This article is intended to be great starting point for someone who’s looking to either improve their existing website, or start their first one.
I’ve split it into four distinct sections:
–>> Part 1: Introduction – Why WordPress?
–>> Part 2: How to start a WordPress website in 5 minutes
WordPress started off as a blogging platform but in recent years it has morphed into one of the most powerful content management platforms that you can use. The huge number of users has spawned a billion dollar industry creating themes and plugins to expand its functionality and this has, in turn, driven WordPress’ own developers to push forwards and continue to add more power and functionality to the core. WordPress is no longer just a way to start a blog; you can build an incredible portfolio website to showcase your skills. What’s more, you can do it in almost no time at all and for next to no money. In fact I’m going to show you how you can have a WordPress site up and running in only 5-10 minutes!
Whilst you don’t need a desire to blog to have a WordPress site anymore, I do still recommend it for several reasons. The first major reason is for the huge search engine optimization boost that you get from it. Whenever we talk about SEO it’s always good to remember the fundamental truth; Google is a business. Google’s business model is to get people to use Google more often so that they can show them more ads. This means that they want you to have a good searching experience. It’s in their interest to serve you results that are not only accurate to your search terms, but also point you to great websites. Your overall experience with their product will be elevated and you’ll come back for more. One of the things that Google looks at when ranking a website in search results is how often the site changes. If you have a stagnant site that never changes then Google will be reluctant to recommend it to anyone in search results, for fear that the information is outdated. A blog prevents this from happening because Google’s search bots can see that the code on your site is changing regularly as you add more content on a weekly or monthly basis.
The second reason for blogging is simply to get your work out there in front of more people. The more often you share your latest work, the more chance there is that it’ll cross someone’s screen right at the moment they are needing to hire for that next job. I can’t begin to emphasize the number of opportunities that have come my way since I started blogging about my work. In fact, literally as I was sat here writing this article I was invited to go to the Bahamas on a dolphin research vessel next year to photograph a pod that they are working with. I kid you not! Incredible as it seems, this came about because I prolifically share my work and travels in several blogs and one of their researchers began to follow me.
WordPress.org Vs. WordPress.com
There’s two kinds of WordPress sites and it can be a little confusing to begin with. If you go to WordPress.com, you can start a website for free in just a few clicks. The catch is that your website’s URL will be of the form: mysite.wordpress.com. It’s not a professional look so this is something we want to avoid. WordPress.com sites are also severely limited in their potential functionality compared to the other option, WordPress.org.
WordPress.org sites are what are known as ‘self-hosted’. The .com and .org sites are run by the same people of course, but WordPress.org is just a site that lets your download all of the core WordPress files and host them on your own website. You’ll need to register a URL to host your site on, and you’ll also need to pay a monthly or yearly fee for the hosting itself. I’ll walk you through this in the next section of this article, so don’t worry if you’re not yet sure what this entails.
How To Start A WordPress Website In 5 Minutes
It sounds like a sensationalistic title but it’s absolutely possible to go from having no website at all, to having a hosted WordPress site and your own URL in 5 minutes flat.
The key to this is using a host that allows ‘one-click’ installation of WordPress. It used to be the case that you’d have to download the core WordPress files yourself and install them on your server. To many people this was a daunting task! These days there are a number of web hosts out there that can automate the whole process out there. I’m going to walk you through the process really quickly with a host called BlueHost.
Step 1. Get your domain name and hosting
If you click through to the BlueHost site from the links on this page you’ll get a free domain registration and 30% off your chosen hosting package. Use the search function to find a domain that works for you and your business. I recommend trying to keep it as short as possible and if you can, avoid hyphenating the words or using something that can be commonly misspelled. If the domain is available you’ll be presented with a few up-sell options. In all honesty, you don’t really need any of them so I tend to un-check the boxes and just go with the domain registration and simple hosting package.
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Step 2. Create a password and log into BlueHost
You’ll be asked to create a password for your account at this stage. Please, please do not use a password that you’ve used anywhere else. And no birthdays either! Use a site like http://passwordsgenerator.net/ to get a random alphanumeric string. This is a key security step.
