Case Study: Photography Blogs
Welcome all WordPress bloggers. I Beau Preston have carried out the following case study in an attempt to ascertain a greater understanding of what constitutes effective web-design and how narrative can be applied to achieve a greater level of response amongst viewers. Now according to the textbook “Essential Academic Skills” 2nd edition, a communication case study can be defined as “a story of some actual situation designed to allow students to learn skills in applying their course knowledge to the ‘real’ world. It is either based on research, or is a fictional account, of particular events or behaviors or institutions.” (p, 161). So in the case study I shall factually compare and contrast two completely different photographically oriented blog sites (one being a imbedded on WordPress the other on 500px). I will draw out discrepancies in design aspects such as layout and content then judge which page is most successful as a photographic blog.
This blog is owned by Joel Aron and is dedicated solely to his photography. Although Aron is currently the “cg supervisor: lighting & fx” (IMDb) for the TV show Star Wars the Clone Wars, he uses his 500px page to showcase his love for photography. “I was handed a Pentax K1000 for my 12th birthday. Ever since then, there has always been a camera with me.”
Professional photographer Victoria Judy started this blog for her 365-day photo project. This project is an escape from her day job, which usually involved shooting simple portraits and weddings. It’s simply aimed “To keep my brain working and my shutter finger shooting.”
Brief about each site
WordPress: is a free open source blogging tool appropriate for multitude of blogs, be they music, photography, fandom, film or anything one feels the need to blog about(Wiki). It’s highly customisable nature and cross plat forming ability has attracted millions to actively blog through them.
500px: has been described as flicker for professionals (Wiki). It specializes in the publication of aspiring photographers work with a built in option for views to purchase or request to purchase work from artists. It is important to note that much of the layout and design aesthetics of the page are fixed to give a uniform look to the entire page.
In choosing blogs for my case study, I went with professional communicators who were both photographers by trade. These two however use their blogs to showcase their love for the art rather than simply sell their work.
I have based my comparisons on the article ‘9 essential principals for good web design’, using some keywords and subheadings. I felt this was a sound way to add clear structure to the results and analysis section of the case study.
Each blog will be referred to by the surname of the owner ‘Judy’ or ‘Aron’. I would like to reiterate the fact that Aron as little personal control over many of the aesthetic aspects of his blog. To avoid too much confusion, in my analysis I will simply refer to anything on his blog as his. In my conclusion I will not only address the limitations of preset, restrictive pages but also point out some of the benefits they hold.
Precedence and Navigation
Precedence is one of the most effective tools to economically and efficiently convey a message to a responder. Logically for people of the English language, the first place we see on a page is the top left corner. Therefore this becomes the most important place for any webpage. The use of vector lines help to guide the eye from the most important part of the page to the next. This is how web designers are to deliver the most amount of information in the shortest amount of time.
The vector lines on Judy’s page draw our eye first to the title then, down to the picture post below and then lastly to the navigation bar on the side. Although her page has clearly utilized precedence, it hasn’t quite been used to it’s full potential in that the side bar, navigation bar and title, seems to blend together. The use of predominantly black text of plain white background can make it hard to decipher where one section starts and the other ends. Fortunately she has utilized both size and font to help differentiate these three areas.
As Aron’s blog represents more of an online art gallery, the eye is drawn instantly to the photos in the middle of the page. Although there is less emphasis on whom the artist is, it allows the viewer to quickly process the images and decide if the photographer is worth further investigation. Once one has seen the images the eye is then drawn back to the top left and reads right getting the most important information first. This is a simple but effective way to lure readers into the page.
Closely linked to the precedence is the navigability of the page. Essentially it is how easy it is to get from one part of the page to the next.
Being a WordPress, Judy has far more options for customization however has decided to keep it simply with only two main tabs ‘home’ and ‘about’. This keeps navigation of the site fairly straightforward and has been proven to work well.
Although Aron has more options, it is simple to navigate with big headings and a “breadcrumb trial” to lead views easily back to the previous page or the home page. This makes the additional options not overwhelming and prevents users from getting lost.
Layout and Alignment
For effective layout and alignment, designers must utilize spacing, typography, imagery, colour and consistency the website to effectively convey their message.
Judy’s choice in a simplistic black and white layout runs the risk of looking to generic. After viewing numerous amounts of blogs it does not take long to recognize the plain black white layout becomes clichéd and over done (that’s not to say if it’s done right it can look good). This can sometimes run the risk of appearing to have little time, effort or thought put into this aspect of the design. Put simply it can have an amateurish feel. Her page does however adhere to basic spacing and alignment principals. With plenty of ‘white space’ the page doesn’t run the risk of feeling to over crowded and overwhelming potential audience members.
Similar to Judy, Aron’s layout utilizes a minimalist colour palette of black, white and grey. I feel his execution of this style has resulted in an overall better professional look. As his page is more visually oriented with less emphasis on text, it isn’t convoluted with all sorts of widgets, texts or colorful Facebook Twitter (etc) ‘like’ boxes around each photo or post. These Facebook, Twitter and other social networking ‘like’ boxes have become a common occurrence on webpages so the aesthetic portrayal of them has become quite important. Aron’s social networking links blend nicely into the background as to not inhibit of the imagery.
Although each element of a blog site works in tandem, one of the most important elements is the content. High quality content is what will continue to bring traffic to your page, thus influencing the longevity of your blog.
Judy is quite successful in the amount of content for her page. She pledged at the start of her blog her aim was to post a new photo each day, which is exactly what she has done. Throughout each day she has been able to maintain a high quality of diverse photography. Each photo represents either something from that day or her life in general, thus creating a beautifully, engaging narrative progression. This is the true lure of this blog as she encourages people to tune it everyday for updates, the short but often-witty post names add to the story but keep the overall idea simplistic to avoid making it a tedious experience for her follows.
On the other hand, Aron’s volume of content is far less than Judy’s although appears to be of overall better quality. This brings in the idea of quality over quantity. This is a debate most bloggers go through, do they create more content at the expense of the quality? I feel both Aron and Judy have proven how each approach can be executed successfully. Although Aron has no obvious overarching narrative running throughout his entire blog, the stories section is where individual narratives are found. His Singapore and Tokyo 2012 “story” begins with a one line text intro, the rest is utilizes photographic storytelling. For me this was the highlight of any blog, the photos could be thrown in any order and still evoke a powerful story conveying life on the streets of Tokyo to Singapore. The spontaneous but natural effect of street photography is beautifully accentuated with emotionally powered imagery.
Through the comparison of these two blogs one question kept bugging me. Which is better, the fully customizable blog page or preset rigid page? In terms of photography I feel I site such as 500px is far more effective in showcasing photographers work. It takes far less set up but still achieves a highly professional look to showcase images. One of the main drawbacks with the basic WordPress is an image uploaded via post doesn’t go straight to gallery to be viewed in. Two view each image in full size one must click on the individual image, go back once seen and then repeat for each photo. Due to the gallery nature of 500px, each photo once in the album is showcased at full size meaning a simple scroll down is all it takes to view every photo.
I feel the key to an effective photography blog is visually oriented look with clear navigational controls and simple text accompanying. The goal should theoretically be to transport each viewer into the owner’s gallery. All it takes is some effective web design.
Aron, J. 500px.
Judy, V. WordPress.
Turner, K., Ireland, L., Krenus, B., Pointon, L. (2011), Essential Academic Skills.Oxford University Press. South Melbourne, Australia
WordPress Wiki Page
9 Essential Principals of Web Design http://psd.tutsplus.com/tutorials/designing-tutorials/9-essential-principles-for-good-web-design/
500px Wiki Page