I've written a lot about this topic, but there's no such thing as too much. Here's the point:
Your website is the equivalent of your storefront, your office and your gallery. It's literally become everything about the business you're in, having reach far beyond what in the old days would have been referred to as "bricks and mortar". In fact, websites have become so significant that in many vocations you can’t be in business without one.
But here's the million dollar question of the day, when was the last time you checked how it’s working?
Just about every day I find websites that never load or are simply so slow I lose interest. You need to check out your website every day and whenever you can, check it out on another computer. One of the attendees at a workshop a few years ago told me everybody in his office is set up to land on a different page of the website every time they turn on their computer. It's a brilliant idea and in this case they have six pairs of eyes checking six different pages/actions to make sure things are working right.
When checking your website, if nothing else, pay attention to the following:
Load Time: I know you like the music and ego-driving introductions, but don’t get carried away. If it doesn’t load fast you’ll lose your potential client anyway.
Image Quality: I’m amazed to see how many photographers simply load in images to fill up space. If it’s not your very best work, don’t put it on your site. If you wouldn't buy the image yourself, then it's not your very best work!
Diversity: You never know who’s going to look at your site. Display images showing your full potential and include a good variety of specialties, but make sure there's a logical connection between your galleries. You have to stay focused on your target audience. For example: wedding, family and kids all go together. But a photographer with a strong interest in showing commercial work might lose the chance if a potential buyer from an ad agency wandered into the wedding section of the site.
Contact Information: Give people a way to respond and talk to you live. You’re in a service driven business and nobody has confidence in an email contact system by itself. Let people call you!
Images: If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then give people images, NOT copy. Check out websites by those icons in the industry you admire the most. They're showing great images not killing you with paragraph after paragraph about their style, their interests, etc.
There's a ton of information out there about making your website more effective. I'll be the first to admit, it's hard to practice what I preach sometimes, but at the same time, a great website should always be viewed as work in progress.
That old expression of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Well, I think it was Tom Peters who said, it should be "If it ain't broke you haven't looked hard enough!"</p>
Illustration Credit: © Fantasista - Fotolia.com