website review

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.

 

 

{ 0 comments }

Our next site review is www.somethingxtraspecial.com, a site where Sue sells silver jewellery and in particular some rather gorgeous little silver peas in a pod for twins, mothers, sisters, you name it. Let’s go.

First impressions

I look at a lot of craft sites (I make jewellery in my spare time) and my first impression of Sue’s site is that it’s really very good. You would not believe the number of people with jewellery businesses who have online shops with blurry photos and no prices or measurements. Not here. Sue apologises quite a lot (Postage! silver costs! OMG terms and conditions!) and she really doesn’t need to. The peapods, birds and leaves are gorgeous.

xtra1

Images and information

The main product photos, shot against a reflective bone china background are very clear and show a lot of detail. Descriptions are great. There is a zoom feature and a range of alternate views; all very important if the customer is get a good idea of what this physical product will look like. Photos are very subtly watermarked, too.

A few of your images could work better, I think: you occasionally show pendants etc on what looks like a plastic store mannequin. These certainly show scale but they are very cold-looking and I think they cheapen things a bit. If you can have a real person model – even if you just show the neck! – for these core offerings, that would be very nice.

Product Image

The About page and the hidden maker

If there is ever a page that acts as a kind of flag as to how you’re feeling, it’s the About page.

I was very intrigued by the jewellery, so I clicked on this page in some excitement. What I expected: some sort of story about the pea pods or you as a silversmith. What I got: a photo (of the back of your head) to click on. See below. It is very nice to see a real studio set up but it’s also nice to see the maker’s lovely face!

About page

Click through and I get.. a story about how you sell online because it’s the future, providing excellent customer service yadda yadda yadda. Cannot argue, but it’s not that interesting. But wait…

What Sue isn’t telling you

I did a little digging, because I’m basically a stalker, and it turns out that Sue has a very nice Facebook page, a rather lovely Etsy shop and a Blogspot blog!  Her Etsy shop bio says:

When I was six, my father made me a crystal ring with a beautiful deep red ruby in it. Of course it wasn’t really crystal – it was Perspex which he had carved, and the stone wasn’t really a ruby but red glass, but to me it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen – and it was mine! I still have it. And that is where my love of jewellery making came from.

That is lovely. That is LOVELY. Put it on your own site too. It would go beautifully on your About page. It gives the reader a sense of your vision and values. And I still want to know: why pea pods? There has to be a story there too. You say you get lots of stories back from your customers, so can you use some of them?

The newsletter in the corner

Last thing:  If I sign up to your monthly newsletter I can get tips on silver. Not sure what kind of tips. Not sure how well this will be working for you.

(OK. I need to digress here. I often see online business folk suggesting that jewellery makers give some tips on cleaning jewellery as an incentive for signing up for newsletters. I will not rant. I will simply invite all you jewellers to pretend you are buying some shoes online and think about what you would do if Louboutin or Fitflop or Clarks or whoever suggested you could sign up for their newsletter and get tips on how to clean your shoes. How excited would you be?)

But Sue here has a very nice Facebook page with lots of fans and so maybe her newsletter is absolutely lovely? Maybe you have a Peapod club or you are a witty writer? (I think you are) Feature it. Add a photo or an extract or something that proves I will enjoy opening it amongst the tidal wave of updates from everyone I’ve ever bought from. Because that is the truth of our inboxes these days.

Overall thoughts for Sue:

This is beautiful work and you are doing a very good job.  I suspect you are very modest about your skills so please take all my comments in that spirit.

I do think the site could do with a little bit more personality. You are most definitely there on Facebook and Etsy – but you’re not quite here on your main site. No need to go overboard, but more about you, your inspirations and your background will help the buyer to feel that they are connecting to a bigger story. And there is a bigger story, I think.

If you can turn around and smile at the camera, that’s even better. (I totally get the urge to hide, that is why I am in sepia over there on the sidebar, but it’s pointless really).

You are already writing lots and lots for your various online presences, so I think it’s just a matter of focusing these and deciding where you are going to put your energy, what you are going to leave in or edit out. Take a look at Through The Round Window for a nice example of a designer who manages to be personal while actually staying quite private.

Through the Round Window

 

I hesitate to even say the word, but Pinterest might be relevant… and OF COURSE YOU ARE THERE ALREADY.

GO GET EM, SUE.

Such a beautiful product.

If you’ve enjoyed this, do share it. You can also sign up for updates delivered right to your email. If you’d love your own strategic site review, away from the public gaze, with more detail, then you can book a session with me. I’ll be adding a Shop page shortly with the full details and prices but in the meantime you can email me.

Next up: The creative coach.

Previous post in this series: The case of the online stylist.

 

{ 19 comments }