For musicians and music fans alike, legendary drummer Peter Erskine needs no introduction. Since graduating from the Interlochen Arts Academy in 1972, Peter has appeared on over 550 albums and film scores. He’s shared the stage with the Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson Big Bands, Weather Report, Steps Ahead, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Diana Krall, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, John Scofield, and many, many others.
This is (in part) why we were thrilled and deeply humbled when Peter called us up and asked us to create a new artist website to help celebrate his 60th birthday.
In addition to being tasked with the design of a new website worthy of such an incredible creative career, we faced several difficult challenges from both a design and a technical point of view. These challenges are common to artists of all stripes, so we thought we’d share a bit about how we met them.
A diverse audience with diverse needs
Generally speaking, visitors to Peter’s site aren’t looking for an introduction to his work; they’re looking to engage with his vast output in different ways. Some visitors are music fans hoping to discover new events to attend, others are students searching for Peter’s iOS apps and educational publications, and others are exploring the history of high-profile projects (like Weather Report) where Peter played a fundamental role.
With such a wide variety of visitors, it would be easy to end up with an ultra-busy home page. Let’s just put something for everyone! But this approach results in something like amazon.com, which is clearly not appropriate for an artist website. Instead, we aimed for a functional homepage that serves as an entrez into the overall feeling of the site. We agreed completely with Peter that it should be minimal, friendly and striking. After getting to know Peter a bit (and having known his drumming for our entire lives!), we knew immediately that there was nothing more elegant, friendly and striking than Peter himself!
The Punkt Solution
To bring the visitor further into the site experience, we developed a set of content connections designed to unify the experience of discovering and exploring Peter’s work in context. Take, for instance, Peter’s new book, No Beethoven, which chronicles Peter’s time with Weather Report. This series of screenshots walks you through how a front-page visitor might discover, explore and eventually purchase the book — all within the context of his larger body of work:
The store was a major part of Peter’s site build and presented some of the toughest challenges — after all, people don’t come to a site like Peter’s to buy Q-Tips. They care deeply about the products they’re buying, and they want to feel connected to them, to learn more about them, and to explore their context in Peter’s entire body of work. All this, while still performing the basic function of clicking to buy, paying for the thing, etc. — a tall order indeed!
To complicate matters, many of Peter’s products are available in several formats (e-book, iPad app, and physical book, for instance), so we had to build a store that accommodates a wide variety of purchasing possibilities for a single product.
We hope this peek into our site-development process for this living legend might spark some ideas for you in working on your own site. Here’s to another 60 years of music-making, Peter!