Jonathan Kelham Portfolio Site: Final Proposal

I plan to work towards building a portfolio site for a local artist named Jonathan Kelham who is a third year Fine Art student in Birmingham. The client needs a website to display a selection of his work including images, videos, a biography, contact page and blog. The purpose of the website is to provide prospective clients and collaborators with an online portfolio of his current and ongoing work and enhance his networking capability as an artist.

The blog will be the main part of the project as I will be building it from scratch using Ruby on Rails. This blog will act like a sketchbook as Jonathan will be able to upload and write about his work in progress which will add more of a dynamic feel to the website. Similar to most blogs, this will have a comments feature that will allow Jonathan to gauge feedback and allow users to contribute to the website with resources, recommendations and opinions. The comments section will initially be hidden, accessible via a link at the foot of the post so as not to distract the user from each post when first viewed.

The sketchbook will be the most significant element in giving the website that dynamic feel that is so important in today’s websites. In general, when a website changes frequently, users will return to it more often which, of course can only be a good thing. After researching the top 100 most visited websites in the UK, it is immediately evident what most if not all of the sites have in common – they all have highly dynamic content.

1.       Google UK
2.       Facebook
3.       Yahoo
4.       Windows Live
5.        YouTube

Also ranking very highly are site such as Flickr, WordPress, Amazon, Wikipedia, etc. Obviously, this website will not be ranked as highly as any of these websites as even the most popular artists hold only a very small corner of the public’s interest on the internet. David Carson is a very popular artist and graphic designer, however his page ranking is a meagre 723,707. Even the controversial Tracy Emin, has a low page ranking of 1,547,901. To add a local slant to the statistics, Birmingham Artists (collection of artwork and biographies for prominent Midlands-based artists) comes in at 5,941,255. Whitecube.com which serves as a directory for contemporary art in London has a relatively respectful traffic rank of:  286,876.

As an artist, he needs exposure in order to make a name for himself within the local art community. For him to have a digital presence would be of great benefit to him as he would be able to refer people to his website while networking amongst Birmingham’s creatives.

The ‘sketchblog’ will be a very important feature of the website as it will serve as a source of news about Jonathan’s work and exhibitions. This is one particular element that most of the art websites I visited have in common – they all contain up-to- date news sections that give information about upcoming events and current activities.

The blog will also have an administration feature where he will be able to upload his own material and manage the content of his blog in a simple but functional manner. The simplicity of this aspect is significant to this client as by his own admission, he is only really competent with technical matters.

The gallery section of the website will be a fairly simple setup, perhaps with some enhanced viewing techniques that give the section more of a tangible feel. Specifically I am speaking about gallery effects; smooth transitions and pleasing enlargements. The gallery will be built again using Ruby on Rails. Works will be organised by medium. Some good examples of galleries that have been built using RoR include:

Eyelook

Gullery (example on http://geoffreygrosenbach.com/)

LogiLogi (working demo) teams up nicely with Lightbox, a Javascript plugin that allows smooth englargements of images with a slideshow style interface when required.

The look and feel of the website as a whole will be quite minimal, but reflective of Jonathan’s work which features a fair amount of white space and natural colour. We have discussed giving the website the feel of paper media without being excessive in use of texture and shadow. Subtlety and understatement is key.

I have completed an initial mockup of the sketchbook page:

Jonathan Kelham - Sketchbook Page (click to enlarge)

Jonathan Kelham - Sketchbook Page (click to enlarge)

As you can see, I have refrained from use of excessive graphical elements so that the page allows the content to be the main feature rather than the site itself.

 I have chosen to use Ruby on Rails mainly because I have been won over by the testimonials from designers and developers who have migrated from the use of PHP in favour of this relatively new framework. Emphasis has been on speed, consistency, manageability and intelligible coding methods. I have been impressed with the existing uses for Ruby on Rails in sites such as Digg, Twitter, 43 Things, and A List Apart to name but a few.

Statistics were gathered from Alexa.com.

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