I was thrilled when local Oakland artist Sean Griffin reached out to me for help updating his website. Sean has been an independent artist for nearly 20 years. His work has been featured internationally and he's had the pleasure of working with a huge range of clients. From hip hop labels, apparel, logos, massive murals and live painting at festivals and events.
As an visual person he came with lots of ideas and opinions on the direction. This was both helpful and posed some challenges. As a visual person myself (obviously), I know what it's like to see something just a little bit off and it can be all you see. Sean's previous website as fixed width and everything was positioned meticulously on the page.
a Goal centered design approach
I like to tell my clients that a website is never really done, and that's a good thing! It helps us focus on the goal of the website instead of trying to do create a perfect finished design. To help keep us from getting mired in the details and know when the project was done, we collaborated on some goals:
- Responsive design - analytics showed that nearly half of his visitors were on mobile devices and his existing website was difficult to navigate on smaller screens
- Easy updates - he had a routine for updating content on his website that involved making thumbnails and often having to jump into the code.
- Instagram integration - as a visual artist, Instagram is Sean's primary social media outlet
- SEO friendly - Sean gets an impressive amount of international work thanks to meticulous tagging and longstanding online presence
- Elevated brand - Sean has been in the game for a long time and was ready to shift focus from smaller mom and pop type projects to larger murals and canvas work for display in galleries.
- Content over design - responsive websites are all about the content so I had to get him comfortable with letting go of some of the pixel perfect placement he was use to with fixed websites.
DECIDING ON THE CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (CMS)
The first decision we needed to make was what CMS to use. This was a huge departure for me from what I've done in the past. I have been a Wordpress user for nearly as long as I've had an online presence. We're talking 10+ years! But there is a new kid on the block: Squarespace, which is what we decided would be the best solution. (Stay tuned for comprehensive breakdown on how I've given up on Wordpress for Squarespace.)
The almighty gallery
As a visual artist, one of biggest priorities was to modernize the layout of his galleries and light box experience. Squarespace really excels at this. It let us quickly try out thumbnails at different ratios and sizes and different crops with its integrated photo editing tools.
A landing page by any other name
We wanted to better utilize the landing page of his website by featuring some of the categories for the type of work he wanted to do more of. His old homepage gave a little background on him and a glimpse at current projects. We added direct links to these categories with some compelling thumbnails of his work.
I talked Sean into moving the current work into a blog page and gave him some examples of different types of content he could share on there: works in progress, behind the scenes, awards and recognition he had received, ect. We kept the artist statement and added a photo of Sean to help give context to his work.
A website is never done
Next steps for this project will be to check in with Sean after a few months with the new design so we can revisit some of the design and navigation choices we made. We will compare the metrics of his previous site with the new website and also analyze the user behavior. Are we driving traffic where we want? Are users engaging with the galleries? Stay tuned to see the evolution!