This semester we have had the unique opportunity to cultivate an online presence and build a digital space to inhabit. From the first class in September to the final class in December, my website has done a full one-eighty. Starting as a lifestyle blog, Sincerely, Gracie has overcome confusion and creative block to evolve into its destined form- a photography blog. My website is a creative outlet; a place for me to express myself through photos, refine my craft and showcase my work. The concept of my blog was inspired by Joe Mcnally Photography. Joe Mcnally, a professional photographer and photo blogger, explains the creative process of his photos and writes to support his creative vision. Sincerely, Gracie incorporates the same idea.
Website Design and Content:
With no experience in website building, using WordPress was a learning curve. Needless to say, designing my website was a process of trial and error. When making design decisions, I worked from the premise that readers’ experience of a text is not only shaped by the words themselves, but also the context, format, provenance, and design. With this in mind, I put great emphasis on choosing the right website theme. Knowing that my content is image-heavy, I chose a simple theme so nothing would distract from the photos, the focus point of my website. My goal to design a straightforward and easily navigable site was largely influenced by this article that discusses affordances and how the best designs are those with direct perception of possibilities for action. With this information, I was very conscious in making sure my website design features gave visitors a clear understanding of what to expect from Sincerely, Gracie.
The blog section of my website is separated into four categories: Big Love Ball Photo Series, Capture and Write, Photography Skills, and Videos. Under the category Big Love Ball Photo Series, I photograph the Big Love Ball in places that I “love”. It was fun to shoot in different locations and write about my favourite places. Creating content for the Capture and Write category is when I felt most creatively inspired. This section showcases photos that tell a story, share an idea, or make a statement. One of my favourite blog posts, “My Picture, My Story”, is featured in this category. I photographed my grandma holding up one of her old photos, then I wrote a piece about the story behind that image. The Photography Skills category is an opportunity for me to share my photography knowledge and improve my skills. So far, this section features posts on shutter speed, prop styling, and photo editing. I was inspired to incorporate a Videos category, by watching Thoraya Maronesy on Youtube. Her channel is “dedicated to interactive projects with strangers.” Drawing inspiration from Thoraya’s insightful films, I asked people questions and filmed their responses.
My Audience- Real and Imagined:
My intended audience for Sincerely, Gracie is people who are looking to be inspired by creative storytelling through photos, those interested in learning about photography, and clients who will visit my Portfolio section and contact me to shoot. However, analyzing data from Google Analytics has taught me that I have not been reaching my imagined following. Google Analytics Acquisition Report gives me insight as to where my users came from, and the results of this data suggest my current audience remains limited to my publishing peers. This information is not surprising as I haven’t been blogging for long nor have I made a significant effort to promote my website. In hopes of generating a larger audience of photography lovers and inspired minds alike, my goal is to continue creating content and expand Sincerely, Gracie’s presence past the web.
Learning From Challenges:
While I am proud of my website and the content I have produced, unfortunately, the process to achieve the end result was nothing like I had hoped it would be. I enrolled in PUB 101 because I was excited by the idea of developing a website and watching my online presence progress throughout the semester. When it is said and done, my blogging experience was not a thirteen-week progression, but rather a three-week development of digital content. This rush to produce content occurred because I changed my website premise so late into the semester. I equate the second-guessing and last-minute work to my constant desire for perfection. This article insightfully describes the correlation between perfectionism and procrastination, stating, “Because perfectionists fear being unable to complete a task perfectly, they put it off as long as possible.” In most areas of my life, fear of failing to be “perfect”, stifles the development and enjoyment of the work.
Looking back, the semester started on the wrong foot when by week-three, I was already having second thoughts about my website. At this point in the course, Sincerely, Gracie was a lifestyle blog dedicated to travel, health, and fashion. I was no longer inspired to post content in the lifestyle realm, and I knew I wasn’t using my digital voice to the best of my ability. Creatively stuck and frustrated by the quality of my posts, I stopped creating content altogether. I had concluded that if my website couldn’t reflect my best, most innovative, and inspired ideas, I shouldn’t post at all. For the next several weeks, I pondered how to break out of this unproductive cycle, and in week 10, I made the decision to re-invent my online presence altogether. Shifting my website premise to photography was the best decision I made. It is much easier and much more enjoyable to create content when you are inspired, motivated and passionate about the subject. There were still moments of insecurity and self-doubt about failing to meet the high expectations I set for myself, but I did my best to remain confident in my vision of execution. If I have learnt one thing from the process, it’s that the voice in my head that wants everything to be “perfect”, is the very thing holding me back. If you don’t take that first step for fear of failure, you’ve already failed.
The Overall Experience:
Coming into this course, I intended to build a website that reflects my passions and brings value to those who interact with it. However the journey might have been to get here, I feel as though I have accomplished my goals. At the begging of the semester, Professor Suzanne Norman said, “becoming an online publisher is a deeply personal experience”. When she said it then, it didn’t resonate much with me. However, reflecting on it now, I understand the truth to this statement. Becoming an online publisher reintroduced me to my passion for photography and writing, and forced me to acknowledge the internal struggle that prevents me from achieving my goals. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to cultivate an online presence, with insight from teachers and classmates who have helped my website grow. This isn’t the end of my publishing journey, and I am excited to continue creatively expressing myself through photos and validating my artistic vision with words.
Joe McNally Photography
Kaptelinin, Victor. (n.d). Affordances.
Maronesy, Thoraya. (n.d). YouTube- Thoraya Maronesy- About
Kucheriavy, Andrew. (n.d). Google Analytics Acquisition and Channel Reports
Jacobs, Denise. (2014, May 20). Breaking the Perfectionism–Procrastination Infinite Loop