About a week ago I launched a new website for blues band Paul Lamb & The King Snakes. In this post I wanted to talk about the planning behind the project, the design and bringing it together with WordPress.
Before starting the project I carried out some research on Paul Lamb and his band The King Snakes. It turned out that in the blues world these guys were a fairly big deal, had won a number of awards and been endorsed by the likes of Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), and achieved many other accolades. Looking at the website that the band currently had it was really failing to do them justice. Unfortunately I don’t have a screenshot, but it was a site typical of those found back in the 90’s with a variety of different fonts, colours and no real structure or navigation. The site was also failing to promote the band’s Facebook, Myspace and Youtube pages successfully, something which in this day and age of social media was a real necessity.
Planning & Wireframing
The first stage of the project was to think about the layout of the homepage. Running my ideas by Lee Sankey (Paul’s friend, co-director of Voxygen and fellow harmonica player) I put together a few variations on how I saw the homepage of the new website being structured. Below you can see an early draft from my sketchbook. The trouble with this layout was that the social networking links and newsletter sign-up were hidden away below the banner. In the wireframe below (put together in OmniGraffle) you can see I’ve moved these elements into the header to increase their visibility. The header changed ever so slightly from this final wireframe in the finished design. The main aim was to keep the homepage very simple by having the necessary music player, social network links, newsletter sign-up and a rotating banner image. I also wireframed the media, band and shop pages so that Paul and his team could see exactly what was going to be included in the designs and make sure we hadn’t left anything out. I’m sure I’ve said this before but I believe the wireframing stage to be such a crucial one in the early life of any new design project. It gives you a chance to talk your client through your thoughts and reasons for positioning elements on the page in the way you have. Its also easier to work together at this stage to change things up should you have to. Much less painful than reworking an actual design.
After completing the wireframes it was time to get to work on the design of the homepage. I’d previously collected some examples of sites Paul and Lee liked, so I was confident that something on the darker side would be okay in this situation. After all most band sites tend to stay away from a ‘corporate’ feel. I also wanted to try using a brighter colour (red in this case) against the black to act as a nice highlight. Below you can see my first attempt. First impressions were great all round, although Lee was keen to try and simplify the header a little. I also wanted to give the outline of the site some depth so in this next version below I tried using a wooden texture in the background. The texture tied in quite nicely with the cover of the bands latest album which was a nice plus. This version was a clear winner and so with that I moved on to produce design concepts for the media, band and shop pages of the site.
At the outset of this project Paul & his team made it clear that they wanted to be able to update the content on the website themselves. That coupled with the need for a ‘News’ section made WordPress an obvious choice for me to develop the site in.
Widgets & Gallery
Similarly to the Steve Giles Online WordPress site I developed, the Paul Lamb & The King Snakes website makes use of sidebar widgets to allow band members to add their own links on their profile pages and of course add new tour dates and news articles quickly and easily. I also used the brilliant NextGen Gallery plugin to make it easy for Paul’s team to add and manage images in the Media page gallery.
This was an essential area of the website and one that was originally going to be handled by static pages with Paypal ‘buy’ buttons enabling users to buy items through Paypal. As I’d used WordPress for the rest of the site this was the perfect opportunity to try out the WP-Ecommerce plugin, which allows you to make the whole experience of buying products seemless and generally much more professional. Setting it all up was easy. My client gave me his Paypal business account API details and I dropped them into the relevant areas in the WP-Ecommerce settings area and we were good to go. The most time consuming part was styling the shop theme to bring it inline with the look and feel of the website. The Paul Lamb & The King Snakes shop handles payments in a safe and professional manner allowing the user to buy through Paypal and then return to the site to complete their order. It also sends email confirmations to users who have completed a purchase and allows Paul and his team to track these purchases in the WordPress admin area.
All in all this was a great project to work on as I was able to try my hand at something new – using WordPress as an ecommerce solution – and it pushed me a little more than some other projects might. I think the new website really gives the band a great place to capture fans and project a much more professional image. Here are a few comments from Paul:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the development, design and launch of my new web site. As a complete novice to the Internet, I am very impressed with your organization of the whole project, which made it an easy, logical, step – by – step process. You have always been friendly, prompt & professional & I especially appreciate your ability to take my ideas and deliver a product beyond my expectations. You certainly managed to keep me on track………no mean feat. Will, you have created a terrific web design, it’s attractive, functional & truly reflects Paul Lamb & the King Snakes. The orders from the shop have already started to come rolling in and the mailing list is beginning to bulge with new fans.