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Table of Contents
- Account Types
- Initital Setup
- Speed and Performance
- Client Proofing
- Other Features
- 15% Discount Code
Last year, I spent a fair amount of time looking around trying to find the best way to sell prints through my site. It was not an easy task if you want to know. There’s a large number of website builders made for photographers. And there’s no best one I’m afraid. Every website builder has its pros and cons, and you’ll need to choose based on your situation and preference. In this review, we’ll have a look at Pixpa.
Here is a whopping 15% discount for Pixpa: http://www.pixpa.com/signup?refcode=anton15
If the link doesn’t work, the code is Anton15.
Pixpa Account Types
First of all, there are three types of website types you may have with Pixpa. They are called “for photographers”, “for creators” and “for client galleries”. The latest one is good if you only want proofing galleries as the website itself is not included. The former two are similar but not same.
Pixpa For Photographers
This type allows you to have all eCommerce modules to sell prints or digital downloads.
Pixpa for Creators
This one, on the other hand, allows selling physical and digital products and services, i.e. t-shirts, e-books, calendars, workshops, etc. Due to the implementation, you can’t have both (prints and goods) at once. So, if you are like me – a commercial photographer (services), workshops teacher (services), selling e-books and selling prints, then you are in trouble. Pick what you want to sell more automatically.
Once you create a free trial, you’ll see the theme selection. Just pick what you like best; you’ll be able to change it later. Pixpa claims all themes are mobile-friendly and optimized. We’ll check it later for some of them.
The Home screen dashboard is easy to navigate and figure out, is not clunky or confusing.
All other controls are on the left menu.
The website comes with pre-created pages and gallery, which you can use, delete or amend. The UI is intuitive and easy. Once you click Website on the left-hand side menu or “Add Pages to Website” on the right, you’ll get teleported to the visual designer, where you can re-arrange pages or edit them.
The first thing I did is deleting pre-existing photos and adding mine. First, I don’t want someone’s pictures on my site. Second, I had to check the upload process as some of the website builders still don’t have a bulk upload despite living 20 years past 21st century has commenced. So, the upload is smooth and easy.
Overall, the site setup is easy and intuitive, and they prove a bunch of guides to help you out. In fact, Pixpa has one of the best well-organized setups I’ve seen. If computers and sites are not among your thing, take a note.
Themes come in all styles and layouts – mason, mosaic, squares, big picture overlay, etc. You can find all of the modern design layouts here. We won’t cover all of them here as it’s much easier to test and play around by yourself.
I’ve chosen Nomad theme as that’s what I like – the masonry layout without cropping.
The galleries are important – in fact, a great site with a bad gallery is a fail for the photographer. Therefore, we need to take a close look at the functionality.
- First of all, I checked if there’s a possibility to have a page with multiple galleries. There’s such function – for that, add a new page of the Folder type and then drag galleries into it.
- Pixpa offers a whole range of layouts, both dynamic, fixed, block pattern and single image layouts (I counted 24 in total). A solid collection. What I liked best is that you have an option to show/hide name under each photo. I’ve had a lot of trouble with this in WordPress.
- This one is important – each image gets its own page, not with # in the URL but a whole proper page. For instance, your-domain/galleries/gallery/10415847-67143-photo-1. This outlook is great for searching for images on Google, and it’s a rare feature – not many website builders offer a separate page. However, you cannot customize how the URL looks (so you can’t put in keywords into the URL).
- The galleries have all advanced functions like slideshow, fade-in/out, etc.
- Also, you can set up the layout to show your text and description for each photo. By the way, writing up texts for each photo is a bit clunky, nothing to batch and speed up.
Ok, guys. Let me get it straight. Any single website builder will have SEO issues. SEO is the only sole reason why I picked WordPress in the end. However, if you are not planning to put additional effort into optimizing site load speed, adding schema, Twitter and Pinterest rich cards, etc., then you can skip this one.
The SEO part from what I see is underdeveloped at best. In the Marketing section, you can only specify if your site can be indexed, add site-wide title and description.
Also, they generate a site map for you and you can specify friendly slugs for each page.
