Emma Kisiel is a photographer dedicated to animals, documenting them throughout their life cycle in vivid images that beckon us to reconsider our connection to the animal kingdom. Her engagement with the natural world takes her to museums to photograph dioramas of ecosystems, to sites where animals have fallen prey to the road. In addition to showcasing her strong portfolio online, she also sells prints and books. The need to bridge these elements together made her a perfect candidate for a website makeover, thus she was chosen as our third makeover recipient sponsored by Squarespace.
Before her makeover, she had this to say about her web presence: “The past few months I’ve been spending time on other artists’ sites, and I realized that I really want to update it in terms of its layout and design. For example, I’ve had sidebar navigation since 2009 and I feel like most artists’ sites are starting to move away from that. I have some exciting things coming up for my work, as well as a couple new series to release online and a new logo, and I’d like to relaunch my identity with all of that. Sites like Squarespace make it so easy today that there’s little need for photographers to hire someone to create a beautiful, functional website for them, so that’s the direction I’d like to go in.”
We talked to the artist to hear about the process of making her new website.
Which template did you use for your site? Did you customize anything?
“My template is Avenue. One thing I was wary of when using a popular website platform was having a site that people could tell was a template, or that just anyone could create very easily. But after I looked at and tried a few different templates, this one was just already almost exactly what I wanted. My customizations are mostly in visual style: fonts, colors, sizes, etc. My Information page is set up a little differently, too, with a Block of more navigation before the main content.”
Why did you choose this template?
“I chose this template because it served my needs immediately without hardly any customization. I was looking for a site with top navigation, since my website has had sidebar navigation for five years and I have been seeing a lot of photography websites head away from that, and I really like the square thumbnail grid view of my Selected Work page. I am always attracted to simple, clean photography websites more than flashy ones. I like that this template is straightforward and effective, not confusing or fussy.”
How does the design of the new platform relate to your photographic aesthetic?
“My aesthetic can be a bit jarring. It’s important to me that my photographs are large and centered, with few distractions around them. The gallery view of my old site was somewhat similar, but I couldn’t get distances right to achieve what I wanted with the placement and size of the image thumbnails. It’s really helpful that the Squarespace templates are sort of standardized but still have room for customization.”
How long did it take you to make your website?
“I probably spent about eight hours over several days trying things out and coming up with something I was happy with initially. Once you get the hang of it, styling is really easy.”
What are some of the advantages of using Squarespace?
“I’m really happy to feel comfortable making changes to my site, big or small, whenever I want, without having to rely on someone else. I feel like Squarespace offers a great amount of control with the least amount of hassle. Specifically, a couple of my favorite features are the various gallery setup options (I have traditional thumbnail galleries on my project pages, but my home page is a slideshow that auto-plays, and I love it) and the Blocks for separating and adding content (and creating columns, which until now has always been a gigantic pain for me). Also, I have used Squarespace’s customer support four or five times now, and they have been super helpful and quick to respond.”
Tell me about the process of setting up a store with Squarespace. Was it easy to do? How does it differ from the Big Cartel store you were using previously?
“I was impressed with how smoothly setting up my store went. As well as books from older series, I have an option for buying prints in two sizes of any image, either from my portfolio or on my Flickr, so it doesn’t make sense to have individual listings for prints right now. This was made a lot more convenient with the Workflow option in the store setup, which lets me collect additional information like which image the customer is ordering a print of. I like that the whole checkout process is streamlined and attractive and can be completed all on the same platform. Like the rest of my site, I feel like the store is similar to what I had before, but more fresh, consistent, and aesthetically pleasing.”