I have successfully finished two of the site refreshes I was working on: a redesign of the Smugmug site, and a redesign of the blog front page and navigation to properly show off 6FPS.
The new front page: when I did my last design of the blog, I decided once again to try to create opportunities for people who found the site to explore and see content they might not otherwise know to visit. I also wanted to try to build out a review area and try to make it a small destination point.
In reality, both attempts failed miserably, and to be honest, I expected them to. Users coming to the site via a link or organic search rarely stop to explore, other than perhaps the front page or the “about me” page. A few percent might check out one or two pages, but trend is clear and enticing them to stick around and check out other fun stuff simply isn’t going to happen. So I ripped all of that out again, which both let me simplify the navigation around the site and reduces the amount of manual maintenance I needed to do to keep things tidy. I keep looking for ways to convince people to explore, and I keep finding they simply aren’t interested, so it’s time to stop.
The front page has been simplified and cleaned up as well, bringing out a new slideshow I’m loading from the new Smugmug site, a nice large subscription beg and the usual blog content areas. I’m happy enough with the current design to tweak things and not blow it up and start over, which is nice, and I think the new front page is an improvement over the old one because the changes make it easier for it to focus on a few key bits.
The new Smugmug site: one thing I’ve long wanted to do is separate my “portfolio” images from my more general photo collection, but I didn’t have a good way to do that. I’ve known for a lnog time that would involve a complete scrape to the bare walls and rebuild from scratch on Smugmug, but that involved enough work I always found reasons to delay it.
Then Smugmug bought Flickr, and Flickr suddenly became a valid place for “the rest of my images” to live once again, and then the upload plug-in I depended for smugmug broke and it became clear it wasn’t going to be fixed for a long time, and that meant purely manual uploads to Smugmug, or switching to a new plug-in, and the answer to that dilemma was easy, but involved, yes, a scrape to the bare walls and a complete redesign.
So I did. I rate my photos three stars (***), four (****) and five (*****), the definitions being roughly “usable spear carriers”, “portfolio quality” and “best of the bunch” (I use * and ** for other things and none of them are publishable). Roughly 2% of the photos I consider publishable are considered *****, and about 800 of my images are **** or *****. They are, among other things, the only ones I consider printable to paper.
The problem is that when you use one site to publish all of your usable images, those top images get lost in the noise. I’ve tried a few ways to get around that and liked none of them, but I couldn’t really fix it without just starting over.
So now that I’ve started over, only the top images live on Smugmug. It’s truly a portfolio site now. I’ve created some subsets to try to highlight specific types of images and the best in class type shots, and I can tweak those collections over time to keep them fresh. The other big change is that I no longer watermark images before uploading, but use smugmug’s watermarking feature, which means I can now offer print sales on Smugmug (which means no more fineartamerica, which means simplicity and fewer ways to confuse people about what’s where). That’s all set up now.
The larger collection of images is now back on Flickr, which I like, although I am still futzing with the organization there.
I’ve wanted to get the images set up this way for a while. In some ways my hands were forced by outside changes, but I’m happy I finally had to do it, and I’m happy with the results (for now). Hopefully, you like the changes, too.
The problem with these changes? Basically every image I’ve linked on every blog post that came from smugmug is now 404 and broken, and fixing that is going to take a fair bit of effort. I’m starting on that now, but I’m not yet sure exactly how long it’ll take to fix. Since few of those pages get much organic visitation, I can be patient and do it right as long as I don’t start pushing traffic to them before they’re fixed.
And that, of course, is why I always put this off, but it’s time to take the medicine and do it. I think the end result is worth it, and i’ll keep reminding myself of that as I’m grumping about all the broken links that need fixing…