"Why are you building this in the first place?"
Wonders & Wanderlust started as a minimalist Wordpress photo blog hastily set up about a week before departing on a multi-month travel adventure. A few months into the project, it became clear that my most vocal audience (i.e. my mom) wanted context of my travels surrounding the images. Reluctantly, I started writing.
I was painstakingly slow, self-critical, and voiceless. Was I a travel food blogger? Was I fabricating a fluffy version of my travel journal? Or was I just desperately typing words to fill text blocks between the photos that I actually enjoyed producing? I never figured it out. In the end, I gave up working on the project when my travels led me to cash-draining European cities. Research, photo editing, writing, copy editing, layout adjustments, the ongoing struggles of hostel wifi... It all added up to hours hunched over a laptop. I had left a lucrative design job at a major tech company to go see the world, why was I spending so much time jacked-in? I focused all computer hours to research and photo editing, abandoning the blog entirely.
Skip forward a few months. Home in Vancouver, hard drives clogged with RAW photos and footage, aimless and unemployed. What the hell was I supposed to do with all these images? What else does a designer with too much time on their hand do? I signed up for Squarespace using a coupon code pushed on me by one of the dozen podcasts singing its praises. After hours of tinkering and con-templating (constantly switching between their vast library of templates) I thought I'd created something appealing, but not entirely useful.
Of course I needed to use a template with the sexy parallax scrolling. Of course I had to upload hundreds of high-res photos. Of course I had to use all the fancy features that made the site look sleek and contemporary. Of course I forgot to really ask myself "why are you building this in the first place?" The project fizzled and sat parked again.
A purposeful approach
Design work has taught me that starting again doesn't mean failure. It's a necessary step in getting it right. I just needed to seal the cracks in its foundation. I needed its raison d'être.
When asked why I want to build a travel website, my casual reply went something along the lines of, "you know those advice emails you write your friends when they ask you where to go in a city you've traveled to? I just want to make a site I can link them to instead." While that is certainly one the motivations, it's a pathetic mission statement.
So what's the real purpose of this project? In simplest terms, W+W should be a gateway drug to travel. Its stories should inspire readers to dream of travel, then offer the tips and tools needed to make those dreams achievable.
What kind of content will appear in W+W? In general, posts will fall into one of these categories:
- Travel Logs that recount personal adventures from recent journeys across the globe. These entries will be rich in hyperbole and useful for route planning.
- City Guides for readers who are looking for well-organized and specific information like where to to eat, sleep, and explore. Guides will offer maps, addresses, reference photos and useful links.
- Travel Advice articles that help readers travel smart and avoid common blunders. Advice will cover a range of topics like how to pack light, what apps you should have on your phone, or how to avoid bursting into a rage when forced into contact with the worst of your tourist brethren.
- Photo Galleries to inspire readers and communicate the aesthetics of a potential new adventure.
- Spotify Playlists that accompany the long journeys inspired by the local landscape and tradition.
Did I miss anything you'd like to see? Post it in the comments!
A (temporary) new look
Squarespace has a lot of templates and they all have their pros and cons. I've read countless articles about how to choose the right one and I'm still not happy about its current structure, but in the end I chose Rally for two main reasons. It surfaces latest blog posts to the top and it retains some of the full-bleed banner image functionality that showcases my photography. I axed the parallax because, frankly, it's become so overused that I have a hard time believing its wow factor is worth the performance hit.