User Experience (UX) is fast becoming an important way to create a competitive advantage for one product over another. One reason why it’s so powerful is because the end user may have no idea what makes using one product superior to another they just come away from the experience happier.
From a portfolio website perspective I’m sure you can imagine why it’s important that your potential clients have a good experience using your site over your competitors even if they don’t know why.
When creating APhotoFolio websites I came up with a list of UX practices based on my experience as a Photography Director and from reading several books that I then built into the sites. Here are some examples:
Where Am I?
Nobody likes being lost and a website with hundreds of images can be an easy place to get lost. We give users visual clues where they are using physical indicators, color and boxes.
What is important here?
Nothing teaches you the value of hierarchy like working at a magazine. Hierarchy on a website helps the user determine what is most important on the page, where to go first and how to navigate the site. You can easily create hierarchy on our sites with size, position and color of text on the menu.
Which things belong together?
We give you precise control over the spaces between items because grouping is another important user feedback to help determine what belongs together.
How much is here?
Often overlooked on websites is letting the user know how much content is available for them to see. It’s easy in the physical world to look at the size of a store and quickly determine how much is available and how much time it might take to look, but online it can be quite difficult. That’s why a menu that shows everything available, thumbnail grids and numerical feedback are important parts of our websites.
How clear is the communication?
We give you words, icons and color to communicate with, but I believe simplicity is most important. A site should be clear in its mission. If there’s anything that separates APF websites from the rest of the pack it’s our commitment to simplicity.
We added some cool new features to all the designs.
Here are a few of the changes you will notice on the surface:
The navbar (bottom navigation) can be positioned on the left (see it here) or center (see it here) and each item is now represented by an icon and/or text label, plus you have full control over what is displayed (names, order, size).
(click to see larger)
You can now choose between 4 different kinds of arrows for the mouse navigation.
There are now 11 different image transitions available (you can also set how long the transition takes to happen).
There are now 7 different menu item indicators available (tells you where you are in the menu).
The menu text can be anchored to the top, middle or bottom of the menu.
We built a new scrollbar and have settings so you can adjust the position (left, right plus horizontal and vertical offsets), width and transparency.
Design 3 thumbs now slide in from the right and you can adjust the background transparency.
Design 2 has 12 possible thumbnail display options. You can choose between 1 and 4 columns of thumbs and between small and large sizes.
Videos now come with captions. The captioning system has a unique feature that allows you to change what the caption says as the video is playing. Have a look (here).
Finally, we’ve added the ability to put clickable social networking icons on your menu.
BONUS: You can now use the scroll wheel on your mouse to scroll the thumbs and text pages.
Don’t forget that changing colors, adding a logo, video, homepage slideshow, custom contact form, custom fonts and changing images, text, pages and galleries whenever you want all comes standard with our websites. Making changes to your site without calling a programmer is a core belief here at APF.
Want to add a logo? Included:
Want to change your font or add your own? Included:
* Email us your font if you don’t see one you like already and we’ll add it for free.
Want to change the colors on your site? Included:
Want custom fields for your contact form? Included:
Homepage slideshow? Included
Ok, I think you get the idea. Calling someone up on the phone to make changes to your website sounds like 1999 not 2009.
I think there are a lot of websites out there besides just ours that do a fine job of presenting images to potential clients. I think many of them fall short in the very tiny details that make the viewing experience an exceptional one.
These are just pesky little details to some but they are so very important to APhotoFolio websites.
Many of you agree.
You’re looking at what we’ve been working on for the last couple months. Now we can start adding lots of content for prospective buyers.
We also built a new demo area to show off all our clients:
And a new manual for all the sites:
Next we will be launching the client area that’s been in Beta testing for the last 2 months with our photographers and then we’ve got more designs coming.
Right after the release of TriBeCa we had several more weeks of debugging and making minor adjustments to the design based on feedback from the photographers using it.
Next, we preformed a major overhaul of the deep linking. One issue I was having because we create clean url’s (actual words not a string of gibberish) was getting foreign characters, symbols and punctuation to work. Since the category/page/gallery name is used in the url this prevented people from using that kind of stuff when naming things. Problem solved with the overhaul.
Then, I had requests from our photographers for various features like using the left and right keyboard arrows to advance the images (done), justify left for the menu text on design 1 and 3 (done), a randomizer in the initial slideshow for design 3 so a different image order is displayed each time someone visits the site (done) and the initial loading indicator needed to display longer so we fixed that (done).
Finally, we’ve been working hard on building a client area that can be added to all the sites. This will allow your clients the ability to log in with a unique username and password to see all their shoots. Then they can download images, leave comments and mark their selects. I think it’s going to be a fantastic addition to APF.
I’m happy to announce the release of our 4th design, TriBeCa.
Here are the major features I think you’ll enjoy:
I hope you enjoy our latest design. I think it’s fantastic.
APhotoFolio.com Website Comparison Sheet (All Sites)
Onetime cost: $1000 (that’s it, nothing extra to buy)
Recurring cost: $17/month
Bandwidth/Monthly Traffic: Virtually Unlimited
Storage Space: Virtually Unlimited
Image Size: Unlimited (you can load any size image you want)
Number of Images Per Portfolio: Unlimited
Number of Image Portfolios: Unlimited
Number of Pages: Unlimited
Number of Images I Can Upload At Once: Unlimited
Number of Links on the menu: Unlimited
Number of Links on the pages: Unlimited
Video Size: Unlimited
Number of Videos: Unlimited
Blog: Yes, installed with your site
Deep Linking: Yes (clients can email a link to individual images)
Google Analytics: Yes (paste the code in the admin stats box and you’re good to go)
HTML Mirror Site For SEO: Yes
IPhone Mirror Site: Yes
Mobile Mirror Site: Yes (for blackberry and palm phones)
Image Captions: Yes, unlimited
Can I Combine Two Singles Into A Spread: Yes
Email Addresses: 50
Email Storage: 7.3 GB per address
Spam Protection: Yes, via google apps (the most powerful there is)
FTP access for sending client files: yes
FTP access for building client lightboxes: yes
Password protect or hide galleries for clients: yes, unlimited
Can I upload and position my logo on my own: yes
Can I change all the colors on the site on my own: yes
Can I change the fonts on my own: yes
Can I add text and pictures to the pages whenever I want: yes
Can I add links out from the menu or pages whenever I want: yes
Can I make email addresses “hot” so they open email programs whenever I want: yes
Can I move galleries and pictures around and rename stuff whenever I want: yes, yes, yes
Can I have a slideshow on the opening page: yes
Can I have a flash opener: yes
Can I have an html opener with links to other sites including the fullscreen version: yes
How long does it take to launch a site: 2 hours to 1 day depending on how decisive you are
Can I switch designs: yes, once for free and for $100 thereafter (we will have at least 3 new designs a year)
Will all my images, galleries and pages stay intact if I switch designs: yes
PDF download of galleries: no (it IS possible to create a PDF for clients to download from the menu)
Slideshows in individual galleries: no
Do you put a link on all the templates like “created by APhotoFolio.com,” so viewers know I’m using a template: no
Email me if you have any questions- Rob
We’re working hard on the next design. Hope to have it out at the end of the month but I don’t want to set an official date because the debugging always takes longer than we expect. I will keep you posted.