A few days ago I launched a website for Mike Davis, a talented Picture Editor, Photography Consultant and mentor to many photographers. He is also my husband.
With the announcement of the launch through Facebook and Twitter, we received a lot of feedback on the website and I thought it might help to share the thinking behind the content and design of Mike's website.
Choosing Not to Use Photographs
There were a couple of people who thought we should show large images from some of the more well-known photographers with whom Mike has collaborated. Choosing not to do so was a deliberate decision to place emphasis on his skill set, accomplishments and what Mike can do for photographers and businesses rather than on specific photographers and specific pictures.
By visiting his site one can see that he has built a relationship with many photographers. The photographers in the Work section are just several he has helped in the last few months if that.
We initially had thought about presenting photographs but then asked a couple of important questions:
If he decides to highlight several photographs on the home page in some kind of slideshow, which images would be highlighted? Mike isn't in the habit of promoting one photographer's work over another and he didn't want to give the perception of favoritism. Why? Because his core mission (as it has been through all the years he has worked in journalism) is to help all photographers who seek him out. Plus, one of his key skills is to help match the best photographer for the right job.
What is the goal of the website? To let photographers of varying skill know they can come to Mike to help make better pictures and that he can help businesses communicate the power of their brand with photography.
So we decided that using carefully written words to communicate his accomplishments in addition to carefully selected testimonials that he has garnered over the years would be powerful in telling of his expertise and value. Photographs made by other people in the context of marketing Mike Davis didn't seem accurate.
Why We Chose Squarespace
It is affordable. Squarespace is an all-in-one CMS and hosting solution for just $20-$30 month (plus domain registration fees).
Ease of Mind. He doesn't have to worry about plugins or security updates or anything related to managing a self-hosted solution. He can concentrate on working with his clients and updating other content on the site.
Design Flexibility. Having knowledge of CSS, HTML/XHTML and jquery, I was able to customize a Squarespace default template to what you see now.
Tight Turnaround. I was able to get his site live faster than I could if we went with a different solution. This is also directly tied to budget as we couldn't afford to spend the money or time to engage my developer.
Familiarity. He was already familiar with Squarespace because of his involvement with PDXCROSS.
Balancing Limitations, Staying on Message and Design Decisions
Mike's website needed to communicate brand, information and also act as a marketing tool to attract more clients.
Designing for the web is a wonderful (and admittedly sometimes crazy) balance of solving problems and working with challenges. Budgets, functionality and features, turnaround time, tools, abilities, etc. are just some of the factors at play.
Squarespace's biggest limitation (in my mind) is the lack of support for more complex relationships of content. (Rumor has it they are working on this.) Designing a home page that has multiple sections that display deeper content from within the site and multiple calls to action is possible using Squarespace but the Content Editor needs to have at least an intermediate understanding of HTML to be able to update the content without breaking it. More importantly, the Content Editor (Mike in this case) needs to be willing to spend the time (Time : Money).
Understandably, he wasn't keen on spending tedious amounts of time carefully editing html code to get his content updated.
The other decision we made was to keep the site design simple, elegant, discoverable and consistent with Mike's personality, his brand. He is a thoughtful person. He is passionate about helping other people so we carefully edited and chose to communicate his abilities and accomplishments without (he hopes) hubris.
His goal is to draw enough curiosity for people who land on the home page to explore the deeper pages of his website. He also knew that most of his clients are savvy web users. And, because website visitors do not always find a website through the home page we decided there was enough "draw" on each of the pages for his target audience to stick around and explore.
Response continues to be positive and several photographers have commented on his blog to tell him, "Thank you." He has also booked several new clients. I'd call that successful.
Designing websites is always a fascinating exploration and conversation with clients because no two are alike. The results of Mike's website are based on decisions we made together with trust and respect. The ultimate driving force was: What are the goals and how does the selection of design and content meet those goals.
Feedback is always welcome and I hope with at least this background those that would like to provide more can appreciate the thinking made between client and designer.