Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A New Website Is Born

Mock-up of the new website design. The actual site uses a different font in the menu.
I feel like a new dad, after hours in the delivery room, agonizing over the birth of a new child. Well, OK, maybe that's a little much. The launching of a revised website (www.baselineshots.com) can't really compare to the two days my spousal unit gave me the best gifts anyone could hope to receive. But I'm a very happy clam this morning after hours and hours and hours of labor giving way to - drumroll, fanfare, trumpets, and a fat lady singing - my new and improved website.

For a looooong time, I was terribly disappointed by the promise of having a visually appealing, functional website and spending many hours designing/launching one through Wix.com. Oh the bells and whistles you have with Wix templates and features, music to my ears given my penchant for gaudiness. What originally led me to Wix was the ability to create a working site after only spending a bit of time getting familiar with the mechanics of their site building software. Several options exist in terms of how to present photo galleries, including more slide show options than you can shake a stick at. The problem is that even if you go with an HTML5 template (as opposed to a Flash-based template) so that your site will supposedly work on non-Flash-capable mobile devices (e.g., iPads & iPhones), the templates don't play nice with mobile devices. No matter what a mere mortal tries to do, the site design is all screwed up on an iPad, images take forever to load, and the slide shows look herky-jerky as the images appear and scroll through. That assumes that the site doesn't crash on mobile devices, which happens more often than not. Then there's the annoying differences in how backgrounds appear from computer monitor to computer monitor. It's impossible to have consistency in appearance from one monitor to the next given the plethora of monitor sizes people have.

Note that I made reference to mere mortals, which is what I am when it comes to HTML codes and jargon. I'm sure that if I was HTML savvy, I could have modified the HTML code to get around some, maybe many, of the issues that I (and thousands of other Wix users) have faced. But that's not why I went with Wix in the first place, falling prey to the siren's allure of creating a website without having to know a meta tag from a hole in the ground.

So, a month or so ago, knowing that my Wix Premium Package's one-year duration was set to expire this spring, I decided to divorce Wix. Fortuitously, the Grand Poobah of all things photography and  BFF +Scott Kelby mentioned that he had hired a web site consultant and designer to create a new website for him to feature his sports photography. Scottie was singing the praises of Squarespace.com; so were +Matt Kloskowski and +Pete Collins, Scott's partners in crime at Kelby Media. These are folks who have all things photography at their disposal, and if there's one thing I know about Messr. Kelby, and that is he only gets the best of the best of the best. If they were sold on Squarespace, I had to check it out.

Of course, it didn't hurt that I had seen a sneak preview of Scott's new sports photography site and it was everything I wanted but never had - a classy, simple design that beautifully allowed the images to dominate the page instead of the web site design dominating the page. For a photography portfolio web site, that had always been my goal but I could never get there with Wix. There were just too many options to throw onto a site and I am just not very good at keeping the Cuban in me from rearing his ugly head. My Wix site had bells, whistles and dingle balls hanging from the headliner, and like Jabba The Hutt, the more crap I could cram into the site's body, the more I gorged.

Squarespace's templates and design options are functional, simple, and just modifiable enough to allow one to personalize a template without going all Liberace on it. For someone like me, having fewer options is a good thing. Thus began the creation of a new site which was launched yesterday.

The final version of the logo
I began the site creation process by deciding what to call my site. Would it be BaselineShots, or some permutation of that since my domain name is baselineshots.com, or would I go with some permutation of my name? If so, would I go with "Photography" or "Photographer" after my name? Then I had to decide whether I would use just text for the site name or create a logo of some kind. In the end, I allowed myself one delicacy, one small bite from the forbidden fruit of gaudiness - a logo. The compromise I forced upon myself was to keep it simple and to use a classy font and basic colors.

I grabbed my Wacom tablet and using the pencil tool, I created a sketch of my very first SLR camera, a Pentax K1000 that came with a 50mm f2 lens. I still have that camera and could still shoot a roll of film with it. A few minutes later, I had a rough sketch and doodled around with fonts, text and composition.

Thinking that maybe I should use a more current depiction of a camera, I sketched up a version of one of my DSLR's and again went through the process of composing. I also thought about going with my full name instead of my nickname. Eventually I decided to go back to the ol' Pentax and just plain "Mike".

Ah, but just like the guy who drops 100 pounds and succumbs to the temptation of having "just one" Big Mac, once I got a bite of my Big Mac, I couldn't stop. Notice how the design permutations (above) became increasingly busy and more elaborate (read - gaudy)? Before I could stop myself, I had special sauce all over my face and clothes, culminating with the design below....

This is what happens when the demons inside are unleashed

That prompted an intervention by the spousal unit and female offspring unit who saw what I had done and gently reminded me that my goal was to keep the site simple and let the images dominate. Edit, delete, cut and the logo was thankfully saved from myself with the final version.

Tomorrow: Template & font selection, naming the galleries, how to display the galleries, and if it's not too long, the process I went through for selecting images (which is not yet over).


Lloyd Frenz said...

The new site looks great, Mike! All the hard work definitely paid off. I prefer the clean and simple layout. When it comes to website design, sometimes, simplicity is key. There's little sense to have a flashy page when it doesn't load properly or fast enough and can't be accessible on some devices.

Delena Millener said...

Aside from being easy to navigate, your site looks very good. I can see that you decided to have a more direct approach to viewers with buttons telling them exactly what they will see. All in all, I like the simplicity of your blog; The photos you have taken are nice too. If you don't mind me asking, what programs do you use for editing? Thanks and have a good day!