Creating a website quickly, yet beautifully

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Website for Photographers | No Comments


It’s not like we were completely bored at the studio or anything, but we recently decided to give ourselves a little challenge. We decided to create a new website for Project Basho.

Well, okay, so, maybe we need to elaborate on that. We didn’t just decide to create a new site. We decided to create a new website in three days.

It sounds crazy, right? Yeah, we thought so, too, but we went ahead and did it anyway.

History of the Project Basho Site

Project Basho’s website has not changed that much since I wrote it in HTML in 2003. Up until now, every page on the entire site was hand-coded from scratch.

That meant, of course, that whoever was going to update it had to learn HTML and CSS. It was not exactly easy to maintain it, especially when we needed to make massive changes to our class listings at least three times per year.

WordPress as a Tool

These days, of course, it is relatively simple to code a website, with many tools available to help. What’s difficult is to maintain it. That’s one of the main benefits of using a CMS, or Content Management System, such as WordPress to run your website. WordPress is an open source software which was initially developed to run blogs. But since then, it has grown to become one of the most widely-used CMS platforms to run any kind of website.

There are many reasons to use a CMS like WordPress, but perhaps the most beneficial is the relative ease with which it allows you to create content. You don’t need to know how to code in order to publish simple articles like this one.

In fact, we’ve been using WordPress for some time now, as many of our ONWARD sites have been run on WordPress. So, our staff and volunteers were already pretty well-versed with the platform when we made the change.

Design Themes: Take Your Pick

Another great advantage to using WordPress is that you can change the design of your site very quickly by using different themes.

A theme is a design template for WordPress, and there are many available to choose from. You can download themes for free, or purchase “premium” themes from various designers, who have built entire businesses by creating and selling their themes to a larger audience.

These pre-designed themes will make the design process much quicker, as compared to designing a site from scratch.

Wufoo: Forms Come in Many Forms

For a business website, you need a lot of forms. These forms come in many sizes, from simple ones like a contact form or newsletter sign-up form, to more complex ones like a class registration form with an integrated payment solution.

For these, we use a builder called Wufoo to come up with different kinds of forms very quickly. The service allows you to come up with your own design, and it features a built-in payment solution. You can show your forms as independent pages, or embed them into your WordPress site using a very short code, called a shortcode!

Typeface as a Design Element

We’re living in the 21st century, and the website should reflect that. One important element for achieving this is through the use of modern fonts on our site. Aren’t you tired of looking at Times New Roman or Arial? We certainly are.

So, we use Typekit to add different kinds of fonts to our site, giving it a much nicer visual impression and making the experience of reading the text more enjoyable. There are free solutions, such as Google Fonts, which also allow you to do this, but we like wider range of fonts that are available from Typekit.

The reality is, the web is still predominately a text-based medium. We spend a lot of our time reading text on the Internet, which can be made much more enjoyable for our users by using a service like Typekit.

The Language of Video

We have been experimenting with creating different kinds of online videos for some time now. So this was another element that we wanted to be sure to include on our new site, making it a true multimedia experience. A good video should create an emotional response in the viewer. So, we’re not targeting our logical left brains here.

Part of the essence of Project Basho is the sheer diversity of people who come to our studio with a single common goal: to learn photography. So, we thought it would be very cool to feature our students and studio users one-by-one in a short video interview. We call it “I am a photographer.”

Needing Extra Help?

We sometimes need a little extra help to make our website truly unique, such as when we want to customize a theme we purchased, or add additional functionalities to our site.

Where do we find it? We use Elance to connect with freelancers from all over the world. Since most web development work is done over the Internet, our freelancers can be anywhere as long as they have access to our WordPress page and web server.

We have worked with developers in England, Germany, and Georgia for different purposes on this site so far. They’ve been working out great!

So whether you’re looking to create your own website for your photography, or you were just curious about the reason behind our new look, there you have it—our zany approach to creating a modern, functional website, in just three days.

I am a photographer: Tsuyoshi Ito from Project Basho on Vimeo.

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