Sunday, 18 December 2011

Website Research

I've had a website for a while now, but I haven't really spent as much time as I would have liked sorting it out and designing it properly, so it's quite basic at the moment, but I think I'd want to keep it pretty simple anyway.

It was about two years ago when I decided to set up a website, and I went about it in the more common way of buying server space and my domain name, and then using html/css and templates to put together a site, with the help of a friend that knew more about web design than myself. It had a splash page (which I thought was cool) and was then just a basic portfolio site with a selection of images. However, it really lacked the more professional look that I was after, and it was difficult to add content as it was all done through ftp via my hosting account (apologies as I'm probably using completely the wrong names for things).

When I did some research into illustrators websites, there seemed to be a split between professionally designed custom websites, and then sites that used content management systems, mostly either Cargo or indexhibit
At the time, because I already had server space, and I'd seen a couple of cool illustrators sites that used indexhibit, I decided to download the package (which is free) and install it. For example, Allan Sanders's website looks really nice and clean, as does Paul Blow's. hey are clean and simple looking, whilst still being easy to navigate, and are also slightly customised to make them a bit different to others.

At the time I didn't really know much about Cargo and thought it was less customisable and more of a portfolio site like Behance, but in hindsight, I think Cargo would probably be a better way to go as its already set up for you and is really easy to add content to as far as I know. Installing indexhibit was a steep learning curve in ftp, html/css coding and working through all the technicalities of installing the system via my server space. This probably wouldn't have been hard for a web designer, but as I knew nothing, google became my new best friend! I did mean a learnt a bit more about web design though which is always a good thing.
Once the package was installed correctly, its pretty easy to add content to, and its customisable through html/css. I liked the simplicity of some of the indexhibit sites I'd seen, so decided to go for just a list of the projects on the left (index), and then the projects images on the right (exhibit). 

It's quite simple looking, and I haven't really got anything on the main page at the moment which I think I need to change. There's the option of a splash page too, but I'm not sure about that yet. Things that I think I'd like to have on my site are possibly a news section on the main page, or a grid of images from the site that link to the separate pages, such as on Steve Simpsons site here,...

...The Silent Giants site here, or Andrew Rae's site here, that has a similar layout to my indexhibit site but runs on Cargo.
Chrisitan Montenegro's site is also built with indexhibit and has a nice and simple news feed. I think this could be something to look into so that I can post updates on there also so it doesn't seem like I've forgotten about the site, or relying on people visiting my blog to see what I'm up to.

Overall I'd like to improve the look of my main page of my site, try and get a news feed in there, and also try and improve the image placement on the individual pages. Finding a good way of presenting embedded videos is also something I need to look in to. Hopefully I can do this via indexhibit, otherwise making a move over to Cargo is definitely something I'd consider.

Here are a few illustrators websites that I really like, mostly because I think they are easy to navigate and have all the information about the illustrator, contact, blog etc. 

Scott Balmer - his site presents all his work in a grid, is really simple and easy to use, and all his vital contact information is right there for you to see. 

Matthew Lyons - his site is like a blog and portfolio site in one, running on wordpress. 

Heads of State - again this has a grid system but is custom designed as far as I can tell. It looks really professional and has a nicely designed header.


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