I’ve noticed an interesting dichotomy.
Pros that have been around a while have web 1.0 web sites. Those just coming out of college have access to the latest tools and, well, a lot more time on their hands, so they have some spiffy web 2.0 websites, but nothing to really promote. Makes you think that the old hands ought to hire the young guns to revamp the web site! Here’s what I did…
I noticed this as I worked to completely revamp my IEBA.com web site and viewed dozens and dozens of other pros web sites. Of course “pro” itself is a very vague term. For instance, a wedding videographer considers themselves pro, and they generally have very polished web sites because they are dealing directly with a customer base that wants to be impressed. Photographers too.
But when it comes to the pro film & video world, the quality of the web sites take a deep plunge. Of course, there’s a very good explanation for this— we work in a relationship business. Nobody goes to our web site, out of the blue, browses a few pages and then hands us a contract for a $50,000 corporate video. It’s who you know, what other work you did with or for them, it’s developmental, evolutionary.
For those wedding videographers, a lot of their work nowadays comes from wedding web sites, like The Knot. The client’s first exposure to that professional is their web site. So that web site has to be good. The client may only be plunking down some $1,000 to $7,000 for services, but it’s that initial impression that leads them to pick up the phone.
For the pro film & video world, it’s less about polish and more about information. What projects have you worked? What gear to you have to rent? A few sample videos? Fine. But it’s about getting a few bits of hard information and the web site better not stand in the way of getting the facts.
That became the impetus for my current design.
First, though, let me review the previous design, which had received many compliments and did seem to be working well.
It looks good. Simple navigation. Gets the point across nicely.
There’s nothing really wrong with it. But it cones down to both usability and relevance. By this I mean, is there up-to-date content for the visitor? Yea, well only in as much as I take the time to go back into the authoring tools, which tie into all the original artwork, which means I can only do this from one computer. There I make changes, and then re-upload those complete pages to update some information about me, or about my gear. In other words, it is most certainly not the most convenient way to do this. In order to be more relevant and useful to the visitor, it needs to be easier for to me to update- more usable for me. With web 1.0 tools, authoring sites isn’t a very user-friendly experience and the web site, as an active tool, isn’t very usable.
So, after a few weeks of research, I spent a week of authoring- where I built, and then rebuilt the site from the ground up several times. I did this because the new tools are CSS based and it takes time to wrap one’s mind around how the new methodology can be wielded to do one’s bidding. (i.e. I had to learn CSS. :) Secondy, I was leveraging web 2.0 technologies to build my new web site on the foundation of a blog, and blogs have very specific ways they want to do things. Some of those things I do not want them to do at all, or I want them to do it differently. So it took time for me to make it work the way I needed it to, and then massage it to look nice.
So here’s IEBA.com v2.0.
It looks good. Simple navigation, etc. The logo has been demoted because it’s more about me and the services I can provide.
The key point here is that while it still works and looks like a basic web site, I can update any item, on any page, at any time, from any computer. In fact, three of the “pages” listed in the navigation bar aren’t even pages. News, For Sale and Rental Gear are collections of blog posts based on categories. So when I work a new job, I add a new post, tag it as news, and that’s where it will appear. At no time do I have to change or alter anything else on the site. I’m merely working with the data and the CSS handles building the pages in a consistent manner.
This makes the web site more like a malleable tool, than a brochure that I can’t adjust. This is certainly true for the really flashy Flash sites I came across by the young whizbangers who took the appropriate classes in college. While very dynamic, they are high on sizzle but low on value. Moreover, most search engines can’t read into embedded flash content- so that stuff stays invisible to the search engines. Too bad. The flash sites also require going back and rebuilding the entire flash package to change one element within it. That’s even worse than web 1.0.
The new IEBA.com site, is so dynamic that it doesn’t even look like this any more. I took this image a couple days ago, but just this morning I added a new category called “Useful Info” where I’ll be adding information about Software and Tips for Pros. Again, I just created a new post, created a new category and “poof” there’s a new navigation item and a new page that I didn’t have to do any additional work to create. I can just as easily delete a piece of gear from my inventory if it gets sold. Do I then have to upload anything from my computer to do that? Not at all.
I hope this helps demonstrate how the web site is now both more relevant and useful to the visitor, and more useful to me.
If you have any questions, post them in the comments.