Today I’m reviewing Gabriela Szulman’s site.This site has given me more of a headache than any other site I’ve looked in (in a good way, not the lying-down-in-a-dark room sort of way), and I think it’s because there are so many different solutions.

Gabriela is an artist who makes incredible collages that combine memorabilia (photos, objects, postcards) with painting. She lives in London but is originally from Buenos Aires and her prints often contain wonderful vintage images from South America.

Take a look at the homepage below:

gabriela_1

At first glance, the website looks very  nice and Gabriela’s own images are beautiful. Gabriela has started a blog and writes about travels, exhibitions, and her creative process. There are some fascinating pieces here, not only on the blog but also in Gabriela’s account of recent commissions.

There isn’t a huge amount wrong with Gabriela’s site. The main problem I can see is that it can be confusing and repetitive. There is lots of similar-looking content in different places (with some broken links). And, although there are lots of calls to action at the end of each piece, I was left unsure about Gabriela’s real goals for the site. Is it about selling the work, or providing a nice artistic experience for the reader?

So my general recommendation is to tell a much simpler story. But what story exactly? Here are the steps I would go through in thinking about the future development of this site.

1. Think about art, selling and blogging

There are lots and lots of different things that Gabriela could do.

Her blog entries are inspirational and visually delightful. Some artists who like to write take a blog-first approach, with new art highlighted in passing.  Right now Gabriela’s blog is buried under all her other lovely stuff.

But how does it all fit together?  Have a hard think about your site visitors and art customers, the relationship you want with them, and whether this tends to be repeat or one-off.

Do you want regular customers who are informed about new exhibitions and sales?

Do you want a stream of Memory customers for your bespoke service?

Do you want supporters and family who will read your blog posts and cheer you on?

Or maybe you want to speak to a bigger audience (customers, supporters, would-be artists) about the creative process (and in that case, if you want to sell something what will they actually want to buy?)

I say all this because I think an art site needs fans and buyers, and there is a slight tendency to acquire fans and non-buyers. Especially if the site feeds the need for inspiration but doesn’t create desire for the work itself. Personally, I think an art site needs to maintain a bit of distance between the artist and the reader  (unless you’re really selling teaching).  Gabriela’s recent post on travelling to Bilbao does that beautifully, as does the piece on her home.

2. Where do you want to focus the business?

What does Gabriela want to lead with?

Is it the Memory Print service, making art from customers’ own pieces? (it looks wonderful)

Is it her original art and cards?

Or is to provide general  inspiration for other people, as artists?

(There is a lot of detailed information about the Memory Print process in the blog, which also makes me wonder whether people would like to learn how to make these in a workshop setting, OK, I would).

gabriela_2

(This is such a stunning image.)

Right now, the site features absolutely everything and there’s no particular hierarchy. Everything looks equally important. It feels to me like a more structured organisation would help visitors to pick their way through.

3. Simplify the Homepage layout

There is a lot going on here and as a result it’s quite difficult to work out exactly what Gabriela offers and how to access it.

I would reduce the categories listed in the top navigation to something like Home, About, Collections, Shop, Journal.

And I would consider a blog-first (blog on homepage) style. It needs some thinking about. The alternative is to choose a visual layout which focuses on some of these categories more than others – so rather than 8 little squares, the viewer sees one big image and some smaller ones. You provide signposts to important stuff rather than letting everything be important.

4. Improve the basic SEO

A Google search on Gabriela’s name brings all her sites up but a search on ‘Art made from Memories’…nothing.

The absolute minimum required here is that Gabriela adds a longer, SEO-focused Title tag to the homepage.

You’ll see the title above the browser window. For this site, it currently says ‘Gabriela Szulman’.  To get it right you need to think about what your site vsitiors are searching for and amend  it to be a bit more descriptive… something more along the lines of ‘Gabriela Szulman | Mixed Media Artist, Making Art from Memories in London, England’. That is a bit shonky perhaps, but you get the picture. Think about how people search for what you provide.

5. Write an editorial calendar

The final piece is to create an outline calendar for the blog which is built around external events such as exhibitions, open studios, and major festivals. Then you can fill in all the other things that give the visitor a peek into your world and a cue to buy your work – featuring new work, talking about travels, going behind the scenes and so on.

There are so many different ways Gabriel could go: great talent and a lovely individual voice.

 

 

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This week’s website review is of nickyjmoran.com. Nicky is a coach for creative people, who works both one-to-one and on behalf of corporate clients. Nicky points out that her site is in need of an overhaul – it hasn’t really been touched in a while – and she is currently thinking through the relaunch. I chose Nicky’s site because it’s a bit of a blank canvas, and it shows a lot of issues that many coaches need to deal with.

In this review, we are going to talk about voice, credibility, content and how to make the best of video.

Let’s get started.

