A website is never really finished, it's more like a wound that keeps re-opening.
A couple months ago, I put out a survey asking for anonymous thoughts about this site, because I wasn't all that happy with it. I targeted some kind souls on Facebook whose work I admire, and I put out a general offer for people to respond as well. I deeply appreciate the time people spent responding, and it helped me make some decisions about how I want to go about things.
There were some boilerplate questions—how easy is it to navigate, watch movies, buy movies? Then there were more lifestyle questions: how do you like to watch movies, how's the pricing, under what circumstances would you or would you not buy movies. And finally, there were open-ended questions, which is where stuff got interesting.
Generally, there was a "yeah yeah, it's easy to navigate, it's easy to watch stuff." So that's good.
With respect to the movies and the movie store, I found that the vast majority of people who visit my site would prefer to watch films in almost any other way than on a computer or device. Not a huge surprise there. I make pretty niche films, and that audience likes best-of-class viewing experiences. That means movie theaters and finely tuned HD setups. I also found that people thought the prices on the films ($2 for an HD download) was good, and that generally people would buy a film to support the artist whether the film was available free or not, but that my audience by and large doesn't really want to buy movie downloads. My sales data bears this out. I sell more DVDs of Rubicon, than HD downloads of the same film. In fact I sell far more Rubicon DVDs than I sell anything else, even cheaper/newer/arguably-better films. So, decision #1: no more store. It wasn't working, the infrastructure to support it cost a fortune, and the people interested in my kind of stuff weren't interested in it. So, good riddance. Maybe if iTunes comes around to indy shorts, I'll try it through them. But it will be as I envisioned in the 1990s: come watch the films for free.
More surprises abound. I learned that more than half of the people came to the site for the writing first, which makes sense since that part updates very frequently, while I only have new video and art posted as they finish. Also a shocker: almost all of the people who come my way do so through Twitter and Facebook. And apparently I'm the only one in the universe who uses an RSS reader anymore.
And finally, the open-ended comments, which were awesome. Most people hated the design of the site (this is what it looked like before), which sort of surprised me. I thought it was clever and fun, and when I first unveiled it people said they liked it, but I guess that didn't hold up.
Another great comment: "Your films are bad and you should feel bad." (I'm going to assume that's an ironic Futurama quote.)
But this one really affected me and made me decide to really rethink the whole thing:
"I think the design of the site breaks from the nature of the work. Your work makes me think about bright lights coming through darkness, space, and technology as wonder. The site's design seems like a retro-throwback. I would like the design of site to have the same splendor of the films therein."
Whoever wrote that, thank you. I hope this version hits closer to the mark.