Step 3. Install WordPress with one click
This is really the reason why I recommend first time WordPress users host with Bluehost. Once you have logged in to your BlueHost account you’ll see a button on the screen that says ‘Go To cPanel’. This is ‘mission control’ for your website. In the cPanel menu you want to scroll down to the section that’s called ‘Website Builders’ and click on the WordPress icon. Then click the ‘Install Now’ button.
Follow the instructions on the next page to create your website’s username and password. Note that this password is for your website and is different from the one you created for your BlueHost account a couple of minutes ago. Once you’ve entered the name of your site, you can deselect the suggested plugins as we won’t be needing those.
Agree to the terms and conditions and then click Complete. Once the installation process has finished, you’ll be able to log into your website at http://www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin and use the username and password that you just created in the previous step.
Step 4. Choose a WordPress Theme
If you don’t already have a specific WordPress theme in mind then you can start by referring to the next section in this article where I’ll recommend 10 excellent themes that work well for video professionals.
Step 5. Install your theme
You’ll need to make sure that you have your purchased theme in .zip format. Navigate to the ‘appearance’ menu item in the dashboard and click the ‘theme’ sub-menu. At the top of the screen you’ll see an option to ‘add new’. Select this, then click the ‘upload’ button. Browse to your .zip file and click ‘install now’.
Step 6. You’re done!
Since the one-click installation of WordPress is so easy with BlueHost, all that’s left now is to upload your videos and other content to your site. Your theme should come with theme-specific documentation just in case theres anything you can’t figure out. If you’re going to take things slowly, make sure you get your reel, your contact information and your ‘about’ page online first. Do not underestimate the importance of a good About page. Believe it or not, it’s one of the most viewed pages on most portfolio sites. If you aren’t comfortable writing about yourself, get someone else to do it for you!
WordPress Themes For Video Professionals
In the walkthrough in the previous section I was installing a simple gallery theme called Onesie by Graph Paper Press. When you get to the theme installation stage, you’ll want to choose one that fits your own needs and for most of you that’s going to need to include a way to display some videos in a prominent fashion. To save you guys the trouble of trawling the depths of the internet looking for solutions, I’ve prepared a list of 11 great themes that I found that were all designed with ways to display videos in some format. You don’t have to pick one of these themes though, because there are hundreds of thousands of WordPress themes out there. If you decide to go with a theme that’s not specifically designed to show a video gallery, then you can add that functionality using one of the suggested plugins that I talk about in the next section!
If the themes I suggest don’t tickle your fancy then I’d definitely suggest taking a look in the WordPress section of Theme Forest. Theme Forest is a developer marketplace that offers plugins and themes at very low prices. The customer rating system, as well as sales statistics, make it a pretty easy place to get a feeling for which themes are actually working out well for people. I’m going to advise against just taking a free theme off the WordPress site itself. It’s simply not worth the hassle when we’re talking about well under $100 for a great theme. If you are trying to attract business with your site then you’re going to pay off the setup cost of it with less than one single job so let’s not mess around with the janky, poorly coded free ones. Agreed?
A note on responsive websites
When looking at WordPress themes and plugins you’ll often come across the word ‘responsive’ these days. When something is responsive, it means it adapts its design to the display size of the device it’s being viewed on. So a website that’s viewed on a mobile device usually takes on a much easier to read design. The percentage of people that view sites on their mobile devices is on the rise and if you were to analyze your own site’s stats you’d probably see that it’s already over 30%. Non-responsive websites simply aren’t acceptable these days and it won’t be long before they are as frowned upon as those that still use Flash. In fact just last month, Google announced that they are going to start marking mobile-optimized sites in their search results and actually favouring those sites for SEO ranking. If you are just now starting your website then you would be foolish for it to not be responsive. All the options in this list are, but if you decide to go with something else then make sure you check this, and check the demos to see exactly how it behaves on a mobile device.
