Everyone has their own opinion on what makes an effective website, but here are the only things that matter: When people find your website, do they stay and look around or, are they gone in a flash, moving on to one of your competitors?
This post is going to take several parts to complete, but the first section is making sure your site is always working the way you want it to. That means fast load times and simplicity in finding the most important thing on the site, your images!
Is your site working? Pay attention to your site and check in at least twice a day to make sure it’s loading fast and working the way it should. Enlist the help of a few friends or employees, if your business is big enough, and make sure you check a couple of different pages each time you go on line.
Always check your site on different browsers. In 2013 so far, in terms of popularity, it's Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer, in that order. Chrome has more than doubled its market share in the last two years. (Source Browser Statistics, W3Schools.com)
Assuming your site is up and running the way you want it, let’s take a look at your galleries. Technology today will allow you to display a lot of images without lengthy load times, but don’t compromise quality for quantity! If you don’t have enough outstanding images for your site and then put up an “under construction” sign and spend the next few days creating outstanding examples of your very best work.
Also, remember that a picture really is worth a thousand words. So, don’t put your audience to sleep with a lot of heavy reading. Show them what you do best – capture and create outstanding images!
Here are some tips to consider on your galleries:
1) Theme your galleries with the obvious choices of your target audience. If your target is wedding clients then theme your galleries with great examples of bridal portraiture, wedding details, the ceremony and reception. Let your images tell the story.
If your target is family photography or children, then show traditional portraiture, Day-in-the-Life type themes with children, indoor, outdoor and themed events. Give your clients lots to look at, but don't go overboard. Personally I believe you can tell the story of your work in 20-40 images under any one category.
2) Show diversity in your skill set by including color, black and white and a few special techniques, but don’t bury them in dozens of special effects with PhotoShop – this is where less really is more.
3) Make your galleries easy to load and give people a way to manually go through the images. Most people view images faster than the slide show tool you might put on the site and give them the option to shut off the music! Not everybody has your taste.
4) If you’re putting a slide show on the site, then check out Photodex and ProShow Web. Their software can give you the ability to present a fast paced presentation of your skills, but keep it to no more than 3 minutes. This is a tease to your work NOT the full length feature film! Any longer and you’ll lose your client to some other activity.
5) On the images themselves – demonstrate your skills with a variety of different exposures, focal lengths, vary the depth of field, etc.
6) It’s my own pet peeve, but pay attention to flesh tones and the quality of each image. Photographers who don’t pay attention to these seemingly little details will leave their clients wondering, “Which of these personalities represent the photographer I’m going to hire?” It become especially evident when you show a series of the same bride, but with exposures that are all over the place.
7) This is my own personal favorite, but I love sites that show actual album pages. Showing an actual completed album gives your potential clients a chance to see the finished product you’re capable of creating. Showing album pages isn’t just for bridal clients. Consider the idea for children and family portraiture as well. The point is to demonstrate your ability as a storyteller!
8) Pay attention to the continuity of images you use for graphic design elements throughout the site. If you're using images in headers and footers for example, be consistent with your specialty. I was on a site recently, and this is a common mistake, the photographer was using some beautiful landscape images. The problem is the target audience for the site is bridal clients. Your graphic design elements are another opportunity for you to show little aspects of your skill set.
And if you're looking for help, check out SmugMug. From their standard site to customized builds, like they did for Matthew Jordan Smith, they've got the team to help you through the challenges. Think about how important your work is and then listen to how several industry icons described the importance of their presentation.
Okay, that’s the first section discussing your website – making sure your site is always working and paying attention to the quality of your galleries. Just remember, quality ALWAYS trumps quantity in the eyes of most consumers looking at your work! And sorry, but I don't buy into the idea that most clients don't know good work from bad, so why bother to spend the time to show only your best work!
Illustration Credit: © senoldo - Fotolia.com