First impressions: Yep, it’s a little bit unloved.  The design is a bit scrappy. The layout is a little untidy and there are lots of minor errors scattered around the site which make things look a bit amateur. The Facebook widget is empty, and a lot of the links are not properly coded.

nickyj1

I’m actually curious as to why the site is relatively untouched and I will hazard a guess that Nicky has been busy somewhere else. The site goes through the motions of being a coaching website but I will put good money on Nicky’s current business being face-to-face. You can’t really buy off the page here (and that doesn’t necessarily matter).

Nicky’s About page is very interesting and I do not often say that. The About page is a living nightmare for most of us. It’s very clear that Nicky has all of the background and skills to serve her chosen audience of creatives very well.

Her testimonials are excellent, too, in the sense that these look like real people (real creative people) who have worked with Nicky and found the benefit.

nickyj2

Next, let’s explore the blog

For most coach websites, the blog content is very important. It’s where the coach’s point of view shines through, and where prospective clients are attracted.

Reading the posts, one major thing jumps out: Nicky has an absolute talent for video. She’s funny, she’s passionate and she is bursting to connect with her target audience. I also get the sense that Nicky isn’t yet sure about what she wants to say on this site: her online voice is still developing.

The importance of voice

I’m going to digress for a moment. There are shedloads – shedloads!! – of coaching sites out there. A lot of them are warm, well-meaning and incredibly vague. They even look alike. (They all used to look like Danielle Laporte’s old site).  It takes a lot to stand out from that crowd.

What marks out the good ones? Voice. It’s a point of view, a point of helping – that genuinely speaks to the target audience. It’s hard to pin down but people know when it’s there and when it’s missing. It’s here. It may be fledgling but it’s here.

The key to voice is knowing what your clients truly struggle with. Not the airbrushed, everything’s-fine line, but the deep struggles and doubts.  Nicky knows this world very well. In thinking about your future content, what do you your creative clients want? And in what format? (I think video could be perfect for them, but you may want to check).

Communicating credibility

As well as an authentic voice, a coaching site needs to offer credibility. This isn’t about the qualifications presented so much as the sense (through design, content, contact, offers, snippets etc etc etc) that this coach is a real person who will actually do what they say.

If you need a masterclass in credibility then check out Corrina Gordon-Barnes’ site, You Inspire Me.

www.youinspireme.co.uk

I could write an entire post on what I think Corrina does well, but if I can sum it up: there is enough here for a prospective client to experience exactly what it’s like to work with Corrina, well before they pick up the phone or fill in a form.

And before you look at the mouthwatering design, and think, it’s all very well but I can’t afford a beautiful design:  the site was recently relaunched and although it looks beautiful now, it worked pretty well before.  Content is key.

Anyway, back to Nicky.

How should Nicky move forward?

Question #1: Is this business truly moving online or will it continue to operate mainly face-to-face?

The reason I’m asking is that the website solutions are somewhat different in these two cases. An in-person business can benefit from a great-looking site that is essentially static. The site provides a place to showcase talent, but it doesn’t have to attract clients into an online transaction.

An online coaching business operates rather differently, and it usually requires  a continuous drip of new content to speak to new readers and convert visitors into clients. A successful online coaching website is a carefully-crafted, well-oiled machine.

Question #2:  How much creative effort is Nicky willing to put in over time? The more static site involves a big setup, but then you’re (more or less) done. The river-of-content model requires setup and sustained content production. It might be once a fortnight not three times a week, but that still requires time.

I’m saying that because, really, Nicky’s videos are excellent. Nicky! Can you produce video regularly, without going mad? If you can, go for it. But do it wisely.

Tips for making the best of video

Video-heavy content is a slight risk. Video content is a lot slower to process than text, which means that people new to a site can be reluctant to click on it. It is usually a good idea to wrap your video in a blog post, even if it is a short teaser piece which simply highlights some of the things that the video will tackle.

Check out Blogcast FM, which is a podcast-based site. Each audio interview is introduced on the blog in a way that showcases the content being discussed and teases you into the content.

blogcastfm

You can also use video as a jumping-off point for a text-based discussion, as business coach Marie Forleo does on her site. (And notice: The blog discussion is interesting, but you usually have to watch each video to get the full sense of Marie’s points, don’t you?)

If you’re uploading your videos to YouTube, then you need to take care of your YouTube channel. Once again, Marie Forleo’s YouTube channel is an elegant example of how to do it. You’ll see that her channel is beautifully branded to match her website and that each video links directly back to the discussion taking place on her site.

Marie Forleo on Youtube

The recipe, in a few words

  • Think about your audience and your future content
  • Where do you want your website sit within your business?
  • Plan and design all your content for that
  • Use video and writing to weave compelling content that your audience will love to read or watch
  • Plug any credibility gaps
  • Add a nice design that plays to your personality

Simple really…! Best of luck xxx

This is my third real-life website review for businesses rethinking their online presences.

You can read the others here:

What the silversmith isn’t telling you

The online stylist

Next up: The artist. Hopefully less of a monster post, but you never can tell. :-)

Like this? If you’d like to get these updates in your inbox, you can sign up here.

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