Create a portfolio website with a self-manageable back-end for an architecture photographer
UX, UI, Explainer
Although Axel is a Photoshop wizard who turns construction sites into beautiful architectural landscapes, he has deep-seated aversions towards digital interfaces. At the same time, he wants to have as much control as possible over his website. So this case is not only about his clients playing the role of the user – he himself is the one I was researching and designing for.
Being sceptical not only about all things digital (except maybe his cameras) but also about self-marketing, our initial talks focused on defining the site’s identity and tonality.
We settled on a no-nonsense approach that strongly emphasises the pictures themselves and uses text very cautiously, only to provide further information on the projects. So instead of an »about« page, the site starts with an introductory slate that vanishes after being clicked.
Moreover, Axel wanted a system that would allow him to add and tweak projects independently, anytime.
We scanned several other architecture photographer portfolios to look for clean designs that are industry standard. The aim of the site was to connect to well-established user experiences. To show the variety of sub-topics in Axel’s work, we opted for a non-hierarchical approach that instantly mirrors said variety: a three-column masonry layout.
The hierarchy of the site is simple – just the portfolio and a secondary menu. The challenge was to group and differentiate the projects, so we took quite some time to find the appropriate wording – especially since Axel wanted to keep a rather broad range of terms to specifically address his work areas.
Despite the scope of his work, the site had to provide quick navigation. But when minimalism meets variety, quarrels arise – a recurring problem not only for portfolio websites. Hover dropdown menus are a tried and tested solution, and although a little outdated, they still work well for providing a clean first impression while offering access to everything that is needed.
Since I am no coder, WordPress was a given from the start. After having made main design decisions, I researched different themes that would be suitable while providing an easy-to-manage backend. I went for the great Lay Theme which is also behind the site you are currently looking at.
After a few iterations of the final design and managing the transition to a new server, I created templates for the project pages that could be easily copied and adapted by Axel.
The aim was independence in creating and editing the content of his portfolio. So I produced a few step-by-videos (screen recordings with voice-over) that explained the processes. He then proceeded to add content on his own.
The site had three criteria to measure its success: improving customer relations, customer acquisition and the sustainability of managing the site.
Besides the overall positive feedback of agencies, customers and architecture offices, he acquired nearly 60 new clients in the following two years. As an unexpected bonus, he has also sold pictures directly via the site – which he still manages independently.
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