I think I'm right in saying that blogging, from choosing the images, to sorting, and uploading them, is the least fun part of running a photography business. So, is there a way to make this task less challenging, time consuming, but also make it work for our SEO? Take a look at our review of Narrative.
If you're like me and have changed your website providers throughout your career, you will quickly realize that blogging isn't always a straightforward thing. Different website providers will offer different ways of blogging and often, you don't realize there are crucial features missing until you start actively using them, which I have done several times now. A lot of time and effort was wasted because I couldn't always blog my weddings and shoots the way I wanted, which is why I was so excited to review Narrative!
Narrative is an online and also offline tool, designed with photographers, visual storytellers, and bloggers in mind that helps you easily design and build a blog, and to publish it on your website:
- Works with Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace, and others (the available tools will vary depending on which website host you use)
- Currently compatible with Mac, but Narrative is working on a Windows version
- In sync with Lightroom, you can make changes in your edits, which will subsequently update on your blog post
- Numerous design tools, including a simple drag-and-drop that automatically snaps to grid
- Can add title and text in the blog post (uses your website predetermined formatting for paragraphs, titles, and so forth)
- SEO guidelines and advice for keywording, descriptions, and more
- Can be used offline and uploaded when you are connected to Internet
- Allows you to easily change website hosts and transfer your Narrative blogs across to the new website
- Fast and smart image loading
- Can use to export image collages
- Available as a monthly subscription, billed monthly or annually (for Fstoppers readers discount code, please see the end of the article)
As noted, I have had nothing but bad experiences when it comes to blogging. Having tried so many different ways of trying to integrate a blog within my website, from doing a custom-coded website, to using now-discontinued Muse, to a variety of popular website hosts, I finally ended up with Squarespace, and luckily Narrative easily integrates with it. All I had to do was to download the actual software, add the images I wanted to consider using for the blog post, and then easily arrange them. I did not need to do anything within Squarespace itself, apart from creating a new blog post, giving it a title, and clicking "Code." When my blog post was ready in Narrative, all I had to do was press "Copy Link" and then paste it inside the "Code" window. What I quickly realized was that the option to add custom code is only available if you pay for Squarespace Business plan, in case you are wondering why you don't have the option to add custom code.
The images I had picked for the blog were quick to upload within Narrative, and it was equally as easy and fast to drop them into the blog. You can either add them one by one, a select few, or all of them, you can also make changes to padding size between the photographs to suit your style. If you want to make manual changes, you can easily re-size or swap the images around. It works in a similar way that an album designer would, in which you can also move the images away from the initial snap to grid, thus creating a very unique look.
To help with SEO, Narrative offers a very handy tool that gives advice on how many focus keywords to use, how to go about choosing a SEO-friendly title and description, as well as image keywords. This I found to be a great reminder for people like myself who always struggle to deal with all things SEO related. Narrative brings missing or lacking fields to your attention by adding a red, amber, or green dot depending how well you have filled them in. What I really liked was being able to select several or all images and do their description in one go, which then applied and saved it for all selected files.
It wasn't something I run into while testing out Narrative for these few weeks, but because I did use to travel a lot on the train, I do think the offline option is very handy. I used to edit shoots during my train journeys, and being able to organize and design your blog posts on the go is very useful, especially, if you need to kill some time at the airport or train station where you are faced with a bad Wi-Fi connection; this way, you at least get to do something practical without losing your mind trying to connect to the Internet over and over again with no luck. This may or may not be a story from personal experience.
As I was using Narrative with Squarespace, I cannot comment on how user-friendly it is with Wordpress and other website hosts. Just to note, when using Wordpress, you will be using Narrative as a plugin. For other hosts, you will need to enter the code into the HTML section. To read more about using Narrative with other hosts, take a look at the manual. For certain Squarespace themes, you will also need to disable Ajax loading, which prevents the whole blog post from loading when opening it. I actually didn't realize this at first, and after contacting customer support, I quickly resolved the issue by following these steps.
What I Liked
- Simplicity and speed of adding and adjusting images in the blog post
- How short the whole process was from start to finish
- Option to manually resize, move, and crop images
- SEO tools
- Being able to add text among images
- Option to add social plugins, e.g Pinterest button
What Could Be Improved
- More advanced history tools (similar to Photoshop) to be able to go back and forth between steps taken in the design process.
- There is potential for adding pre-designed layouts to choose from, similar to album builders, with different visual styles, for people who want something beyond simple blog post but don't know how to create it visually interesting.
- It is a subscription service. As with many tools nowadays, you'll need to add this to your monthly budget. That is understandable, however, because this enables Narrative to research and bring out updates to ensure we have access to most recent version of tools.
- It would be very useful if Narrative notified or reminded users to check their Squarespace theme doesn't require its Ajax-loading to be disabled to allow the blog to fully load, as this could cost potential customers if none of the blog posts are fully loading.
Arguably, I didn't feel Narrative has any major drawbacks, if any. I personally have been waiting to use a tool like this for a while now, and the addition of SEO tools is something I didn't quite expect and was pleasantly surprised to see. I spent an evening creating several blog posts as a test and went from the very initial step of choosing images and all the way to seeing the published post online, and the whole process was a lot shorter than I had anticipated. The more I did it, the quicker it became. Having lost all my blog posts due to a change of website hosts, I will definitely be spending a few days using Narrative to get my blog back to a point where I feel I am comfortable sharing it with my website visitors! It's one of those tools that I never directly sought to find, but soon as I started using it, I realized how much time and energy I will save when doing my posts, especially after this wedding season has finished.
If you think this is something, you'd like to try yourself, you can sign up up for a trial version on Narrative website. And, exclusively for our readers, Narrative is offering 20% discount with the coupon code "fstoppers" or equally, you can automatically apply your discount in the shopping cart by clicking on this link and choosing your payment plan.
How do you feel about blogging? Will you give this a go? Let us know!