Ami Vitale: Website Redesign
Ami Vitale is a photojournalist who has traveled the globe and witnessed appalling crimes against humanity and the planet. Yet, she has also experienced the beauty of the universal strength of people near and far. According to her, photography is “a tool to make sense of our commonalities in the world we share”. Her work has been published in several international publications such as National Geographic. Ami is also a Nikon Ambassador, a member of Ripple Effect Images, a speaker, and educator.
She contacted me to refresh her online presence, especially her website which in her words, “is dark, dated and not mobile-friendly”. Her career was and continues to be on an upward path so she felt it was time to invest in creating a more rich and compelling online hub. Some of her goals for the website redesign included:
- Be informative, educational
- Be a resource for photographers
- Offer the opportunity to sell her images
- Be mobile-optimized
- Display larger images
- Have greater control of her content
We worked closely together using Basecamp and Skype while she continued to work across oceans and time zones.
Process & Thinking
Understand needs, desires, expectations. An extensive questionnaire gave me a big picture view of the reasons why Ami wanted to redesign, what she was hoping to achieve, her tastes, and more. Based on her answers, I did more research, including an analysis of her existing web presence including her marketing efforts. A follow-up phone conversation helped to clarify and dig a bit deeper. I also brought in a developer to help address technical questions and to get her familiar with the project from the outset.
Understand the business and relationships. As a former editorial art director and designer, I was familiar with how photographers are hired. Having hired them in the past, I had specific qualities and content I looked for when looking at photographer websites. And over the years, I have had numerous conversations with Directors of Photography, Picture Editors, and many others who interact with photographers. I understood their pain points.
Recommendations for identity and brand design. Ami desired a logo and some identity pieces so I referred her to a few identity designers. I also felt it was important to have a complete understanding of how she sees her brand and how others perceive her.
Understand the scope of content & technical specifications. The redesign was going to require quite a bit more content creation so I created an inventory of what was already on the site and how it was displayed. Then, I recommended hiring a writer who could help Ami create new content and help finesse existing content to also improve SEO. Photography was the primary focus so image quality and site speed were important factors.
Provided detailed content outline, functionality and style specifications. This worked on multiple levels: set the scope of the project and expectations as well as individual responsibilities. Sitemaps and wireframes (modified as needed with limits) communicated the structure and flow of the website. This provided an agreement and foundation for all discussions.
Manage production schedule, communications, and team. Basecamp and Skype were used for communication, tasks, deadlines, and QA. One challenge: The first two developers we worked with a) suddenly quit to do something else b) failed to meet expectations and deadlines. I scrambled to locate and find a reliable WordPress developer.
Reaction and feedback to Ami’s website have been positive by her fans and those who hire her. Subtle modifications continue to be made especially with the addition of e-commerce.
She has embraced marketing and uses her blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to redirect her fans and followers back to her website. Recently, she launched a flash print sale with great success. All proceeds went to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary.
Though I am no longer working directly with Ami, the foundation we created together continues to evolve and give her great returns. We remain in touch and she continues to seek my guidance and advice. Most recently, she contacted me about her new book.