Zenfolio or The Turning Gate? Who are they for?
Seeing as I just recently moved from Zenfolio to The Turning Gate (TTG) I thought I would share my ideas on the two systems. In short, I believe that TTG is for users who don't want to pay for a web designer, don't want to completely code a site, don't mind learning some web languages, want a highly customizable site and don't mind putting in the time to make everything work correctly. Zenfolio, on the other hand, is for people who want a great looking site that just works, don't want to spend too much time on it, and like a template based system. Now, let's look at each system in a little more depth to see why I believe this.
The Turning Gate is an amazing system. It is basically a few different plugins for Lightroom which export code documents. These documents are then uploaded via FTP onto a server obtained through an online hosting company. TTG can be used strait out of the box quite easily to create a working site quite quickly. Their interface is straight forwards and easy to use. However, it will take some time to completely set up all the pieces and make sure they are working. Also, in order to make the most of TTG there are some pieces of code that need to be activated (its optional but I highly recommend it). This isn't hard, but it might seem daunting at first. Once the code is activated, thousands of possibilities become available because from there it is possible to code custom elements. For example, I hand coded the search box in the footer of my site and the "Home•Photography•Goldsmith" at the very top of the page. I have amazing flexibility with TTG, however there are some downsides. Users must be prepared to do some trouble shooting. There are lots of pieces in the TTG system and sometimes it can be challenging to get them all to work with each other exactly as wanted. At the same time, though, whenever I had a problem it was promptly and effectively solved on TTG's community forum. Also, learning how to code custom elements and do other things that aren't included "right out of the box" takes some time. Even with these cons, however, I love The Turning Gate because of the amazing flexibility and opportunity it offers. I highly recommend TTG if you are determined and willing to spend some time learning how to use all of its features because the payoff in the end is huge.
Zenfolio is a service specifically designed for photographers. To make a site all one has to do is simple create an account and upload some photos. It is that easy. Zenfolio offers customization in the form of being able to choose layout templates and site themes. Every page of a Zenfolio site as at least 3-4 templates but sometimes there are more than 10 (I never really counted). Zenfolio offers many default themes, but if you want your site to look more unique you can purchase a theme from some online sources. If that isn't enough, Zenfolio has a theme editor program which allows you to create your own theme. This system means that it is very easy to create a clean and beautiful site that looks unique in no time. Also, everything will always work because Zenfolio makes sure that everything is perfect. However, because of this perfect template system it is usually impossible to make some slight change or addition to your site such as move where a search bar appears or add a pop-up window. This is just about the only thing that I didn't like about Zenfolio because I outgrew the template system and itched for more options. I would, however, highly recommend Zenfolio to anyone and everyone because they offer an amazing service which is reliable, simple, and creates an amazing site.