A note about Graph Paper Press
One of the themes I’m recommending is by a company called Graph Paper Press. These guys have a huge selection of themes that work great for creative professionals. Because I have a great relationship with them, I’m able to offer a 25% discount on all their themes if you just use the coupon code ‘ShutterMuse’. Shutter Muse is my photography education site, but I might as well share this with you guys here as well just in case any of their themes take your fancy.
Now on to the theme list……….
One of the reasons that I wanted to write this article is because I run four different WordPress sites myself and I’ve been using WP for nearly 10 years. Two of my websites are built on the Divi 2.0 platform by Elegant Themes and I truly believe this is the best WordPress theme in existence right now. You might be asking, why bother with a list of other options if I’m so strongly recommending this one then? Well Divi 2.0 leans more towards being a platform than a theme unto itself. It comes with a very powerful page builder that allows you to construct highly complex pages by simply dragging and dropping specific page elements into a stack. A couple of examples would be the print sales page on my photography website, or my About page. It’s not hard to create pages like these if you have a bit of time and some imagination. You don’t need any web developer skills and that’s the real beauty of Divi 2.0. Of course you do need the time though and that’s the real kicker. If you want to be a bit more involved in the final look of your site then Divi is absolutely the best option because it’s infinitely customizable if you give it the time. If on the other hand you just want to install something and have it up and running in 5 minutes, then one of the other themes in this list might be more appropriate for you.
Should you choose Divi you have both the option of using mp4 video backgrounds for entire pages, or using the video gallery or video slider block in your page builder. It’s hard to overstate just how powerful and easy to use the Divi builder is. It’s really revolutionizing the world of WordPress themes. The Elegant Themes site has a ton of Divi 2.0 demos to go through so you should be able to get an idea for the huge variety of sites you can make with just this one single theme.
If you have the time, and want to put your own design stamp on things, Divi 2.0 is my #1 recommendation.
King Size is a full screen design that can really wow your potential customers with your reel. You have the option to run a reel as the background of the whole browser, by uploading an mp4 file to the site, or you can use a built-in video gallery. The demo site available by clicking through to Theme Forest has examples of both of these options if you drill down into the menu. At $53 it’s on the higher end of the Theme Forest pricing scale, but with 16,000+ sales and a 4.5/5 customer rating you’ll certainly be getting some peace of mind. I personally liked the galleries and the full screen design of this plugin, although I found the blog section to be a little constrained. If you think that you’re really going to take the blogging thing by the horns and run with it, there might be better options. Check out the demo though, it’s certainly an eye-catching design!
Invictus is a really uniquely designed theme that fills the whole screen and has a fixed thumbnail view at the bottom of the screen. The thumbnails can correspond to either photos or videos and you can use Vimeo, Youtube or self-hosted files. If you check the site demo, you’ll see that they have several videos included in the thumbnail bar for you to try. When you click the thumbnail, it loads the video in fullscreen mode in the background. Whilst this theme is labelled ‘for photographers’ on Theme Forest, it can most definitely be an excellent video portfolio theme as well and of course, it’s fully responsive.
Another nice feature of Invictus is the 18 different templates that are built into it. This allows you to make sweeping design changes at the click of a button. Several samples are shown on the Theme Forest page so it’s best to click through and take a look at that. After nearly 1000 customer ratings, Invictus is sitting with a 4.5/5 rating which is mighty impressive. Lots of happy customers is always a good sign!
Warning!! This theme demo does break what I could consider to be one of the cardinal website sins! Auto-playing music! Arrgh. Of course you can turn this off if you used it on your own site….. I’ve no idea why the developer would enable this on the demo. You have been warned!
Right Now is another cool fullscreen style theme on Theme Forest. I added this one to the list because I can see someone using it who just wanted to have a fullscreen demo reel with a very simple site around it. Something like an After Effects reel with just your contact details and an ‘About’ page would be a very striking use for this theme and it would only take a few minutes to set it up in this way. There’s no built-in support for video galleries from external sites like Vimeo or YouTube. Video backgrounds have to be locally hosted as mp4s. Mute your volume and click through to the demo to check it out!
