research / design / project management
Squarespace / Illustrator / Microsoft Office
duration: 7 weeks
In my previous life as a fine artist, I had been one of the artists at the Front Street Gallery in Poulsbo, WA. When they first contacted me, I looked at the website, and was pretty disappointed. However, when visiting the gallery in person, it was a much different experience. A warm, friendly gallery full of talented artists who were not being well represented by their online presence.
The site had many problems, but I was not in a position to address them. When the time came for me to move on, I offered to redo the site. The gallery wanted it done through a template website building service so eventually someone else could easily take over. I felt the site should match the feel of the gallery: be warm, inviting, and easy to navigate.
site is too cluttered, especially the homepage
navigation to/and between gallery artists is confusing
mobile version of the site is completely different, and impossible to navigate
The Front Street Gallery is a cooperative gallery featuring 27 local artists from Poulsbo, WA, and the surrounding areas. The previous version of the website has been created in the early 2000s, and hadn’t been updated since then. The gallery was using a website template site already, so keeping it on an easy template-style platform was desired. I had been using Squarespace for my own website and found it easy to use, and the templates very current and aesthetically appealing. Squarespace also provided a responsive framework for the website to sit on. Previously, the gallery had to pay another service for a mobile version of the same site. Switching to Squarespace would eliminate this extra cost.
Due diligence required presenting Squarespace along with other template-based sites to the gallery board. I presented them with 4 options to explore. I compared cost, responsiveness, the templates available, and whether or not an email address was included in the cost. I compared those to what the gallery was currently using, and the pluses and minuses of each one.
Even though Squarespace was initially a higher cost, the responsiveness of the site and the large variety of customizable templates that were geared towards galleries and artists won the board over.
I then scoured the web and looked at many gallery/artist sites and found that minimal design, and straightforward and easy navigation seemed to be the industry standard.
Pictured below are some early site navigation maps with paper & pen, along with some higher fidelity wireframes.
After creating wireframes, I started on Squarespace. I picked a template, signed on to do the free trial, and laid out a rudimentary design. I met with the artist that had designed the previous version of the site, and took her through the basic design. She had some changes, which I implemented, as well as requests for things I did not know how to do. In those cases, I gathered knowledge off the help section, did google searches, and just figured it out by trial and error and playing with the system (my favorite way to learn new software btw).
I initially did the design and layout for all the main navigation pages, and used some current pictures of one of the gallery artists to do a mock artist page. As there are 27 artists at the Front Street Gallery, I needed to get the mock layout and design set before reaching out for updated information from the individual artists.
Once I got the go-ahead, I reached out to the gallery artists. They could either give me updated biographies, contact info, and pictures of their work, or they could have their information and pictures migrated over from the old site. I chose a consistent layout for the contact info and biographies, and asked the artists to provide the name and medium for each piece they wanted pictured on the site. Uniformity between artist pages was lacking on the other site, and often the titles and mediums were not listed on the pictures.
Once I had a few artists contribute work, I showed the previous designer how the individual artist’s pages were looking. She again gave me the go-ahead. After I had heard from all the artists that wanted a presence on the gallery site, I met with a gallery board member to give an ok to the site. Seven weeks after starting the initial design, I was able to launch a new version that was optimized for mobile, allowed for easier access to the artists, and was a simple, clean design.
What I Learned
In taking on this project, I was able to get back into the swing of working on projects again with a team. I really enjoyed working with my artistic colleagues. In my previous life as a fine artist, I did much of my work on my own. So it was nice to transition into a project that was indeed a group effort. I also was able to delve into Squarespace’s functionality in a much more in-depth manner, and expand my knowledge base even further. I also learned how to move over a domain, and connect up a third-party email account. Both things I have never previously done. However, I think the best part of the project was hearing how happy the artists were with the website…
Site looks great Sharon! Very clean and easy to use... it will be excellent for us! - John Adams
Duuuude....It looks AWE. SOME. I looked on all my devices and browsers. Seriously. You rock. - Steve Parmelee
Oh Sharon, what a beautiful job you did on this. It was easy for me and that’s saying something. Many, many, thanks - Sue Skelly
That's a stunning new website, Sharon, as we knew it would be. Well worth all the anticipation. Thank you so much for making it for us. - Anita Albala
I only have a few months of analytics for the site, and they were not collected in the previous incarnation. However, traffic consistently hovers between 45-93 visitors a day. Dips on the low end have occurred during the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays. Overall, since Oct. 14th, the site has had 719 unique visitors, and had 1,411 page views. Most visitors are still viewing on a desktop (50%), but mobile is second (37%), so I am glad the site is now optimized for mobile.
Most visited pages are the Welcome page and Artists page, and the most visited artist page was Belinda Payne, who was featured artist for October, and was advertised on the ArtWalk page. This should show artists at the gallery that it really does pay to be a featured artist. I have also received anecdotal information that a few gallery artists have been contacted through the site.
I am continuing to manage the site and will follow the analytics to see where they go.