Jane Colclasure Photography

Joyful Work – Jane Colclasure Photography

Jane Colclasure Photography

Jane Colclasure Photography – New Website Design

I love my job. Creating beautiful things is a deeply fulfilling thing for me. But I’ll be honest, there are clients and projects and end results that despite my best efforts turn out less than beautiful. That’s the nature of the collaborative web design and web development business. Clients have their own ideas and requirements, projects can go sideways for any number of reasons, and the end result is almost always a compromise of sorts between vision, time, money, skill, degrees of difficulty and need. And that is as it should be. I am certainly not the final authority on what is in the eye of the beholder and all that.

But sometimes, everything lines up perfectly and the end result is this, Jane Colclasure Photography, a project that fell together like falling down a flight of stairs and landing on your feet.

My job was easy here – simply get out of the way and let Jane’s beautiful photographs speak for themselves. And they do that perfectly. The minimalist design and unobtrusive navigation was quite intentional, as I didn’t want anything to distract the viewer from Jane’s work.

I have hired Jane many times over the years and I can point to several reasons why you should hire Jane for your next project or shoot.

  • Jane is highly skilled and versatile.

While she is focusing on architectural photography these days, she is equally adept at personal and corporate portraits, home and garden photography, tabletop and products photography, food photography and many others. Jane is an outstanding photographer in all respects.

  • Jane is a pleasure to work with.

She collaborates nicely, brings good ideas of her own to the table, is relaxed but professional, can take direction or work independently and is always responsive to the unexpected that can happen during a shoot. Be it studio or location, Jane is always a joy to work with.

  • Jane is cost effective.

Jane’s prices are in line with other professional photographers in the Little Rock market, but she brings so much to the table in terms of easy-to-work-with, deadline responsiveness and end results that I always feel like I have gotten far more than I paid for.

This has been a joyful project to work with Jane on, and I appreciate her choosing me to help out. It is projects like this that make my job so fulfilling.

new web development and redesign - keystone aviation

New Web Development and Redesign – Keystone Aviation

new web development and redesign - keystone aviation

A little less than two years ago, I launched the Keystone Aviation website. Which was a redesign of an even earlier site. You can read about that here.

Things move fast on the internet, and a two year old website can get fairly long in the tooth in two years. It was time for an new web development and redesign, as shown above.

From a design standpoint, we wanted to make the site denser with the redesign. We consolidated and distilled the content into fewer pages, allowing us to eliminate a fair number of pages and make the navigation clearer and more direct. While dense in rich content – which is strategically great for SEO – it is still clean, legible, and to my eyes, a more elegant design.

From a development standpoint, the new site is a true responsive site. The previous site had a stand-alone mobile version that had to be maintained separately, increasing maintenance costs. We built a better form builder into the site to make clean and pretty engagement forms and a much better slider functionality. We used woocommerce to present the charter fleet and the aircraft for sale in a clean and information rich way – once again, stripping out the ‘purchase’ functionality from it.

We are in the process moving all of the TAC websites onto a common WordPress theme (only the TAC Energy site is on a different theme now, and is slated to be redesigned this year) so that the entire TAC web presence has a common look and feel, built on a common core of theme and function. Take a look at the site, I’m really proud of it.

PHDS-Resume-2016

Patrick Houston Resumé

PHDS-Resume-2016

Click to embiggen.

I love infographics. I really love infographics that are especially well done, and dense with good and useful information. I love pouring over them and digesting the info they are presenting.

The thing is, they are incredibly time consuming to do. Gathering, distilling, designing and presenting information in such a way that it is digestible and pleasing to the eye takes a lot of thought and attention to detail. It is so time consuming, in practice, that no client would ever pay me to design one.

I spent probably 20-24 hours on designing the Patrick Houston Resumé you see here. They were happy hours of designing, problem-solving, revising and revising again, and I am pleased with the result. It has the essential information (contact info, work history), a bit of personal information (family, volunteerism), it shows examples of my work and who I have done work for, and gives an overview of my toolset. It’s a lot of information packaged in a linear and dense way. A great deal of time was spent on the little details.

If I were a young art director or graphic designer looking for a job, I would consider doing this. When I was working for ad agencies, resumés would come across my desk weekly. Most went straight into the trash after a 5 second glance but something like this would certainly get my attention and get a call back. A young designer who brought me a resumé with this much care and attention would go to the front of the line.

Good and honest infographics seem to be pretty rare. The New York Times graphic design team does some that are stunning. So does Wired magazine.

Bad and dishonest infographics done by hurried or lazy designers are a plague on humanity, and need to be stopped.

At any rate, I had fun doing this and thought I would share.

