What should I keep in mind as I update my web site?
March 30, 2015 6:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm an artist and I haven't updated my web site in about 7 years. I have a lot of content and I want to make sure it's easy to access and understand, and compliant with modern web standards. Is there anything I absolutely positively MUST do/not do?

I'm coding everything myself with HTML, PHP, and CSS, and I'll figure out some Javascript if it's absolutely necessary.

The content:
  • still images of artwork
  • animated GIFs & videos
  • video tutorials (these are hosted on YouTube and embedded)
  • written-out tutorials (text and images)
  • comics
  • online store
  • about page/résumé
  • social media & contact info
Things I'm not sure about:
  • how should I split up all the different types of content? (comics, illustration, animation, tutorials, etc.) I'm worried about the site navigation getting too confusing.
  • mobile/responsive design: should I even bother?
It would help to hear from others what they have found good and bad in other people's portfolio sites. If you want the URL for my current site, please MeMail me.
posted by overeducated_alligator to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Why not use Wordpress with a portfolio theme? There are some good ones, and it would free you up to think structurally rather than writing your own code.
posted by zadcat at 7:02 AM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is a growing number of the population who don't every look at computers- they use their smart phones and tablets.
posted by myselfasme at 7:18 AM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Mobile/responsive? Absolutely, but rather difficult for DIY projects and many of the toolkits, e.g. bootstrap are rather heavy weight

Also, home brew websites are usually a dogs-dinner, better to get something premade. I quite like the look of Koken which would do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
posted by epo at 7:29 AM on March 30, 2015

Response by poster: I guess I should add that I do custom Wordpress theme development for my day job, so I'm not exactly opposed to putting some energy into that.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:12 AM on March 30, 2015

Yes to responsive or mobile-friendly.
posted by radioamy at 8:20 AM on March 30, 2015

Think about what your art will looks like on portrait-style phone screen, and think about how you want it to look. I really love when webcomics have the panels line up appropriately for a phone screen. Obviously to some extent that's a decision made at the artwork level (not every panel is going to look good on a phone screen) but something to consider.
posted by mskyle at 8:51 AM on March 30, 2015

Yeah I'd hesitate before building this yourself. Wordpress is a good bet. Or maybe Drupal if you want control?

Absolutely build this with a responsive-design framework. You want to be sure the site is usable on mobile and tablet devices. Also my personal pet peeve; please don't trap your images behind some tiny little lightbox fancy popup UI, like every single terrible artist site out there. One HTML page per image where it's given over mostly to the image is really nice.
posted by Nelson at 8:52 AM on March 30, 2015

As a web developer (I also create Wordpress themes, among other things!), I actually recommend that you use a pre-built Wordpress theme and concentrate on getting your content organized and published. One of the hardest things about being a designer / developer and working on your own site is the difficulty of wanting to get it perfect before launching. For me, that translates into never launching.

If you're coding Wordpress themes anyway, you should be familiar with the basics of coding for web standards. A List Apart is one of many many great resources for information.

For picking a pre-built Wordpress theme, I'd check the Wordpress.com theme gallery. I am a very visual person and find that the .com gallery is easier to search / filter than the .org repository. Many of the .com themes are available for self-hosted sites.

Happy to share more / answer any specific questions. Feel free to memail me.
posted by kellygrape at 9:39 AM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, and as others have said, yes ABSOLUTELY this should be a responsive-ready site. Mobile web traffic continues to grow. It's getting harder to find a Wordpress theme that ISN'T responsive.

If you really want to go the "build it yourself" route - a good place for some free starting templates is Templated.co. Sometimes it's useful to have a base to hack at and customize. It can make it easier than starting from a blank screen.
posted by kellygrape at 9:42 AM on March 30, 2015

Best answer: As someone who's helped a lot of artists with online portfolios, I completely agree with all of the above comments saying "use wordpress". If you can build your own responsive template, that's great - if not, there are lots of options to choose from. In my experience, the key is making sure that you have a site that can be updated EXTREMELY easily (like, Tumblr-post-easy)... otherwise, I guarantee that you will eventually stop updating - which is how you end up with a site that hasn't been updated for seven years.

Regarding your questions about organization of content for navigation/etc, this is where I'd start :

-----still images of artwork/animated GIFs /videos/comics
these would be different categories of work in the portfolio section. I would usually have a default view, which shows thumbnails of all work organized by date, and a way to filter by individual category .
-----video tutorials/written-out tutorials (text and images)
Again, the default view would show both categories, with a way to filter by category.
-----bio/résumé/social media & contact info (social media & contact info would also be in the footer, on all pages).

If you exhibit/make appearances/etc, I might add a News section as well.
posted by sluggo at 10:04 AM on March 30, 2015

Response by poster: One more question (I apologize for threadsitting) -- my regular updates over the past many years have been through Tumblr, which I like because of the whole reblog community. If I switch my primary site to Wordpress, should I just make redundant posts to Tumblr and the other social media platforms? That seems to be the way lots of people do it now, but it strikes me as a bit confusing.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:17 AM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you already have a presence on Tumblr, you could always utilize your Wordpress site as a non-blog ... just have your more static content there, and then your "blog" or regular updates would be on the Tumblr side.

First result of Googling for "Wordpress and Tumblr" leads me to this blog post for different ways to integrate the two, if you desire more integration than a simple link.
posted by kellygrape at 10:39 AM on March 30, 2015

I'm a big fan of the Genesis framework and its child themes, which work on Wordpress. I think the portfolio themes work best for sites with lots of creative content--they're clean and easy to navigate, plus they look pretty. It sounds like a pre-made theme would save you a lot of time, particularly if you can customize it to fit your needs. The themes are designed to be responsive, which I would consider a necessity.

Plus, there are a lot of WP plugins geared specifically for Genesis, which means fewer weird hiccups as different developers try to play together.
posted by mjm101 at 11:58 AM on March 30, 2015

Response by poster: epo, thanks so much for the koken recommendation. It's exactly what I needed -- much more oriented toward artists/photographers than the Wordpress backend. Hooray! Thanks everyone.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 11:29 AM on April 1, 2015

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