One of my first plugins was the Awesome Gallery plugin by Nikolay Karev. It provided me with the ability to pull my images from Instagram. The sharing of my photos started in Instagram and kinda rolled out into this site. I wanted to keep my awesome followers on board, so pulling my Instagram images to my site’s front page was the way to go. Awesome Gallery did just what it promised. This plugin is synchronized with my Instagram account and when I add images on my Instagram page I also have my images pulled to my WildAtPalmas site home page. Since I add images daily to Instagram it also keeps my WildAtPalmas site up to date with fresh content. The Awesome Gallery support from Nikolay is excellent. My Instagram images are really wide 16:9 that when uploaded to Instagram get a lot of white spaces above and below them to make them square. Nikolay helped me configure his plugin to get rid of all that white space at least at the thumbnail images. Way too cool. Not even Instagram can do that. Note: During the system setup you will need to create an Instagram application/client; follow the instructions carefully and you should have no issues.
My second Plugin Google XML Sitemaps by Arne Brachhold. You will need this plugin as you start promoting your site through search engines. But what is a Site Map? A site map (or sitemap) is a list of pages of a web site accessible to crawlers or users. It can be either a document in any form used as a planning tool for Web design, or a Web page that lists the pages on a Web site, typically organized in hierarchical fashion. In plain words it’s a map you send to search engines like Google so they have a heads up about your site’s presence in the web and how it is organized. Sounds complicated, but don’t worry; just get the plugin, follow the installation process and it will generate the sitemap for you and install it in your web site so search engines can find it.
So there I was; thinking I had everything I needed. My new cool site was up and running. I started uploading my images to the WordPress built in gallery and posted them to the world. I sat back and looked at my amazing web site. “Nada” my site did not impress me at all and the effort required to add images was not fun. Nothing really pulled me in to what I saw. So I went back to the basics; I did what we all do when we need fresh new ideas… I checked other photograph web pages. Ok that is cheating! Well like they say… why re-invent the wheel, start off with the wheel and add on. During my quest I saw some really cool Flash sites with all these gizmos, don’t fall for those, search engines will leave you in the cold if you do. You need a site with substance, content that changes and is of value to the visitor. That is easy said, but harder done… specially for photo websites.
A look around the internet led me to my next plugin NextGen Gallery by Photocrati Media, seems like everyone was using it except me. It’s a free plugin so the decision was an easy one. In no time I had the NextGen plugin installed, the downside? I had to create all my galleries again. But it was worth it; NextGen has superior image management and making updates to images already loaded like tags and descriptions was a lot easier than the standard WordPress media gallery. NextGen also lets you apply a watermark to your images. Hey; I thought this is cool, so I opted to throw in some bucks on the NextGen Pro Gallery version. Oh! I should have done more research before that acquisition. Although NextGen Gallery Pro added more gallery types to the free NextGen plugin it really would turn out to be redundant later on (We will see another plugin called Justified Image Grid). It did add some cool gallery designs not included with the free gallery plugin.
At this point I was ready to add additional functionality to my site. Some thoughts, among others that came to mind were; a visitor upload page so photos could be submitted by visitors and another idea was an e-card system so visitors could send my images as emailed e-cards from my site, both were put on hold. Instead I opted to buy a slide show plugin, I missed the boat here… the plugin was just too cumbersome when adding images and updating these afterwards. So I went back to NextGen Gallery Pro plugin and used it’s built in slide show functionality. If I had done better research I would have started there before throwing away my money on the slide show software I ended up not using. That said I am still at odds with the current slide show displayed at my site. First is darned slow and second it’s as if something is still missing; maybe a different background, but I will get there. Take a look at my Slide Show page and let me know what you think is missing, kinda looks too plain vanilla to me, maybe a black background or a full image in the back. I am thinking something that will showcase the slide show window. Or all together replace it.