Friday, June 19, 2015

Houston, We Have A Problem… A Stale, Dated Website Design

My old website design
It was time. Way past time. My photography website needed a face lift and I have been putting it off and putting it off and putting it off. I'd much rather spend my time shooting images rather than dealing with what I consider to be tedious design stuff. Give me a couple of monolights, a soft box, and a couple of pieces of foam core, throw in a model and a white seamless background and I'm all up for an afternoon of shooting. Or send me out to a baseball game, give me a couple of camera bodies, a 400mm f2.8, and a 70-200mm f2.8 lens and I'll think I've died and gone to heaven.

But sitting in front of a computer trying to decide whether to use a white or black background, choosing between Kozuka Gothic Pro EL or Adobe Heti Std R fonts, or testing templates to see which one looks best is not my idea of a good time.

But like shaving or mowing the lawn, it has to be done. My website generates a lot of work for me. When Fill-In-The-Blank University is coming to town to play FSU in fill-in-the sport and they need a photographer to shoot the game/match/series and I'm not on tap to shoot it for FSU, my website is what gives a sports information director the comfort level of knowing that I will do a good job for them and am worth what I've quoted them as a fee. Or when a magazine needs a cover or images for a photo spread, my website gives the photo editor a chance to compare my work with others under consideration.

Getting To Work

Summer is the best time for me to take a break from shooting and buckle down for a website refresh. For the most part, my sports photography obligations are on hiatus until football season begins in the fall and I have a lot more time to devote to pouring over the past year's images for possible addition to the site, tinkering with page design, and yes, font selection.

I use Squarespace to not only host my website but to design it using their quick, simple features
Before diving in to the redesign process, I thought it would be a good ice to do some reading about website design trends for 2015 and more specifically the designs of photography portfolio sites. Prevailing suggestions included using a clean, simple, uncluttered design with white or a very light background and using a cover page as a precursor to actually getting into the nuts and bolts of the site. It also seemed that a new trend was getting away from the single-image, full bleed photo galleries that popped up when navigating to a portfolio page, replaced by a grid style layout that would transform into a large image gallery with a click of the mouse on any image.

Squarespace's template selection page
So off to races last week, I dove into Squarespace's template selection page to test out various templates in demo fashion concentrating on the templates that used grids. Squarespace has a feature that allows you to demo each template before settling on the one you decide to use and after a lot of template installations to sample what was available I settled on "Avenir". None of the templates had everything I thought I wanted but it had the overall look I was trying to achieve. The biggest thing it lacked was a true cover page. Other than that, after playing with the design features inherent to the template, I felt like I could make it work. 

Then, by accident, I discovered that Squarespace was way ahead of me. I guess with the trend of using cover pages on websites becoming more entrenched, the folks at Squarespace added a new feature to its design options - creating a cover page and adding it to any of the templates. Bumbling and stumbling my way through the process of designing a cover page, I went through several permutations and ended up with…. Ta dah, my new website cover page.
New cover page
I also spent some time creating a new logo to include on the cover page and at the top of each of the pages. Here's the final product (L).

So How Does The New Page Design Look?

Sports portfolio page
Studio portfolio page

Squarespace automatically incorporated all of the existing images from my old website portfolios into Avenir's grid styled gallery layout so that was easy enough. Until I'm completely through with the website I'm going with the same images but some will no doubt be replaced with newer images.

Clicking on the first image in the Sports portfolio page opens a full size gallery that you can scroll through.

Full size Studio portfolio gallery

Until now I've never been a big fan of the grid styled gallery layout opting instead to go with the full size style of galleries on my pages. But I now see why the trend has shifted. Not only does the grid style allow a viewer to immediately get a view of several images (and you can adjust the size of the images in the grid to taste), a simple click of the mouse on any image converts the gallery to a full size version that enlarges the images. Viewers now have the option of a quick peek at a large sampling of images or a more detailed view of each image. Best of both worlds, in my mind. I'm diggin' it.

Another change I was able to make with the Avenir template is incorporate all of the portfolios under one navigation link (PORTFOLIOS) instead of each portfolio having a link in the navigation menu at the top of the page. Hovering the mouse over the PORTFOLIO link triggers a drop down menu that lists all of the portfolio pages. This method reduces the clutter in my navigation menu with only four links (for right now). Much cleaner and simpler.

The new Americana gallery still under construction

The new People gallery

The new Black & White gallery
 You may have noticed that I added a caveat to the number of links in the menu - "for right now".  That's because I'm now working on a new page that will be similar to the Portfolio page and will feature new images as I create them. I've started on creating the new pages which right now includes "Americana", "People", "Black & White", and of course sports, studio and travel/scenic images - "All Things Sport", "All My Bags Are Packed", and "Stu-Stu-Studio". All of these pages are under construction as I go through the process of selecting images to include.

What About The Blog?

Old Blog design
With a new website design, I couldn't very well leave my Blog looking shabby. It was also time to give its design a face lift and I wanted to make it more consistent with the new website design. So, enter the new Blog design.

New Blog logo

It got a new logo using the same image I used on the website cover page and a new template. I kept some of the old Gadgets, added some new ones, and reconfigured them. 

The new Blog design
So, it's been a time consuming, painstaking process but I like how everything looks. Looking forward to adding the new pages and offering clients a chance to see new, different images as the construction process winds down.

Cheers, and Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there.

1 comment:

Russell Beck said...

I really think the new webpage looks great. I love what you did with the graphics and how it all fits together. Very creative indeed. Showed my wife and she agreed with me. You have a great talent for web design. Keep up the great work and I look forward to reading more of your blogs in the near future.

Russell Beck @ 5 Star Brand