Well Done, To You (And Me)

If you’re reading this, that means that I’ve done my job successfully. You’ve navigated through the PG website (or perhaps clicked on a link directly to this Insight) and are engaging with wonderful PG content. Kudos! Perhaps you’ve noticed that this website is a little different to most. When I first chatted with Beth and Grace from Profile Gallery, they expressed that they wanted something unique… a website that challenges UX (User Xperience) conventions and rewards exploration and play.

Sometimes, I work on web design and development projects as a freelancer. My website lives at www.artnotart.co.uk and the brand that I’m developing is called (no prizes for guessing) Art Not Art. The name Art Not Art playfully references the perceived boundary between Art and Not Art. If there’s Art, and not everything qualifies as Art, then what is Not Art? It’s difficult to tell. This notion underpins the PG website.

If you’re viewing the site on a desktop computer, you’ll have noticed that on the homepage you’re greeted by being thrust into the Art yourself. The hope is that you’ll go, “That’s cool”, and then reflect on how the site relies on you to play a contributing role (starring role, even) in the Art. There is no Not Art here - that includes you.

The PG website aims itself towards being a 360° art experience. Rather than logging onto ProfileGallery.net and thinking, “I’m going to look at the Art now”, the user is interacting with Art from the get-go. The boundary separating Art and Information has collapsed. As in physical galleries, where the physical space is arranged to constitute part of the exhibition, the digital space in Profile Gallery has been purposefully arranged to do the same. Art is built into the foundations.

How We Made This Website

We had a lot of ideas at the start of this project. We were set on creating something brutalist in style (check out more brutalist websites here). That means that we wanted to throw token UX rules in the trash and do something fun. Initially, I proposed a Mac OS theme and received a positive response from Beth and Grace. Then, Beth said, “Can we make everything 3D?” and I enquired, “What do you mean?” and she repeated, “Can we make everything 3D?”.

I spent a couple of weeks trying to establish how we could make everything 3D. Beth sent over a sketch of a 3D module. After initially thinking, “Nope”… I had a different thought. That thought was, “Yup”. I spent two days building 3D modules (v0.01) and started turning this dream into reality. After sharing a prototype homepage with Beth and Grace, I got the go ahead to build the rest of the site. From there, everything was straightforward, easy, and I encountered zero problems whatsoever. I’m lying. Building this website as a one-man designer and developer was difficult - I mean - look at how many things are flying around.

If you have any technical questions about how I built the website, please drop me a line. I’m not intending to alienate my charming art audience with tales of broken Javascript. (I will happily discuss anything with you over email though!)

How To Break The Rules, Without Ruining Everything

Sometimes, the rules must be broken. Most of the time, I’m a cautious rule-breaker. Rules exist for a reason; to keep everybody safe from themselves. To keep me safe from myself. But for Profile Gallery, well… let me tell ya… I laid siege to the rulebook. I took the User Xperience manual and delivered it a swift rap on the nose. Only kidding. I did something else.

Websites don’t tend to look like this, sure. The navigation system [bar-at-the-bottom-of-website] is unusual. But it references a navigation system found in a different setting. One that people are already familiar with. So I’ve broken the web design rules… by adhering to a different set of rules that people already understand. Likewise, most websites aren’t contained with in floating, pseudo-3D modules. But the modules arguably mimic tablet devices. So users understand that they can scroll through them as if on a tablet.

Here are five rough tips for breaking the rules…

  1. Adapt things that already exist for a new context (don't break the rules, change the rules)
  2. An innovative approach to the small stuff can have a big impact
  3. Use oblique strategies
  4. Start with a radical idea and work backwards
  5. Listen to everybody’s feedback

Signing Off

That’s all from me. I want to say thanks to Profile Gallery for trusting me with their baby. I've had an enormous amount of fun making this website and it was a joy working with the team. If you, dear reader, feel like we might be the perfect fit to work on a project together, drop me a line at www.artnotart.co.uk or aidan@artnotart.co.uk. Other than that, enjoy Profile Gallery and keep being you. God bless!