Magna IV Website

Magna IV Website Redesign

I recently completed a job I’m pretty proud of. A complete redesign and redevelopment of the Magna IV website. Magna IV is a commercial printer (and more!) here in Little Rock, Arkansas. I had done a bit of consulting with Magna IV on an SEO project for their e-commerce site, and when it came time to redesign and redevelop the Manga IV website, they allowed me to quote the job. I’m so glad they did.

Pulaski County Arkansas Website Design

Pulaski County Arkansas Website Design And Development

Why do I always forget to get the ‘before’ picture until it’s too late, and all I can show you is the ‘after’ picture? Anyway, here is the ‘after’.

PulaskiCountyArkansasWebsiteDesign

Click the pic for a larger view.

Pulaski County Arkansas Website Design And Development

So Fancy! Much Responsive! Very Search Engine Optimized! Many User Friendly! Great Content Management System!

I had a very good time working with Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde and the good folks at Pulaski County Government on the development of the Pulaski County Arkansas website design.

It was long overdue. The old site (which I did not capture any screen shots of beforehand) wasn’t horrible when it was new, but it had become severely dated looking. It had a logo-patterned background, wasn’t mobile responsive, wasn’t connected to social media and wasn’t built on a Content Management System.

I put in a high functioning Events Calendar, Google Maps, Categorized Blog/News, Social Media features, and a whole lot more. I’m really proud of how it looks and works, and the SEO is working really well already. The former site wasn’t SEO’d at all, and was fairly low ranked out of what turns out to be a surprising number of Pulaski Counties in this country. Ol’ Count Pulaski certainly got around. At any rate, after less than a month, the new site is ranked #4 in a blind browser search on Google, ahead of even the Wiki entry. Not bad at all.

Oh! And it is bilingual! Click on the En Español link in the upper left corner, and the entire site switches over to Spanish. AMAZING!

And like I often do with websites after I design and develop one, this website has now been turned over to the good people at Pulaski County to do the basic care and feeding of themselves. I have had a couple of training sessions with their webmaster to go over some of the finer points of the WordPress CMS, and he seems to be doing a bang-up job already.

It was a fun project that I am proud to add to my portfolio.

Razorback Football Schedule 2015 Wallpaper

Razorback Football Schedule 2015 Wallpaper

Razorback Football Schedule 2015 Wallpaper

 

Click the pic for a high resolution file

Razorback Football Schedule 2015 Wallpaper

Hello Razorback Fans!

I’m pretty excited about the upcoming college football season! How about you? We’re only 21 days away from the first game! GAH!

I haven’t done one of these for a couple of years, but with the excitement surrounding the 2015 Arkansas Razorback football team, I thought it time to bring it back.

So here it is, the (unofficial) Razorback Football Schedule 2015 wallpaper, suitable for desktop background photos. It also works great for iPad backgrounds.

If you would like this done in a specific size for your computer or phone, leave me a comment below and I’ll do my best to accommodate.

Woo Pig Soooie!

p.s. I’ll get an Arkansas State Football Schedule 2015 wallpaper/background done in the next couple of days and post it up.

MaraSite02

Website Redesign – MaraLeveritt.com

I have had the very great fortune of being chosen by Mara Leveritt for her website redesign.

Mara is an award winning journalist and author of several books – most notably, Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three and most recently, Dark Spell: Surviving the Sentence.

Mara has had and maintained a website for many years, and had recently had her site redesigned and rebuilt by a company that specializes in social media engagement and search engine marketing.

I don’t mean this to bash that company or speak ill of them in any way. They seem like nice people and I’m confident they do a good job for their clients.

But this was not a good fit for Mara.

First, they moved her off of the WordPress platform that she knew and was comfortable with.

Second, they provided no assistance or training for the CMS they used, Adobe Business Catalyst.

Third, the site simply didn’t function well. Simple, basic things like wrapping text. Uploading photos. Formatting type. Things that Mara could do easily and efficiently in WordPress were seemingly impossible.

Forth, and probably most importantly, the person that had sold Mara on this particular company – her account executive – no longer worked there. Mara didn’t have an advocate at the company anymore and her needs weren’t being addressed in a timely or effective way.

So after a couple of months of struggles and frustration, I was called. I evaluated the site, listened to Mara’s wants and wishes and needs, and got busy with a website redesign.

This is how it turned out.

Website Redesign - Mara Leveritt

Mara’s wish list was pretty straightforward. She wanted to feature her books with links to buy them on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She wanted good, highly functional blog with all her archived content in place, sorted and categorized appropriately. Social engagement needed to be functional and easy for the reader to engage. The navigation needed to be clear and intuitive. The site needed good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and functional analytics (Via Google Analytics). And it needed to be pretty.

In the course of doing some research, I found some great videos of Mara giving speeches and presentations, so we included those on the site.

The site is still somewhat a work in progress – not from a development or design standpoint, but from a features and content standpoint.

All in all, it has been a successful website redesign and a gratifying project to work on. I’m very pleased with how the project turned out.