When creating a page using a visual builder, you can add proper headers – from h1 to h3. There were situations in my life when I needed h4, however. Anyway, it seems we can build a decent page structure with what we have; however, there’s an oversight here. I went to some page and added a few headings to see what the actual page will show. Here is the result.
As you can see, it starts with h2, which is not visible to the visitors, we can ignore it. Then it has h4 for the shopping cart and then h1 for the Home page link. These two are a problem. Meaning you can’t really have a custom h1 on your page (search engines hate double h1 headers). If I add a logo at the dashboard of the site, this issue goes away, leaving just the shopping cart, and I don’t think you can customize it.
Some of the resources are minified; some are not. There’s nothing you can do. HTML is also not minified. The pages load some js files even if their functionality doesn’t seem to be used.
You can control it when uploading photos, so this speed requirement is quite easy to control. You just set the percentage and enjoy.
Not used anywhere on site, not even in the blog. For me, this would be a significant disadvantage, especially if I’m a local business. You can, however, add it manually on every page as Pixpa allows HTML editing. The question is if your changes stay after the next theme update. Once upon a time, I just grew tired with theme updates overwriting my changes on SmugMug, and I gave it up. Another option is to go via site settings – external scripts, and then your changes will stay. But it’s a compromise.
Their roadmap has schema.org implementation, so there’s a chance they implement it.
The URL structure is good with sublevels (like galleries/landscape) but not for the concrete photo level. That means you can’t specify /galleries/landscape/bondi-beach-sunrise for the sunrise photo. But I’m too picky, no known (to me) website builder allows that.
It exists but is very basic. You can’t add fancy floating buttons or any buttons at all. The site only shows the word “Share” in either header or footer or both, and it’s not even obvious that it’s clickable. And you have a selection of just four social networks.
There are compatibility issues between features as you will see below, however, I’d like to accentuate – Pixpa is the only (known to me) website builder that offers all these features at all (prints, services, products, etc). So despite having a few things to fix, they offer more features than others in this area.
Ok, guys, we are getting there. Get ready. As I have said, I’ve spent a fair bit of time trying to find an all-in-one solution for automated printing and delivery. Self-fulfilment is too cumbersome. I had several requirements, and I’ll list them below with my comments on Pixpa:
- Bulk upload. Pixpa has it – very convenient.
- Multiple price lists. All covered.
- Auto-fulfillment. They have a WHCC print lab. This US-based print lab works with nearly all (if not all) auto-fulfilment sites. However, unlike some other website builders, it requires you to a) have an account with WHCC and b) be a US resident. This limitation is a showstopper for me as I’m not in the US.
- As a compromise, they offer an automated email delivery to the print lab of my choice. This solution is workable but requires some additional negotiations with the lab. Also, it’s not apparent how they deliver selected photos to the lab.
- Product selection – I can’t check what’s included in WHCC, but for self-fulfilment and custom print labs there are only 13 regular prints. All else has to be added manually. In the end, it looks like a flat list, so you can’t add too many. Side note – the size is only in inches, can’t do centimetres.
- Payment gateways – this is covered nicely, they offer four systems, including PayPal and Stripe.
- Shipping options are minimal. I guess, for WHCC, they have some sort of calculation (again, can’t check). But for the custom print lab, I have to specify all destinations manually. Also, there’s no dependency on product size. So, if I add canvas as a print option, for instance, and someone orders a big one, then I can easily spend all gained money on shipping. Such shipping is a very limiting option.
- There is no way to have an option for the customer to pick the closest lab to minimize shipping.
All in all, printing with Pixpa might work well if you live in the US, and most of your clients are also in the US. Or if you are ok with self-fulfilment. Otherwise, it’s a pain.
Selling Digital Images
This option is covered nicely, you can sell single images and whole galleries for a single price. This feature is missing in most other website builders.
It appears I can only sell products when I’m on Creator Plan and can’t sell products on Photographer Plan. Like, seriously? Should I use a third-party service to sell my e-book and presets? All this setup doesn’t sound like a one-stop-shop at all.
After some Googling, I found a solution, listed here. You need to have a Creator plan and then sell images through the Client Galleries. It’s workable, but it looks like I need to create a separate Client Gallery for each album that I have and each of them will have its own mini-site with a different check-out cart. This structure means some wealthy buyer can’t buy one landscape and one seascape without completing the check-out process twice.
