A new look for the Ideum portfolio and blog

As the Web has evolved, so has our portfolio. I’ve always believed that a strong portfolio site not only demonstrates our capabilities, but also reflects our approach towards design and technology.

This is our fifth portfolio site in less than seven years and while it is never easy to find the time to redesign, we’ve always managed to squeeze it in between projects. There were several motivating factors at play here for this redesign.

First, as screen size has grown over the last few years our portfolio was looking increasingly small on the screen. Currently, 6 in 10 monitors are at 1024×768 pixels only about 17% use 800×600. This is according to designer Jakob Nielsen’s alertbox July 2006.

A larger size portfolio means larger slides and video. This is particularly important for the electronic exhibits that we create, that are not viewable on the Web. (For example, Tour the Solar System or Clean Power: The Promise of Fuel Cells are on the museum floor only.) Nielsen’s advice was to optimize the design for 1024×768 and then create a “liquid” design that would continuously resize based on a range of browser window sizes. We took a slightly different approach. The Ideum portfolio automatically detects browser window size and provides the option (top right under About and Contact) for the visitor to resize if they wish. Like Neilsen, we agree you can’t ignore 17% of your audience.

Another consideration was accessibility. While Adobe Flash has made strides in accessibility with each new version, HTML is simply more accessible. A screen reader or portable device can more easily access the information on our new site. (By the way, if you’re interested in accessibility issues in Adobe Products, check out their Accessibility blog).

When we launched our blog in January of this year, we quickly saw our page views jump in our Google Analytics and we watched them rise 1,500% according to Alexa.com. While there were certainly more pages generated, we noticed an improvement in the number of visitors site-wide.

Our all-Flash portfolio was basically a black box. Individual project pages couldn’t be indexed by search engines or even bookmarked by interested visitors. Also, browser navigation was problematic. For example, the back button would take visitors out of our portfolio. Don’t get me wrong, Flash is still an amazing tool, particularly for online and electronic exhibits. However, developments in AJAX and other Web technologies and the issues I’ve described make Flash less appealing in certain settings. Take a look at AJAX vs. Flash on the dotone site to learn more about this ongoing competition.

Our experience with blogging and other “Web 2.0″ technologies and approaches convinced us that a redesign was necessarily, not only improve the user-experience, but also to heighten our visibility. You’ll notice that we’ve added new features allowing visitors to email individual project pages and to post them to del.icio.us or My Yahoo!.

The structure of the main portfolio page is much the same. We kept the matrix of subjects (Art, History, Science, etc.) and media types (DVD/CD, exhibit, etc.) from the Flash version. It helps users easily find projects while showing the range of work that we’re capable of doing as well as the topic we explore (without having to say, “we do x, y, and z…”).

Finally, the new portolio was developed in Ruby on Rails and uses our own custom content management system (CMS). James here at Ideum will do a post later on the back-end of the site and our new CMS. Until then, we hope you enjoy the new portfolio. Let us know what you think.

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