Warning repeated! Yep this theme is by the same developer as the previous one so keep that mute button on!
In many ways This Way is similar to Right Now, but it has a permanent thumbnail strip that would allow you to quickly switch between different reels or projects. Again, I think it would suit a simple website that doesn’t have a lot of different pages so it’s not for someone that wants to be a prolific blogger.
This is another theme that’s technically designed to be used by a band, but would work equally well for someone that shoots a lot of music videos. We’ve seen several fulls-creen background video sites but this takes it a step further and allows you to create a slider that transitions between multiple fullscreen video in the back of your site. Overall I just really like the design and even the default color scheme of this site. It incorporates a lot of features we’ve seen in other themes but manages to create a very unique looking site out of it.
Graph Paper Press are known for their clean, simple and elegant designs. You won’t find any fluff with these guys. As you’ll see in the Auditorium demo site, it comes with a video enabled gallery slider that you can use front and centre on your homepage. Perfect if you want to display a reel in a place where someone just can’t miss it. The blog design is clean and simple as well and with it being one of the simpler themes in the list, it’s probably the one that you could have up and running in the shortest possible time. Graph Paper Press have a variety of pricing models that allow you to either purchase a single theme for $79, or all their themes for $149 if you want to have the opportunity to try several different ones. I use a Graph Paper Press theme on one of my websites and certainly one of my favourite things about them as a company is their excellent support forum. If Auditorium isn’t right for you, you could conceivably use any of their other themes as well, along with a gallery plugin from the section on the next page.
Remember what I said further up the page as well. Use the coupon code ‘ShutterMuse’ and you’ll get a 25% discount on anything from Graph Paper Press.
Whilst this theme is specifically designed for musicians, I think it’d also work very well for people who make their music videos! You’d want to turn off a couple of the features like the discography, but as you can see from the demo page, it has a great video gallery and also allows fullscreen background video as well. This type of parallax scrolling ‘one page’ design is very popular right now where most information is available on one single, very long page.
The Music theme is available for $49.
OnPlay is a very different style to the themes that we’ve already seen in the list. Whilst it does feature a video player front and centre on the homepage, it’s much more of a magazine style site. This would really suit someone who’s looking to contribute a lot of time to their blogging efforts with things like tutorials and reviews of the gear that they use. The contents of different categories can be displayed right on the front page to give people easy access to a huge back catalog of posts. If you aren’t sure about the blogging thing, or think that your blog posts are likely to just be short “this is what I did on my last job” ones, then this might not be the theme for you. Otherwise, it’s available for as little as $19.
VideoZoom is also by WPZoom and this one is aimed at people with a large amount of video content to display. If you just want to showcase one or two reels then this isn’t going to be the theme for you. If on the other hand you produce videos for a web series, or some other job that gives you a large amount of sharable content, then this would be an excellent option. Where the the OnPlay theme put categories of blog posts on the front page, VideoZoom allows the same sort of organization with your videos. Ground categories together and show a whole ton of thumbnails on the homepage. The blog page design is also strong, spacious and clean. This is a real theme for heavy content creators with a video twist to it.
Video Gallery Plugins
If you decide to use a different theme and add a video gallery to it, then below are the best options that I’ve been able to find. Most of these options are paid options but again, that comes with peace of mind and a support channel. With the fourWordPress sites that I run, I’ve often been down the path of trying to use freely available plugins on the WordPress plugin repository. It’s a really hit-and-miss game to play, though and more often than not, you’ll have to install 5-10 different plugins just to find one that works as you want it to for a particular job. That’s not to say there aren’t great plugins for free, but if you are really trying to save a few dollars, make sure you do your research first. Over the years I’ve transitioned out of almost all the free plugins on my sites now in favour of premium ones that offer some support when I have a question or an issue. In most cases we’re still talking less than $40/plugin for a central feature of your site so it’s really not a big deal and I think it’s worth the time-saving alone.
