Pianist Robin Spielberg needed a new website. Her old site, shown below, was cluttered and didn’t have the right kind of content to meet her needs. It was built a while back, so technology has changed, and things had been gradually added on over time, so the user experience was no longer smooth. Visitors could easily feel that they were moving from one site to another as they traveled through Robin’s site, and some pages didn’t work at all.
So we built Robin a new site, which you can see at left. The new site has a much more robust ecommerce option, so Robin can set up her store to do things she previously had to manage with lots of notes and communication back and forth with customers. Since Robin has an agency to run, a touring and recording calendar to keep up, and a family to care for, being able to automate her store is a welcome timesaver. It will also present a more professional, trustworthy appearance to shoppers.
Robin’s old site had video and streaming music, plus a newsletter signup and lots of photos. We kept that on her new site, but we integrated the multimedia elements into the site so they look cleaner. We also uploaded sound files and PDFs so people can download Robin’s sheet music immediately — and again, automatically. Robin will no longer have to email PDFs to customers individually.
Robin’s site is a WordPress site. We used a premium theme and customized it for her. We also used quite a few plugins that offer the functionality she wanted without the expense of bringing in a developer:
- WP-ecommerce is our go-to choice for a shopping cart. It has so many options, and is so easy to use, that it works well for everything from ticket sales to full-on e-commerce.
- NexGENGallery lets Robin arrange her photos into galleries and put them wherever she wants using easy shortcode.
- Tumblrize lets Robin post at her new site, and automatically cross-post at Tumblr.
- Vertical Response Widget lets Robin add subscribers from her website to her Vertical Response email list automatically. I like the fact that we can show a modest “Subscribe” button and the longer form she wants will pop up, rather than taking up space on the homepage.
- YouTube Channel shows Robin’s videos in rotation, so visitors see new content when they visit, and leads to her YouTube channel.
We also used a widget from Reverbnation, putting in into a normal text widget, along with some other custom text widgets.
If Robin had wanted all this back when she had her first website built, she’d have paid five or ten times as much as it cost her this time around, because each of those elements would have had to have been built for her. Just adding one video to a website used to be a very expensive proposition.
We normally build completely custom websites, but Robin’s site is an example of how the right customized theme can work well for a company. Let’s look at some of the specific factors that made this site work for her.
Robin has a lot of excellent professional photographs. With these as the basis for the design, we were able to create a colorful gallery and an attractive home page without relying on our graphics guys. We added a custom background image and found some appropriate icons, and nothing more. If we hadn’t had great photos to work with, we would have needed a lot more design work.
Robin does her online marketing homework. A client who has lively social media and a regular newsletter — or the budget to have us do it for them — provides the online support to make a website work.
Robin also had plenty of content. She needed us to write optimized home page content for the search engines, since most of the text on her old site was from other sources, but having lots of videos, reviews, photos, and music files made it easy to create interesting pages without any special design features.
There’s a perception that you can do a WordPress installation, stick in a free theme, and instantly have a great, search engine optimized website. This is not true. With good content and some WordPress skill, though, you can have a great website from a customized theme.