The product selling options are suitable for a little store – you can have categories, tags, product-specific options, shipping options, etc.
Verdict – this solution is partial and is too cumbersome to live with. If I went with Pixpa, I would sell products or prints elsewhere.
In the end, the store looks like this:
Selling Digital Downloads
To sell e-books (or presets), I need to go to the Digital Products section and sell from there. Let’s see.
So far, it looks promising. I can either upload the file right away or specify an external file – useful feature.
All other standard Pixpa settings apply including SEO title and description, custom URL, etc. Smooth and solid – I like this feature. I struggled a lot, trying to implement something similar in WordPress without paying for some additional plugins.
Again, to sell services (I do workshops and real estate photography), I need a Creator plan. So, at the moment I have to weigh e-books + presets + workshops + real estate against prints. Hmm…
Let’s have a look anyway. I’ll be selling workshops just like I currently do on my site.
The settings are all the same – name, description, price, etc. The thing that interests me is adding options because that’s how I upsell workshop features. I’ll try to do the same structure with Pixpa.
Once I add these, I can’t specify the overall product price. So, it seems these are not considered modifiers but complete options. With my current setting on WordPress, I can add modifiers and avoid 20 separate products creation. With Pixpa, I’ll have to create all exclusive options as different add-on products.
In the end, this is what I got:
And then all add-ons separately:
This solution is workable, and you’ll need to make some extra effort to navigate users to your upsell products.
For real estate photography, however, it’s missing a booking system with date/time. But I didn’t have any false hopes. No one offers that as far as I know. Everyone uses dedicated booking services.
Speed & Performance
Speed and performance have never been among the strong sides of any photography portfolio sites. We have lots of photos, maps and other visual content. That’s why I wouldn’t worry too much about it. All or nearly all sites are not performing to 100%. However, it should still be reasonable. Maybe it won’t load within 2 seconds but 5-10 seconds is a must. Otherwise, a lot of people would just give up waiting.
I took a random default blog post with a few pictures and assessed it. The results are above average, not great and not horrible. There’s room for improvement when it comes to Google Pagespeed tool.
All themes and layouts show as mobile-friendly with Google.
You can easily create galleries for your clients. These galleries may be public or password protected and can have e-commerce functionality with a separate check-out cart, and of course, it has the like button.
Among the competition, Pixpa is very reasonably priced. It’s on the cheaper end of the scale. For $9 a month you are getting nearly all of the functionality missing just a few things I could easily survive without (announcement bar, check out on my domain).
Some other vendors for a similar functionality charge a lot more, some are similar in pricing.
Announcement bar is a cool feature adding a coloured bar at the top of your website. It’ll be the first thing a visitor sees. Available only in Biz and Ultimate plans though.
A personalized app for each of your clients. A nice little feature making you look more pro.
If you had an old site and you migrated it to Pixpa, you’ll surely have a lot of broken links because URL structure changes. This function allows you to redirect old URL addresses to the new ones. Awesome feature! It does not support wildcards, but nevertheless, it’s better than nothing.
Any website builder is made in a way to satisfy most customers. Sometimes it means a compromise here and there, which is acceptable and understandable. Pixpa is a great platform to start your business or to showcase a portfolio, especially if you have one niche or just need to showcase photos to your clients. If you are doing business (like myself) in many areas – selling prints, services, digital products, you may find any website builder somewhat limiting. Same goes for SEO – it has nice features like title, description and URL structure, but there’s no room for growth here.
The final verdict is: if you are a geek or have a spare few thousand dollars, get a custom website or build it yourself on WordPress. If you want a good site with little effort and a lot of functionality, consider Pixpa as a worthy competitor to all reputable portfolio builders. I particularly like the product selling feature and the ability to sell digital products.
I’ve had a good conversation with Pixpa team and it seems they are working hard on fixing several bigger issues (code optimization, removal of unnecessary js files, combining creator and photographer plans) and they also have a bunch of cool stuff on the feature roadmap.
Pixpa Discount Code
If the link doesn’t work, the code is Anton15.