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Once upon a time...
...there was an avid photographer who decided to have his own domain. And yes, that guy was me, Mark Zanzig. And so I registered zanzig.com in January 1999 just to save the name. What for? Honestly, I had no idea. I just did it. And then I started to do more serious photography, and I did a few longer trips to interesting countries and places. All of a sudden the photos started to roll in. I decided to publish them on the Internet. On a very boring page with minimalistic design:

Zanzig.com in December 2001
December 2001: A grim looking Mark greets from an empty page.


In August 2002 I suddenly had a lot of time for my little web project, because my employer, that fantastic UMTS company called Group3G, went out of business. I focused on improving the main page. Goal # 1: getting rid of my picture on the homepage! I rather wanted to give the visitors an immediate impression of what they could expect on my site. I decided for a photo of the Padrao dos Descobrimentos in Lisbon, which is very dramatic, especially as the explorers are facing dark clouds. Yet they are fearless and ready to do what they have to do:

Zanzig.com in August 2002
August 2002: A travel photo now garners the left side of the homepage.


In July 2003 I felt that the old design was simply not good enough. In fact it was quite boring and looked somewhat old-fashioned. I did a complete makeover of the whole site. I went away from the minimalistic design of the past and introduced a real site navigation, helping my visitors for the very first time getting around the site. I put tiny teaser articles on the main page to get them interested in the content. For the first time I created a logo - an abstract version of the Lisbon monument of the previous design. The makeover paid off: visitor numbers and page views reached new site records following the changes.

Zanzig.com in August 2003
July 2003: Thumbnails and teaser texts draw the visitor into the content. A navigation bar helps the visitors finding their way, and a logo adds freshness.


The July 2003 design remained with very little changes for the next two years. In January 2005 I prepared the site for advertising as the ad space was already built into the site design, and the number of visitors was encouraging enough for me. I started with charity banners for justgive.org who do a remarkably good job at connecting donators and organizations. At that time I did not really think about commercial advertising, because the few affiliate and advertising programs I knew were not paying very well.

Zanzig.com in January 2005
January 2005: Introducing advertising. Site-wide, and non-commercial at first.


The next major revamp of the main page came in July 2005. I understood that people did not really read the teaser texts on the homepage, mostly because the page looked too noisy, and the willingness to read on the web is almost zero. So I pulled the texts off and focused on just four excellent photos representing the individual topics of my site: "Trip reports", "Beaches", "Cities", and "Various". The page looked much cleaner after that change. I removed the ads from the main page, because they were distracting visitors too much. On the other hand, the ads on content pages turned out to be very positive and well accepted by my visitors. A survey revealed that 50% of my visitors actually see them as value add! Go figure. Actually they help me to pay for the hosting and some new photo equipment. For the relaunch I created a new logo that actually symbolizes what the site does - it brings you to a place somewhere on the globe were you want to go. Virtually, that is.

Zanzig.com in July 2005
July 2005: No need to read anymore - the teaser texts are gone. Four thumbnails represent the content.


I thought that the July 2005 design was much better than the previous versions, but it still was too cluttered. The four columns with CENTERed links to the content were not right. And so I developed in December 2005 the current design as a logical deduction from the previous page and its shortcomings. Now the page sports just one panoramic shot, the fantastic Highway in Arizona, and five columns with text aligned to the left. To make it a bit more clear that the links belong to the group mentioned in bold I added a small dot in front of each link.

Zanzig.com in December 2005
December 2005: One panoramic photo and properly adjusted columns. And season greetings! :-)


In August 2006 I did another bunch of refinements. However, these were minor changes compared to the more radical changes of the past. I altered the logo a bit to reflect the fact that I am now working completely digital (for new photos), and I changed the font of the logo. Also, now it just says "Photography" instead of the previous "Travel Photos & More" claim. The photo on the main page receives a regular update, and for August I went for a very photographic picture not exactly relating to the "travel photo" content of the site.

Zanzig.com in August 2006
August 2006: A cleaner, more photographic look for the whole site.


In June 2008 I added a photo of me (carrying my Canon 1ds mark II camera) to the homepage, to give additional credibility and a certain "human touch". Other than that, over the past two years I did test a number of techniques, like a unified social bookmarking tool, banner ads for my screenplay, and links to my (former) page at Smugmug. All of these turned out to not work well, so I got rid of 'em. Two things worked, though, and I kept them: the Zanzig Blog, and the link to Photo Assignments.

Zanzig.com in June 2008
June 2008: Mark features himself on the homepage.


In September 2008 I added a feature that displays a random photo on the main page. This allows for visitors to get a quick overview of the photos. As of January 2009, more than 50 photos of the portfolio are being highlighted.

Zanzig.com in September 2008
September 2008: Random photos for the homepage.

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