Tag: Design

Design

New Look, New Features!

Hey everyone! I’ve been busy making some changes to the website and adding some additional features. I hope you’ll find the new look as awesome as I do and enjoy the new features.

First off….. The New Look

 Screenshot of the new home page. Full screen images, quick access to gallery and thumbnail views and an information button to display information about the pictures.

As you can see, a lot has changed with the look and feel of the site from the last version.  This new style is really designed to showcase the photos more by filling the screen real estate available.  Combined with a thinner more streamlined navigation bar, the photos quickly become  the focal point of the site.

Wait, there’s yet another way to view the full images with additional information.

 Information Button on the bottom right to display full image with a description of the photo.

See the little “i” button on the bottom right? Click on it! Go Ahead, it’s safe I promise. This will open up another great view with more information about the photo. Where it was taken, maybe a story involved with it, you never know what tidbits of information you may find here.

 Information view displaying the full image with the information and description about the photo to the right.

Both the full bleed and information view can be navigated by using the arrow keys to move forward and backward between photos.

One more way to view images faster!

 Gallery grid view button on the top right of page.

On the top right of the page, you’ll see 4 small square icons forming a larger square.  This take you to a page to help teach geometry and basic math skills!

Yes, that was my attempt at humor ๐Ÿ˜‰

What this button really does is displays the galleries in a grid layout filled with thumbnails of the images.  This is a much faster way to browse through to a specific photo or view some of the other galleries such as my Portrait/People gallery! Clicking on an image will bring that image to full screen or clicking the top right again, where an now appears will close the grid view.

 Screenshot of the Grid thumbnail layout for the galleries.

But wait! There’s more, you can now subscribe via RSS or mailing list.

Apart from the different look and feel, I have also added 2 great new features.  The first feature is an option to subscribe to mailing list!  This mailing list will *only* be used to send you an email when I post new content on the blog.  This way you don’t have to keep visiting the site (although I wouldn’t mind if you did) to check for new content.  I also added a link to subscribe via RSS for those who prefer a news reader approach.

To subscribe, simply visit the Subscribe page in the navigation bar at the top!

Second New Feature… Forums!!

This is more of an experiment and trial to get a great product and community going.  I have implemented some forums where you can post all sorts of stuff. Favorite places to shoot, gear, questions, off-topic stuff, you name it!  

 Screenshot of the forums hosted by the service www.moot.it

These forums are free and hosted by a service called Moot.It.  You’ll be creating an account with Moot.it which will allow you to comment and use other forums created with this service as well.  This is a new service, and it’s something I’m experimenting with to help create a better experience on my site. I have setup a few basic forums to get things started, and I can always add more if requested!  I am still learning more about Moot, but it is pretty solid so far and a great, free way for anyone to setup some forums on their own site.  Check them out!

But Wait… No, that is about it for now!

I’m excited about the changes and new features I’ve added. I would love to hear your thoughts on the new design and added features to the site both good and bad.  Comment below or shoot me an email.. I’m always looking to improve and make things better and more enjoyable for visitors.

Until next time, hope you enjoy the new stuff and subscribe to my mailing list for updates!

Reviews

Squarespace Review

 Squarespace homepage screenshot

     Are you looking for a quick and easy way to create and mange a great looking website?  You need to check out Squarespace. No, this is not a sales pitch, nor am I getting paid to write any of this.  Squarespace is exactly what their tagline says it is…….

Everything you need to create an exceptional websiteโ€

— Squarespace

     It’s really easy to get started, and they offer a free trial in which no credit card is needed.  You simply choose from a great selection of templates and start adding your content.  All of the available templates are very design centric.  They look great and show off different types of content very well.  You can organize the templates based on what they work best for, portfolio, business, blog etc….  don’t worry about which one you choose, as you can change it at any time and your content seamlessly switches over to the new template.  If you’re adept at coding, they do have a developers platform in which you can completely create a site from the ground up.  Even with templates, you are able to add custom code blocks and css to add functionality or make changes.

 Squarespace template selection.

Of course this site that you’re reading this on is a Squarespace site.  It is my personal site which houses a lot of different content.  Galleries, contact forms, about pages, custom pages and 2 blog pages.  With the unlimited plan, you get truly unlimited everything.  Unlimited number of pages, storage and bandwidth.  There are so many options you can do, it’s pretty crazy.  It is often touted that you cannot bring a Squarespace site down.  Normally if a small time blog or site gets published in a place where it gains a huge surge in traffic, the site just fails and goes down. This doesn’t happen with Squarespace. They have some genius way of scaling bandwidth when it’s most needed so your site never goes down as a result of a spike in traffic.

 Mobile screenshot with menu

One major benefit that comes with all Squarespace sites is the often talked about responsive design.  This allows your site to scale in a pleasing way depending on the screen size of the device you’re using. To the right is a screenshot of this site on a phone.  You can see the navigation menu becomes a dropdown, which when touched opens up a beautiful looking list of the pages. Makes it very user friendly on mobile devices.  Another fantastic thing that occurs, is Squarespace will resize your images to 7 different sizes to feed up only the proper size in respect to the screen size.  If you’re on your phone, you won’t be downloading huge high resolution files that take up an enormous amount of data. On your desktop, you’ll see the higher resolution versions.  This works great on tablets as well.  All of this is just built right into the platform and you don’t need to do anything to make it happen.

