Inlux Photo

Inlux Photo

A Unified Photography Portfolio Site and Blog

The Challenge

At the time, photography sites were typically divided into two distinct systems - a flash based portfolio site, and a Wordpress blog.

This was pre-HTML 5 and CSS 3, Javascript animation performance was poor, and IE 6 was still a huge percentage of views.  To achieve consistent cross platform and browser rendering, custom fonts, animations, image slideshows, audio, video, etc, Flash was necessary. This of course led to a variety of garish design choices, mediocre performance, and infuriating navigation issues.

Flash was also a poor choice for regularly publishing content, and with the emergence of Wordpress, most photographers chose to add a Wordpress blog to a subdirectory to showcase new material. Wordpress, sadly lacking custom fields and per entry featured images, was a poor choice in and of itself to display photographic content in a visually interesting way.  Something as simple as a thumbnail listing of entries just wasn't happening.

In addition to the shortcomings of each individual system, the two-system solution created its own problems - there were inevitable style differences that made the two systems feel largely disconnected, adding an unnecessary layer of complexity for the user.  

My vision was to unify the portfolio and blog into one cohesive system that could present photographic content in a useful and beautiful way.  A simple idea then and now, but one which, at the time, was not even considered a possibility by my peers.

My Solution

I began researching CMS's, looking for something that would allow me to build up the system in exactly the way I wanted.  I eventually discovered Expression Engine, which was created to do exactly that.

I mapped out the simplest possible site, with a focus on fresh content.  I used Expression Engine's flexibility to build out a blog from scratch with all the fields I would need, and insert the subsequent data streams wherever I wanted.  I finally had my per-entry thumbs, blog stream on the front page, and pretty archive, tag and search pages. The HTML and CSS was all written by hand, from scratch in Textmate, using divs, floats, my own grid, and external styles, at a time when tables and inline styles were still in wide use.

In order to compete with the Flash sites of my competition, I needed a portfolio slideshow with proper animations and custom fonts.  I integrated Flash-based Slideshow Pro directly into an EE page, achieving the unification of the blog and portfolio.  This was eventually replaced with my own javascript based slideshow for mobile compatibility. I was able to achieve custom fonts site wide without using images by utilizing Sifr, then Cufon, and eventually font-face once there was decent support.

Using everything I learned throughout this process, I used various EE plugins to develop additional helpful features - an availability calendar, a job information form, and eventually even a full blown proofing system.

And while far from perfect, this site was definitely successful, driving 8 years of very strong sales.