Trying to Decide on a Website Overhaul ... Or Not?



My personal photography site template worked well for the first few months ... when I had around 5 sub-pages and maybe a dozen or two photos.

Now, it feels clunky and semi-amateurish to me and I think it lacks a good navigational/organizational structure. I also want to add another few dozen photos (from the last few months, like fireworks, Hawai'i, Northern Arizona sightseeing, etc.), but I don't want to do that until I've settled on a new format (or not), nor if I should be adding them to their own "events" page or dividing them among the structure that's in place (like Hawai'i had some animals, flowers, waterfalls, and general scenery, all of which are on different pages on my site at the moment).

So a few things I'm asking about, specifically. First, do you think the site needs a general template change, and if so, what would you suggest? Keep in mind that I have been doing HTML since 1997 so prefer to code my own stuff and have no desire to pay for any pro stuff. I also refuse to use Flash.

If you think the current format works, I'm looking for a comments on the following things, and how you like them or suggested changes:

- Navigation, including tree structure and way the navigation is set up.
- General layout within each page.
- Prose within each page.
- Information accompanying most images.
- Purchasing page. And should this information be displayed in some other way throughout the site, or within this page, or both ... ?
- Anything else that may come to mind!

Also, does my price structure seem reasonable? I'm trying to be reasonably cheap while still having at least a 3x markup (except on the 4x6). And, should I be watermarking the photos given the preview sizes I provide?

Thanks in advance for looking. Link.
I think the overall layout is clean and concise. But I do think that the pages lack both uniformity and pizzazz. For instance, on sun.html (and other pages) there are large blocks of grids outlining the details of the pictures. Since this is primarily a website to show off your photographs, what I really want to see when I browse through the pages is photographs. I'd suggest keeping the picture details, but perhaps provide a link to them below the image itself somewhere.

To my eye the gray that is used for borders is somewhat hard to see, and fairly narrow. Perhaps a different shade of gray? And I think that the banner could be something more exciting. Why not use some sort of panorama shot of yours and then overlay it with text? (I think these clouds, cropped down some to get a general 800 x 150 pixels or so, might be nice:

Don't you?)

The date on the bottom banner could probably use updating as well. Might as well put 2008 at this point).

I can't speak to the pricing, since I'm not really a photo purchasing kind of guy.

You asked about the prose on the pages. I like it, but I think that every page that you have should have, first and foremost, photographs. As I browse through the site, I see a lot of pages that appear to be primarily text until I scroll down. To keep someone clicking around your site, there should be pictures everywhere, with text between them to create flow.

Again, I do like the site, and I think it's great that you write your own html. I can only make web pages with dreamweaver, and they still are fairly basic. I think your broad strokes are all there, it just needs a little punching up.

And of course, just my two cents. Although I do get paid to look at and find problems with websites in my day job.

Get that site off of a school's servers. Somebody in the high ranks of the school is going to see that and
A) demand money
B) take it down

Get yourself a domain name and a hosting plan.
I don't think you need a complete overhaul of your design at all, it is clean and functional, but perhaps requires a few tweaks. I too code HTML and find myself always tweaking my own site because im never happy with it !!

Anyway, with regards to navigation; what i don't like is that there is no seperation between general info type pages (home, purchasing, contact, etc) and your portfolio pages.

The easy way out (but i don't think this would work in this case as there are a lot of portfolio categories) would be to have a 'portfolio' link with a tree to the current categories. Another idea would be to indent them on the nav bar, with possibly a heading. But anyway, it might be worth thinking an effective way to let a user immediately differentiate between the 'types' of link.

The layout of pages is nice, but i am not a fan of the bu_forward.jpg and bu_backward.jpg images. They are a different shade of blue to the header and footer, and feel slightly 'templatey'.

I would perhaps thin your <hr />s down to 1px to match the lines surrounding the areas of your site. The <hr />s might also benefit from a margin to further space content, as they sometimes blend in if they come straight after a table for example.

Personal taste, but i think some whitespace above your header image and below your footer would balance the design. Only a small amount of space, nothing drastic.

Overall though it's a great site, and it's hard to find faults without being picky (as i have been, so sorry !)

If you don't think it requires a full overhaul (which i don't) just tweak aspects.