 Content Blocks

Adding Content…

 to your page is very simple.  You pretty much select “+Add Page”, tell it what type of page you want it to be, then select the content using content blocks that you want to add.  If you select an image or gallery, you comply drag and drop photo’s from your computer into the window and they are uploaded. If you want to add some text, select the text block and type away. Once you’ve added all the content you want to the page, you can drag and drop the different blocks to rearrange them, float them left or right and change it all around till your heats content.  If there are still some changes to be made, you can add some custom CSS to the page to fine tune if needed.  There is a lot of built-in social integration for most of the major social networks. My home page for example has my twitter feed, foursquare feed and 500px feed in addition to a collection of my blog posts to display the 3 most recent posts.

SEO is not something I’m all that familiar with except that I know it’s important when it comes to Google search rankings.  I DO know that SEO is a high priority for Squarespace and it’s integrated automatically so you don’t need to worry to much about it.  There are little things you can learn if you wish to increase search rankings with file names, captions etc… but the topic of SEO alone could go on forever and I know next to nothing about it.

 Style editor to adjust page settings.

With every template, you have access to over 300 fonts in the Google font library, changing the color schemes of links, backgrounds and all sorts of different elements on the page.  There is even Typekit integration if you have a membership there and want to use those fonts.  You can view a long list of options to change for the entire page, or you can click on the section of the page you are wanting to edit and you’ll see the options that apply to just that one section.

Some templates have additional options, and others have less, it just depends on what the developer of the template enabled.  Of course as mentioned before, you can add some custom CSS if you’re wanting to make a change that is not available by default.

Photography as any of my followers know, is a big passion of mine.  Having the options to display photographs in a beautiful manner is a key thing.  For this site, I chose more of a blog oriented template, but I still have a lot of photos.  With this template, the default gallery displays as a slideshow such as this.

However, you are able to add galleries so they display as a Slideshow, Slider, Grid or Stacked layout. You can adjust the speed in which images cycle, add thumbnails and change the spacing between images. For examples see the links below.  

Grid Layout 
Stacked Layout
Slider Layout

Customer Support…

     is another top notch aspect that cannot be over looked.  If you have any trouble with their service, send them an email and they always respond in a very timely fashion.  Doesn’t matter if it’s at 3 or 4 AM or middle of the day.  Their email support is 24/7 and 365 days a year.  They also have live chat support during certain hours on weekdays.  From my personal experience, I’ve always received a reply to a ticket within 30 minutes and often times sooner.

Not to long ago they added SmugMug integration allowing you to import albums from SmugMug galleries.  I ran into an issue where nothing was importing.  They were able to identify there was indeed a problem right away and they were quick to put the engineers on it to implement a fix.  This problem is not a common type to have, as it was something to do with the resolution of images on SmugMug being to large to import.  The fix for this problem did take a few days, but that’s because of the work involved in making a fix like this.  Throughout the few days, they kept me updated as to what was going on making sure I knew it was being worked on and I wasn’t forgotten. 

Other Notes…

     There are a couple additional features that I haven’t used as of this post that may be very compelling for a lot of people.  The biggest one being E-commerce.  Just a couple of weeks ago they announced built-in e-commerce for their business tier subscribers.  This is in partnership with Stripe for payments allowing you to setup an online shop to sell physical or digital goods.  As far as I know, there isn’t built-in fulfillment options yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is something in the works.  For me as a photographer, I could put up some pictures for sale at various sizes and mediums, people can purchase an item giving me the required information for shipping and printing, then I can send it off to the lab I get prints from.

Another item that may be useful is you’re allowed to have other people manage different aspects of your site. You can allow them full access to everything including settings, or as simple as content editors and comment moderators.

There is a built-in commenting system, or you can set it up with Disqus.  The social integration is really nice from making simple links to adding blocks with content from those services.  You also get some built-in analytics with most of the important information, or you can integrate it with Google analytics if you want to delve deeper into the viewer stats.

This is an entire content management system that’s hosted. No having to worry about updating your version of WordPress and breaking plugins, or worrying about all the hacks that come with badly written code.


Final Thoughts…

     As you can tell, I am a big fan of SquareSpace.  I am a small time user, not a web developer, and I think I was able to create a pretty solid looking website.  It’s constantly changing, and SquareSpace makes it easy to make those changes.  I have been very happy with how easy it has been and the responsiveness of the customer support.  The responsive design is top notch from my experience and looks fantastic on mobile devices.  It’s just a great option for someone who wants a good experience and is not a web developer or doesn’t have a lot of time to work on a website.

Having a free trial that doesn’t require a credit card, or anything other than an email address for that matter is great as well. It allows you to test it out in a full capacity to see if it’s right for you.  They have 3 different tier plans now that they’ve added e-commerce options.  You can pay month-to-month or yearly, and if you do pay annually, you get free domain registration.

Don’t take my word for it, try it out yourself and let me know what you think! I would love to hear from you in regards to your experiences and thoughts on the SquareSpace service.  www.squarespace.com