Anatomy of a Web Site Change
In response to some client comments I received late last year, I decided it was time to sit down and simplify my web presence.
When I did my initial stock take, this is how things looked:
- Portfolio site with NeonSky.
- Archive site with Photoshelter.
- Blog site I managed myself.
In terms of functionality, I had a couple of problems to deal with:
- NeonSky was too limiting for me, with respect to hosting space, client tools and having to reenter all caption information for uploaded images.
- Photoshelter lacked any decent way of allowing me to show my portfolio images, as just portfolio images. This was a big issue as I needed a good clean interface to showcase my portfolio, without the images being lost in the multiple galleries I have on my Photoshelter site.
In terms of client problems with my sites, I had picked up a couple of issues:
- Clients would often take a screen grab of an image I had on NeonSky and send that to me with their request. It made me realise that I wasn’t offering clients the functionality of a lightbox, which I did have with my Photoshelter site.
- Though my NeonSky and Photoshelter site had a similar look and feel, the two sites functionality, differed in many ways. I realised from some emails and phone conversations with people, that this was causing problems.
In terms of my own workflow, I had these issues:
- I had to maintain two sites and that takes time, particularly when I have to reenter all caption information for images I uploaded to my NeonSky site.
- If I wanted to change the look and feel of one site, I had to do the same to the other site. Again, time consuming.
In short, it was time to simplify.
Fortunately, Photoshelter introduced the ability to show images in a portfolio format around the time I was deciding what to do. That one change made all the difference for me. I decided then and there that I would use Photoshelter as the platform for Thomas Pickard Photography.
Making the changes took time as I had to:
- Prep and upload some hundred photos for my portfolio on Photoshelter.
- Select a new Photoshelter skin and tweak that to the look and feel that I wanted (you never think those tweaks will take long, but the devil is in the detail).
- Find a new host for my blog, which meant backing it up; migrating the blog database to a new host and configuring it myself via CPanels and various other things I’d never dealt with before (I’m amazed I didn’t accidentally nuke my blog in the process).
- Rebranding my blog to the look and feel of my main Photoshelter site.
All up, these changes took about a week. Just coordinating shifting my blog hosting felt like a military exercise in synchronising watches and agreeing when NeonSky would turn the switch off and when Laughing Squid (new blog host) would turn the switch back on (they both use RackSpace for hosting).
And inevitably there was the unexpected curve ball with the portfolio functionality provided by Photoshelter. Thankfully, Photoshelter came through with flying colours, responding to the problem I identified with the portfolios and making the necessary tweak.
By the time I was finished I’d achieved what I wanted to do. Namely:
- Have one site for Thomas Pickard Photography, which shows my portfolio; works as an image library (e-commerce enabled); provides clients with lightbox functionality and lets me deliver images to clients in various ways (ftp, private galleries, lightboxes).
- Minimise the time required to keep my site fresh with recent work, tear sheets and news.
Regarding SEO, my NeonSky site had always ranked well (page 1 for my funnel keywords), so SEO wasn’t an issue for me. Likewise with Photoshelter, which provide some serious SEO juice with their sites. True, you do have to do the work to determine your SEO plan, but I’m the sort of guy who would rather roll up his sleeves and do that, than pay someone. Call me old fashioned.
My NeonSky site served me well for the time I had it and you only have to look at NeonSky’s client list to know you are in good company when you sign up with them. Photoshelter has served me well since I signed up in 2006. Photoshelter today is a mature product and while it does have some outstanding issues to be solved (lightbox functionality needs to be a LOT better), Photoshelter is now the platform that meets my image hosting and distribution requirements.
And that is the key – requirements.
You need to work out what your requirements are and what your clients’ requirements are. Making a list of must have’s and nice to have’s is a great start. Then you need to canvas what is available and decide on what works for you. That may be A Photo Folio, LiveBooks, NeonSky, Photoshelter, a designer or some other company.
Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget these two things:
- You are building the site primarily for your clients’, not you.
- Keep it simple. The easier your site is to maintain, the easier it is to keep it up to date and relevant.
[I've opened Comments on this post. Feel free to leave any comments or experiences you may have].