Saturday, August 29, 2009

Big Update: New Art Page

The short version of what you need to know is that I have overhauled the art section of my site, in both interface and content. There is a lot of new art up; some of which you may have seen on this blog before, and some you haven't. Please check it out. For the long version of why I did this, read on!

I still really like the Flash navigation system for my art, and even though I still get comments on it and feel that it showcases my functional and artistic abilities in Flash, I felt it was time for it to go.

The main reason is that it was hard to add images to, period. Hence why I only updated it in chunks. But on top of that, since all the groups of thumbnails had unique animations, it was hard to figure out ways to add more thumbnails when I ran out of space. Think about it like building a shelf that can only hold ten DVDs: when you eventually get to that eleventh DVD, you have to build an entirely new shelf.

I also felt like because the categories for my work weren't in a straight forward list, a lot of things were being overlooked. Why should somebody click through twelve different sections just to see if something has been added to one of them? Now that it's simpler I suspect I'll get comments on pieces that have been on my site for quite a while but people just couldn't find before. I Also think flash is turning into something of a novelty if you use it for anything other than very simple applications like ads or my navigation banner at the top of this page. The only time you ever see really complicated flash anymore is on movie and brand websites. Otherwise it's very understated and combined with clever code so that it's as efficient as possible. Simply put, people know what flash can do now and the current trend with websites is to be efficient first and creative second. Which I don't disagree with, because what use is a site that looks good if it doesn't do its job? And I think if you plan effectively your creativity isn't squashed.

At first I looked into using a pre-built flash gallery that I could just download and apply to my site. The advantage is that all you have to do is add your images and it automatically organizes them into an interactive gallery. Even though I found tons of these, I didn't find one that did what I needed it to do. Or rather, that did ONLY what I need it to do. I wanted it to be simple, but effective. The effective ones, though, have too many features. Kind of like Facebook and Deviant Art. They're very useful sites, but you have to look stupidly at the screen for about a minute to remember how to do something. There are about 800 links on a Facebook homepage that say "Photos," but only one of them is the one that lets you add photos. I wanted to avoid confusion like this.

So I decided to make one giant grid of images on one page. I like having all my work together on a single page, and I like that nothing is hiding away on some oft overlooked subsection. The only thing I needed to figure out was how to use HTML instead of Flash to make image descriptions pop up when you moused-over the thumbnails. I'm sure web gurus could have done this in no time, but it took me quite a bit of research to figure it out since I am entirely self-taught in web design. I think I came up with a pretty creative solution.

This whole thing took a solid week of work, about a third of which was research and testing. The rest was the tedium of remaking all the thumbnails, rewriting all the descriptions, relinking all the images, preping all the new work for the web, and organizing everything. Part of the organizing was to get rid of some of the old work I had up, which is another reason for the overhaul. I looked back at some of the pieces I still had displayed that were from high school and was actually a little embarrassed. I probably still have too much old work up; it's just hard to get rid of it because it's all still stuff that I worked hard to create. But it just doesn't look the same as what my style has evolved into.

The only thing I didn't get to achieve was the use of little "Buy me" links on thumbnails of things that are up for sale, like shirts and prints. I got it to work great in Firefox, but Internet Explorer wasn't so happy about it. It's really pretty amazing how much you can't do in IE from a web design standpoint; I wish I could just make everyone stop using it. I figured out how to fix the problem, but it would require redoing a good chunk of the effort I've already put in. So it's there to mess with in the future if I feel so inclined, and at any rate I plan on adding a store to the site soon, among other updates.

If you read all that thanks for your interest. This site really is a labor of love.


Randall Nichols said...

Didn't know you were doing this, but I think it all turned out really well. Was able to surf it with relative ease, and everything really popped and was intuitive to find, while also pretty visually stimulating.

I like it. "Progress and Industry, ever marching on..."

Ian said...

The redesign looks good. It is nice to be able to browse all the images at once.

Also, the extended essay on your process was interesting.

You should write an essay like that explicating your process for creating a piece some time. I'd like to read it.

Dusty said...

From someone who has only dreamed of trying to learn web are inspiring! Great work!

Heart of Glass said...

I'm an exclusive!!

mark that off my bucket list..