* Full disclosure: Mara Leveritt is a dear friend.

Adobe Business Catalyst

Adobe Business Catalyst – A Review

In which, I review Adobe Business Catalyst, a platform for building websites and whatnot.

Recently, I was contacted by a client who was unhappy with her shiny new website, built just two months prior on the Adobe Business Catalyst (ABC) platform. This client is a smart, capable woman who had used WordPress to maintain a website for many years and has solid computer skills.

She had hired a well respected web development company to redesign and rebuild her website. A website she paid 5 figures for, and continues to pay for with an ongoing monthly hosting fee.

After the website developers designed and built the site, they turned the maintenance keys over to her, and she began working with the Content Management System (CMS).

She was less than thrilled. The text editor was clunky and didn’t behave properly. The photo functions were rudimentary at best, byzantine at worst. Inconsitence spacing. Odd formatting. Little glitches all over the site.

She could not get the text to format the way she wanted. Getting photos into a post or page required a huge work-around to get them sized and scaled properly. Things as simple as having text wrap around a photo correctly were seemingly impossible tasks.

Her website is primarily a blog, and information about the books she has written with links to buy them on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Pretty straightforward.

She has maintained her own website since the mid-2000’s, and has a ton of content that was ported over to the new site. Again, straightforward.

We met, I took notes about her concerns, and logged into the CMS.

Adobe Business Catalyst Content Management System

The Adobe Business Catalyst CMS interface certainly looks impressive. Look at all that meta!

Even though I was unfamiliar with the layout, I was able to get some of the basic formatting issues corrected. I took care of a few the things that needed to be done – after a fair bit of research in the Adobe forums and some trial-and-error. None of it was very intuitive or straightforward though.

Looking under the hood, the basic framework of Adobe Business Catalyst isn’t ideal. It adds a metric shit-ton of markup to the content rather than relying on CSS. It appears to be built on tables, but I’m still not sure about that. It’s hard to say really. Adobe won’t give a user full access to their closed system.

The blogging functionality is very poor. It is simply not a good or user-friendly blogging platform.

Themes – the templates that control how a site looks – are limited and generic. It’s just been a couple of weeks since I started this project, but I can already spot a site built on the platform from three sites away. You can, of course, design and code your own theme if you have the skill and patience.

Additionally, the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) functionality doesn’t appear to have any in-site feedback like the popular Yoast plugin for WordPress has. This forces blind guesses as to how posts are scoring unless you are really well versed in how to go about SEO. Its implementation is clunky and poorly thought out.

There are any number of other  issues that I could point out, but that gets tedious fast.

Given enough time, I could have repaired most of what was wrong with the site. It is, after all, only code.

But we decided to cut our losses and move the website back to the WordPress platform and put it on a server we have complete control over.

I should say at this point, I adore Adobe products.

I owned Adobe Illustrator 1.1 in 1987. I owned the very first commercial release of Photoshop. I was an early adopter of InDesign. I could not get through the day without Acrobat. I still use Dreamweaver nearly every single day. I have grown up as a designer with Adobe products and cannot imagine getting my work done without them. They are the best.

If Adobe searched their records, they would find that I have been responsible for purchasing hundreds of their products. During my ad agency years, I was the guy responsible for evaluating, choosing and purchasing the software the creative teams used. I chose Adobe products every single time.

I default to Adobe products.

In fact, the only time in my career that I have chosen the wrong platform/technology/program was back in the early days of Flash, when I chose Adobe Live Motion over Macromedia Flash, and I still maintain it was a better product.

I wish I could say the same about Adobe Business Catalyst.

Anyhow, after digging in and doing some research, I discovered that there are a lot of people with not a lot nice to say about the Adobe Business Catalyst platform. And I had to dig pretty deep to find it.

Adobe, being the heavyweight that Adobe is, absolutely dominates the search rankings for the term “Adobe Business Catalyst” in every conceivable permutation. It must be nice to have that kind of SEO clout.

From my research, there is consensus that Adobe Business Catalyst does some things very well.

The CRM modules are awesome. The Newsletter function is solid. The E-Commerce component is very good. Being cloud-based, backups and uptime should be nearly bulletproof, although you will see a fair bit of grousing about that online.

There is, however, one unpardonable sin with the Adobe Business Catalyst platform.

There is no way to extract and download your content from the site should you feel the need to abandon the platform.

I repeat – There is no way to extract and download your content from the site should you feel the need to abandon the platform.

Downloading your content as an XML file is not allowed.

Adobe owns your content. They have you locked into their platform and you can never leave, because they are holding your content hostage.

It becomes more trouble to move your content than to stay with what you’ve already invested in.

This is because it is software as service. The content you create lives on cloud-based on Adobe servers, and they aren’t about to give you full access to their servers. It’s a closed system.

