This is the most sophisticated design that the storefront has ever had in it’s ten years of existence. It’s structure is finished; though there are still cosmetic bits to play around with. I bought the wordpress theme from Graph Paper Press and then set about to modify it. Most of the modifications are minor, but if you are going to jump into modifying the theme, it helps to have some wordpress programming and CSS knowledge. It’s something that I couldn’t manage a year ago when I first looked at their themes.
It took me something like three weeks of fiddling before I found a theme and a way of displaying the images that I thought was spiffy and also not overbearing. Everytime I walk by the fancy flower shop nearby I notice that the window display has changed. Sometimes in minor ways, sometimes a completely new design. And when I have the money, I sometimes go to Eli’s which is the most expensive food shop in this area, and sure enough, there’s Eli – one of the Zabars – who must be in his 70’s, walking through the store and moving things around. It’s a never-ending process and I think it takes as much effort to keep the web design fresh, as it is to move physical stuff around in a window display or food store.
The basic idea is to catch the potential customers attention – and the attention span on the web is less than a millisecond. Click. View. Nothing catches your eye. Click somewhere else.
I get a lot of statistics from Google stats (although I’m not running any of their ads) – but I have their analytic code in all my pages so that I can see how much time people spent on the site, and where they go etc. These stats are interesting. For example, the average time on the site is about five minutes. The average time to view a photograph is about 5 seconds.
Although most of the searches are for black and white photography; the ones that lead most often to a sale are for New York photography. It’s a tedious process and if you make a mistake with the design you can really screw up where you appear in the search engines.
For example, just before I went on my trip to New Hampshire I made some changes to the site which completely dropped me from the front page of Google to about five pages back, and since I was in a no-wifi spot (the entire camp is blacked out) I didn’t find out about it until I was at the airport when I did a google search on my blackberry.
– I can put up images now from pretty much anywhere, Paris, AZ etc. without diluting the overall New York feeling of the site.
– There’s a slider mechanism on the home page where you can browse through photos without leaving the home page, along with thumbnails to bring you into five selected galleries.
– The design is really set up for much larger photos than I had been using, so I could (if I really want to) put up 950px wide images instead of the 700px images I’m using now. In the olden days this would have been a problem but just about everyone has more resolution these days and fast connections. (There’s no sidebar – although one can be added if I wanted one).
– There’s a configurable dropdown menu at the top, so again the design is keeping the emphasis on the image.
– The design is based on columns, so for example you can have (as I do) three columns of widgets at the bottom.
There’s one thing that bugs me – but it’s a wordpress thing and at least in 2.7 there’s no way around it — once you get to the permalink page of the individual post, there really is no way to get the next previous buttons to go where you want. In other words, with all the other pages in wordpress, there’s a function called Query_Post that you can use to change the order of posts; but this doesn’t work at the bottom level. I think there are ways around this with jquery, but for now, I guess I’ll just leave that be. Also, as far as any themes that use Jquery go, you have to be careful with plugins that also use JQuery — because they’ll conflict. Again – there are ways around that too.
So there you have it. Once a programmer – always a programmer.
I have gotten to a point where if someone wanted me to design a photo site in WordPress, I could do a pretty good job of it. The problem with getting into that is always the support issue. For a site to really work well, I think there must be a programmer assigned to it. I go back now and look at photography sites that were done for hire, and I see they haven’t changed in many years. But technology keeps changing, and stuff that worked x number of years ago – doesn’t really cut it as new apps appear. I think that’s a big dilemma for the average professional photographer who is not a designer / programmer. You can pay someone to do the first cut of the site (and it isn’t cheap) and it’s filled with the usual headaches, but then they go off – and unless you are making a lot of money (wedding photographer for example) it is hard to dig up the funds to keep the site up-to-date.
The only solution I can see for that is to have a socialistic group of programmer / photographers who can work for next to nothing and pick other fine art photographers to work for in their spare time.