P.S. i like the navigation hover effect. don't know if you've just added that ? but i didn't notice it before.
Pricing Structure.

Are you working out of your home? If so, 3 X is a little low but maybe doable. If you have a storefront then you are way too cheap. A couple of years ago I attended a seminar about "pricing yourself out of business" . For working out of home - 3.5X, storefront - 5.5X of cost minimum. This was total cost. Take 1 8X10 print from a good national lab. Add shipping to you, shipping to client, packaging, stamps, anything no matter how small and add it all up. Then mark it up according to your situation. This is the minimum cost to stay in business. If you print yourself, still use the lab cost. They have been doing this a lot longer and know what it takes to be profitable. Use this cost for every print no matter the quantity ordered. If you discount for packages, add a markup to your single print price, so you still get this minimum markup price from your packages. This is a must to be profitable and make a living from your craft.
Thanks for the tips so far. A few specific replies:

Marcus - I've been thinking about replacing that header image for a long time. But I'd like to go with a blue image to match the rest of the (admittedly little) blue part of my template throughout the rest of the site. Of course, I could always change it to more of a peach or marigold to match that sunset panorama.

DJDarknez - I didn't even think about it being on the school's site. I only very recently added the whole "Purchasing" section since originally the site was intended as an organizer for me and to educate people about astrophotography. Then I got requests from people to buy the photos, so I added that info.

dbrandon - I think I also need to change the text size or color for the menu in general, so I'll try to find some way to differentiate the "Portfolio" pages from the "rest" of the pages. Perhaps via coloring? Like the Home could be a deep red, the portfolio pages would be a deep green, and the rest of them would be a deep blue text. I'll see what happens.

John - This is a hobby for me, I'm a full-time grad student. So since I'm not trying to make a living off of it - just looking for some extra spending money when it comes my way - I figure I can afford to be fairly cheap. And I made 3 sales last year. So unless I see a huge uptick in sales requests, I don't really want to price myself out of a sale at the moment. The prices are at least a 350% markup from the base cost to me with tax, but without without time nor gas factored in. Because the panoramas (12x24, 12x36 prints) I have to get at a different lab that's 30 min away instead of 10 min (and then wait an hour unless they're not busy at all), I've priced them at 800% cost.

However, if you think my prices seem ridiculously low, I can definitely go up at the moment. I suppose there could be a perception that if I charge hardly nothing compared to other people, a potential customer may not think they're getting good quality. Would $1 for 4x6; $2.50 for 5x5, 5x7; $10 for 7x7, 8x8, 8x10, 8x12; $20 for 11x14; $25 for 12x18; $40 for 12x24; $50 for 12x26; and $100 for 20x30 be more reasonable? That's closer to 6x basic cost until the 12x18, which is 7.7x cost. The two panoramae are 9.25x cost, while the 20x30 is 3.7x cost (much more expensive to me b/c it's $15 for overnight shipping as opposed to the other sizes where I can just pick them up).

Marcus & dbrandon - I'll have to experiment a little with the broad layout adjustments (darker gray borders, the horizontal bar separators, text vs. photos vs. information box positioning, etc.). I also think I should widen the fixed page width to something a bit broader - I dislike how the menu part takes up that much room throughout the page even though it's just a few lines at the beginning, but I'm not sure how to fix that without going to a horizontal bar at the top, which wouldn't fit with all the options I have now.

Thanks for the input so far and any more to come (and responses to my above responses).
Thanks for the tips so far. A few specific replies:
DJDarknez - I didn't even think about it being on the school's site. I only very recently added the whole "Purchasing" section since originally the site was intended as an organizer for me and to educate people about astrophotography. Then I got requests from people to buy the photos, so I added that info.

Probably what I said will never happen, but with schools, it's better safe than sorry. They might get a little peeved that your making money off of something they're giving you for free.

Also, at least to me personally, it's un-professional. It's like a company that sells (whatever) being hosted on Yahoo.
Alright, the photo site has been dramatically updated. I'd appreciate if folks could give me opinions on the updates (or, if you didn't see the old version, what you think of this).
Much better in my opinion :thumbup:

The nav seems a lot more natural, and you've used colour's logically.

Cool site, and cool pics :wink:

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