The Design Process: Website Design | Canadian Wedding Photographer Kandise Brown

The final step in my rebranding process was website design. Up until now my websites (like my logos) had been self-designed using widely available templates, but I knew for this project I wanted to have something uniquely mine, and needed to bring in professionals to get the results I wanted. That’s where Super Runaway Co. came in. Another APW-affiliated vendor, Liz & Jeff came highly recommended from many of my photographer friends, and I knew from their portfolio that they had the skill and aesthetic to make my dreams a reality.

My vision for a new website was not super specific, but some of the key things I was looking for were:

– to be unique, i.e. not a template
– for it to reflect my personality and my photography
– to be HTML based (goodbye Flash, hello iEverything!)
– to be easy to maintain
– for the galleries to be manually advanced

After viewing my pinboard, Liz & Jeff sent me a questionnaire to determine the scope of the project, key components I wanted to include, and examples of other websites I liked. Based on that feedback, they sent me these initial concept boards:

All art is copyright Super Runaway Co.

 

…and I mean, how could I not like that? It was like my pinboard threw up a web design. I was hooked.

Since Liz & Jeff like to do WordPress based sites, and I was already using WordPress with the hibou photo blog, that’s the platform we decided on for Kandise Brown Creative. They also encouraged me to full integrate my portfolio into my site – something I hadn’t been 100% sure about, but now completely endorse. The integrated portfolio has dual benefit: it keeps readers on one site while viewing my portfolio/pages/blog, and also gives me only one site to update, where previously I was trying to juggle two. This is already saving me time and energy, not to mention the WordPress system is much easier to use.

On my end, I put my education in information organization and web accessibility to use by thinking really hard about how I wanted my site to be organized. I knew I didn’t want an intricate web of deep links – I wanted everything to be available from the top, every time. I also didn’t want to force people to click on many different pages when the information could be consolidated into one page: that’s why, for example, my pricing information is now available on the page to which it pertains. You’ll notice that in my webdesign, “top level” information appears in the navigation menu at the top of the page, while bonus information is at the bottom. For this post-library nerd, it’s the little things.

From a business perspective, a lot of photographers choose not to put their pricing information online as a way of creating an initial point of contact with prospective clients. While I definitely see the value in that approach, I decided that for me it is simply easier and more practical to put it all out there – price, faq, package contents – so that I know when people are emailing me, it’s not just sniffing out the cheapest photographer in town – it’s fully armed with information and because they are truly interested in potentially hiring me. Since I’m running a business all by myself, this “pre-qualification” cuts down on the dead-end email leads I receive (and have to respond to!), which saves me time, and makes me much happier!

Not only did I need to figure out how things would be organized, I also needed to actually write the copy that appears throughout the site – a task more difficult than it may appear. After all, I needed to convey who I am, what I care about, what I do, and why you should care… in as few words as possible. I wrote and rewrote. Slashed and pasted. Laid awake in bed at night mulling different turns of phrase. My biography alone went through 4 months of rewrites! I tackled my FAQ and packages, to make sure that everything I presented was consistent with who I want to be as a photographer.

While I was thinking about that, Liz & Jeff were busy designing. As with the logo design, there were three rounds of revisions in this project, as well as tons of tiny adjustments along the way.

All art is copyright Super Runaway Co.

 

From the initial 4 drafts they presented me, I decided on #3. I loved the clean layout, emphasis on images, and the way the background graphics naturally lead the eye towards the content rather than draw attention away from it. The arrows and stripes also recall my new logo. From there we did relatively minor aesthetic adjustments, and Liz really wowed me by creating graphics that tie my packaging into my site.

This part of the process took about 2 months to complete, and I spent the weekend before the launch plugging in content and uploading galleries. To really start this site with a fresh slate, I completely rebuilt my portfolios from scratch – I dumped every image from every session I’ve ever shot into one of three folders (wedding, engagement, portraits), and then set about deleting until finally from 9000 images I had the collection of 250 or so that appear on the website.

Once everything was live – but still hush hush – I did about a dozen read-throughs, had one independent proofreader (thanks, Brandon!), and then took a deep breath and sent out the newsletter. And here we are.

This process has been wild. I think I’ve felt every possible emotion in the last few months. It’s been a time of creativity, introspection, excitement and doubt. Occasionally infuriating, often exhilarating. I’ve had to dig deep – at times to find patience, at times to find myself. Now that it’s over, the work is done and into the world, I couldn’t be happier. As foreign as it was for this DIYer to relinquish control, hiring professionals to take charge of my rebranding was absolutely the right choice. I can’t thank Liz & Jeff and Julie enough for their time, their patience, and especially their talent. I think that what we’ve made here is truly something special.