Earlier this year two artists, whom I knew casually, asked me to help them design a new website for them. Actually two sites. Chris and Tom Higgins had been sharing a commercial artist site, and they wanted to have separate and more unique sites. Designing a site to represent artists and their work takes on a special focus. A website for an artist can enhance or diminish the appreciation of the work displayed. How the art is “hung” is important.
The goal was to...
- create two sites
- keep the initial cost as low as possible
- keep the combined annual hosting and support cost under $400
- make adding new pages and updating text easy enough so that it could be done by Chris and Tom
- have galleries on the site to display their work (which they could also update on their own)
As I started to work on the sites, Chris and Tom gave me some examples of websites they liked. They already had sample content and an Idea about pages they would want. A little bit of research and discussion identified what they liked about other sites. The next step was to find an existing theme that was a close fit to the site look they wanted. This would be the starting point for customizing the site. After a couple of tests and rule outs, the Origami theme from SiteOrigin seemed a good fit. I have written about it in another blog post so I won't go into detail about the theme.
The home page slide show or slider is currently in fashion. We explored using a slider show on the home page, and in the end they went with a single fixed cover image. The first artistic choice that required some customization was that Chris and Tom wanted to have the cover art as central to the home page as possible. They felt that the menu would be better at the bottom, allowing the cover art to be higher up the page. Not surprisingly much of the work in designing the site was around how the gallery sections of the sites were to be handled. Tom's site was easy. He is a landscape painter. His paintings are more or less a standard rectangle in shape. Most gallery plug-ins, on average, do an OK job of displaying his work. Chris, on the other hand, is a fiber artist. Her work doesn't always fit into a rectangular space.
The issue with gallery plug-ins were many. Most of the plug-ins we tested in some way crop or compress the image to fit into a location on screen. For example, to make the image fit a square, some plug-ins crop off some of the image while others change the aspect ratio to compress the image to fit a square. For some usages that could be fine, but for an artist, distorting the image was not going to work. In the end we tested over ten highly regarded gallery plug-ins before we got what was wanted.
By using WordPress, a commercial theme, and a commercial gallery plug-in for the basic look and functionality, the initial cost was kept low while giving the look that Chris and Tom wanted. I was proud to have the chance to work with these two very, very good artists.
Click on the images to take a look at their art and the final sites.