I suppose that’s what passes for good business practice these days. It creates a predictable revenue stream. It maximizes value for the company. I’m sure Adobe shareholders love it.

I see that a lot of the big-time web development firms love the service and are eager to sell you on the platform. They can piggyback on the business model and lock you in. It’s a neat trick to create steady cash flow.

Personally, I find it unethical.

This particular client had 8 years of blog posts loaded into the platform. 8 years of content she had created, that she now has no access to. More than 300 pages of content that can only be claimed, one page at a time, with a tedious copy/paste.

Think about that for a second. It’s like renting a house, but the owner of the house claims ownership of every single thing you bring into the house.

That’s seriously fucked up.

I did find a work around. If the blog is set up as an RSS feed, you can load the content into an RSS reader and save the content to a file. But, with the metric shit-ton of markup the platform adds to the content, it is basically unusable without yet another metric shit-ton of cleanup.

“So, Patrick Houston Design Studio, what’s the bottom line on Adobe Business Catalyst?” you ask.

Adobe Business Catalyst is most likely a very fine platform for large business and large E-commerce sites, IF there is a full time staff of developers, designers and content managers to maintain the site – be they in-house, or via a maintenance contract with your developers.

If you are a big business, or a large, high-traffic E-commerce site with a lot of customers to manage, you’d most likely be a happy camper. Up until the day you decide to move to a different platform. Then you will be very unhappy camper.

Adobe Business Catalyst is NOT built for normal people with better things to do than fuss over their website 8 hours a day.

In a few days, I’ll show off the newly designed WordPress site. It’s extra-awesome and I’m very proud of how it turned out.

Click for a larger view

Dark Spell – Book Design

Dark Spell – Surviving The Sentence by Mara Leveritt

I am very fortunate to have been chosen to design Dark Spell – Surviving The Sentence, Mara Leveritt’s latest book on the West Memphis Three saga.

The basic parameters of the WM3 story are well known: In 1993, three young boys are convicted of murdering three even younger boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, in what was described as a satanic ritual.

The convictions of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin were based on astoundingly flimsy evidence amid the ‘satanic panic’ that gripped the nation at the time.

Mara’s previous book, Devil’s Knot, detailed the crime, investigation and convictions of the WM3. Echols received the death sentence. Misskelley and Baldwin received life sentences.

Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin were freed in August, 2011 on a Alford plea after having served more than 18 years in prison.

Dark Spell picks up the WM3 story where Devil’s Knot left off.

Click for a larger view

Click for a larger view

Dark Spell is mostly the story of the first 14 years that Jason Baldwin spent in prison.

In reading Jason’s story, I was deeply moved by the essential humanity, dignity and grace of a 16 year old boy sentenced to die in prison.

To maintain his faith, optimism and innocence in the teeth of the indifferent brutality of the Arkansas prison system is truly remarkable.

Dark Spell is a great read. Mara’s strong, clear voice shines but doesn’t distract from the narrative. I hope my book design has done justice to her words.

Deeply annotated and indexed, it gives a lot of detail without becoming tedious or wonky. I recommend it strongly.*

A third book detailing the efforts to both free the WM3, and the efforts to keep them in prison, is planned.

 

 

Not all of the projects I get involved in turn out as well as Dark Spell.

My two main goals as a designer are:

  1. Deliver work that the client is happy with
  2. Do work that I am proud of

I like to think that I have an excellent track record on the first goal. I have lots of long-term clients that I believe would agree.

The second goal is more hit-and-miss. Often as not, things go out the door that I am not completely happy with for a wide variety of reasons.

Time constraints, budget considerations, differences in taste, variances of opinion and conflicting goals all work against my happiness. And that’s fine. Ultimately, if the client is well pleased and it doesn’t completely suck, I’m good.

This project has hit both of my goals, and has been a joy to work on.

I am well pleased with the cover design. Working from a photo by Joe Berlinger, with layers of texture and a shadowy overlay of razor wire, Jason Baldwin looks out at the reader with unbroken directness.

With most of my work being web-based these days, I don’t often get a chance to do long-form typography. And I do love typesetting the occasional book-length document.

Here is a sample of the interior of the book.

Dark Spell - Pages 62 & 63

Click for a larger view

The text face is set in Minion Pro, designed by Robert Slimbach. Minion Pro is inspired by classical, old style typefaces of the late Renaissance, a period of elegant, beautiful, and highly readable type designs.

The titles, quotes, running footers, etc., are set in the Gotham family. Gotham was designed by Tobias Frere-Jones. Gotham’s letterforms are inspired by a form of architectural signage that achieved popularity in the mid-twentieth century.

There are no widows, orphans or step-children to trip over, and the letter/word spacing variances are kept to the bare minimum. I was taught, and I believe, that book typography should be beautifully invisible, and I hope that I’ve accomplished that.

* Full disclosure: Mara Leveritt is a dear friend.