By installing one of the plugins below, you can effectively turn any WordPress template into something that will showcase your work in a portfolio style. As with the themes we discussed above, it’s important to make sure your plugins are also responsive if you are getting them separately to ass to your theme. Several of the free ones I noticed on the repository were not, and that’s simply not acceptable these days.
Soliloquy is a fantastic gallery slider plugin from a developer with a very solid track record for making killer plugins that are both fast and robust. The main plugin itself is simple and lightweight and additional functionality can be added by installing a variety of addons as needed. This is a trend that’s being seen more and more these days because previously a lot of plugins were getting bloated and causing speed issues on sites. The more functionality you pack into a plugin, the more it impacts your site’s loading time. Unfortunately, most people don’t use 90% of the functions of a plugin! Delivering a bare bones plugin to begin with, then enabling additional functions by addons is a great way to make sure you only have what you need and nothing more. Soliloquy accepts videos hosted on YouTube, Vimeo and Wistia and I’ve put it at the top of the list for good reason. It’s a touch more expensive, but I own plugins from this same developer and he does excellent work, as well as taking care of queries and problems in a relatively timely manner. This is a plugin you can trust.
MaxGalleria is another excellent premium plugin that features video support. Out of the gate, it offers a lot more features than Soliloquy, but do remember what I said about people who don’t use 90% of features….. The biggest difference in how you would use this plugin compared to Soliloquy, is in the styling. Soliloquy is what you would call a slider gallery where one main image or video takes centre stage, and then that slides across the screen to reveal the next one. MaxGalleria is a gallery plugin that uses thumbnails to display all your videos on one page, then you click on the one that you want to watch. Soliloquy can display a ticker-tape of thumbnails beneath the slider, but MaxGalleria can show a huge selection. If you are someone that wants to display a large number of videos then that would be a reason to look at this plugin over Soliloquy. Out of the box, this plugin supports YouTube embeds but Vimeo support is an additional paid addon. There’s also a Video Showcase addon to give you even more options.
This is a plugin that I just discovered whilst researching for this article. I love the fluid style of the gallery and the movement as you drill down to specific topics using the keywords at the top. It seems to be extremely fast and supports YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion. Once a thumbnail is clicked in the gallery, videos open in a lightbox and the box also includes sharing buttons so that people can easily pass on the video in their social media channels. Very slick, and with prices starting at $24, this is one of the cheaper options out there for a great looking video gallery.
Slider Revolution is the best-selling gallery slider on the popular Envato Marketplace. It’s been sold over 40,000 times and has an average user rating of 4.78 out of 5. That’s some incredibly impressive statistics! At only $18, it’s also the cheapest option on this list so it might be a great place to start for the budget conscious people out there. The Code Canyon marketplace is a wonderful place to get incredibly well-priced WordPress plugins as well as the themes we saw from the previous section. I’ve used it many times myself and discovered some real gems on there. The one negative I can think of is that the support channels for products on there are typically not as slick as if you are dealing with a developer via a support ticket system on their own website. That’s not to say you can’t get support; you most certainly can, but sometimes it’s in the form of a commenting system which can be a bit tedious. It’s certainly, for me, one of the reasons why the prices are a little cheaper than say Soliloquy, where you’re dealing with a developer on their own site. Slider Revolution is packed with features though and there are no addons to install to get additional functionality. If you want a cheap, one-click install solution then this could be the right one for you.
So there you have it. Now you have no excuse to go out there and rule the world with your video portfolio website!
This is a cool plugin for Vimeo users that really taps into the power of Vimeo Pro and has several features that the more general gallery plugins don’t have. To start with, if you are a Vimeo Pro user, this plugin can tap into your categories and portfolios and populate its galleries from those videos for you. It can also be used to display video that are set to ‘hidden’ on Vimeo itself. Something which none of the other gallery options can do. At $49 it falls into the middle ground in terms of pricing, but if you are a heavy Vimeo Pro user then it makes a lot of sense.