanced website builder used to create multifunctional portfolio websites. Quality templates combined with powerful functionality of the system make it possible to recommend the website builder to users. Disadvantages of the service are not that crucial, but they exist and are quite notable. This is especially true on the initial stages of using the platform – the ergonomics of the interface is occasionally poor.
What matters a lot is that you can quickly upload any number of photos and post them at your website. The major task is to set up its design and billing options. The rest is much simpler. Does Zenfolio work well for newbies? More likely yes than no, but you’ll have to get used to the system and watch the tutorial first.
The Support Center has to be singled out. It is really professional. The tech support is also developed pretty well. The cost of plans is average. The website builder is worth the attention, if you are ok with its interface. The trial period will allow you to understand whether the system is worth its money.