Like every photographer out there, you have website. By now, you’ve made the design decisions that give your site its “look and feel.” The two most important considerations you may not have given much thought to are, one, your site’s visibility in Google and Yahoo! search results; and two, your website’s usability. In this article we’ll focus on the usability aspect of website design.
Listed below are a few items to consider when either designing your new site or redesigning your existing site:
Communicate Your Message Clearly
Today’s photographic buyers and art directors allocate minimal time to initial website visits, they’re primary goal is to locate a photographer (or two, or three) that “fits the job.” So you must quickly convince them that spending some time on your website is worthwhile.
Provide Information Your Potential Client Wants
Photo buyers must be able to easily (and quickly) determine whether your sample images and capabilities meet their needs and why they should do business with you. What is it that you can offer that your competitors do not? What differentiates you from the other photographers they’re considering? Is it your style? Your experience? Get your message out right up front, or make it easy for them to get to this sort of information within your site.
Offer Intuitive, Simple Navigation and Pleasing, Consistent Page Design
Remember your reader. He or she will learn the “flow” of your web site if you provide consistent, predictable navigation methods and content that shares design elements from page to page throughout the site. Provide “quick links” that serve as easily accessed shortcuts to the paths that you believe people will want to follow most often, such as your portfolios. Don’t bury important links in body copy. And be sure to use a pleasing color palette. If you aren’t familiar with Adobe Labs’ Kuler initiative, here’s an online article about it from Communication Arts magazine.
Equally important, don’t have links that only appear when a portion of a photograph is rolled over with a mouse. Studies have shown that a person arriving at your website from a search engine query will click the ‘back’ button if they don’t find what they came for after seven seconds.
Content, Content, Content
I can’t stress it enough. We all show pictures on our websites. Don’t forget to “introduce yourself” to your website visitor. Share some personal information with him or her. These days we’re getting less and less “face time” with potential clients, so you need to let your website do your selling. We all shoot great pictures. Here’s a few things you could write about on your site: your working style, your clients (don’t go overboard
here), your experience, what it is you do when you’re not working. Maybe your last great assignment; here’s where a blog can be a useful tool, but only if it matches the “look and feel” of the rest of your site. And today, more and more photographers are including some sort of “behind the scenes video” on their sites.
Hopefully these thoughts will get you thinking about your internet presence. Look at other photographer’s sites and put yourself in the position of a first time visitor. What is it you like, or don’t, about the site? Was it easy to move around in? Was your experience a good one? Or did the site’s flash animation require you to roll over the beautiful model’s eye for the “Portfolio” link? You get the idea, now go work on your studio’s website!
A version of this article first appeared in ASMP’s Professional Business Practices in Photography, (Seventh Edition).