Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Golden Rules of Great Websites

1. MAKE A GREAT (BIG) IMPRESSION
No matter what you're selling, you'll sell more of it if you can show large, beautiful images of your product. Lucky for us photographers, the images are our products- so make sure that your images are large and wow the eye. The first impression should be biggest and best- which will set the tone for how the rest of your work is interpreted. When working in restaurants, I can tell you that undoubtably, the food that was pictured on the menu almost always outsold the food that didn't have a picture, or had a much smaller image. Is your competitor outselling you simply because they have bigger pictures and make a bigger impact? One word of caution - make sure your pictures aren't too big- just for the sake of being big. If a client has to scroll around in a standard screen resolution (1024x768 - 1280x1024) just to see one image, than it's probably too big.

2. SHOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SELL
While it is essential to show what you have done, it's even more important to show what it is that you want to do more of in the future. This means that the first impression you give the viewers of your website should suggest what you want to do more of. If you want to do more children's photography- put an image of a baby first or up front, if you want to do more weddings, make sure wedding images are the first things people see on your website. If you don't have any images of what you want to sell more of in the future, go out and make some- even if it means giving away a free session or hiring a few models. Just make sure that the first images a client sees on your website are consistent with what you want to do more of in the future. And if nothing else, get rid of any images that "old" or "outdated." If you have a hard time telling which images fall into these categories- have a teenager or college student look at your website and tell you.

3. MAKE IT EASY TO FIND INFORMATION
If there's one thing that has the greatest impact on a website- it's navigation. All of the beautiful products and images in the world cannot make up for a site that's difficult to navigate. Make it quick and easy for clients to get to the info THEY want to see. If you make it intentionally difficult, you have to make sure that you don't mind losing the attention people who don't have the time or patience to wade through everything to find their answers. This also means making your menu items easy to decipher. For example, I put "investment" instead of "pricing" on my website for a while and you can't believe how many people I had asking me for info about my pricing. What I thought was fairly clear and straight-forward was obviously not for the people viewing my website. If you find that you get the same questions over and over again from people who view your website, make the answers easy to find on your website so that you can save yourself time by not answering redundant emails. When it comes to pricing- if you don't want to lay it all out there, at least give a starting price and/or average package price to help clients determine if you're even in their budget.


4. TELL US WHERE YOU ARE

Your photography or products may be phenomenal, but if potential clients don't know where you're located because nothing on your website gives reference to your location, than you could be missing out on clients who are right in your backyard. That doesn't mean you'll miss out on destination gigs, just list where your business is based and that you're available for travel. Also, some people feel like they can trust you more once they know where you're from, which leads to my final point...

5. TELL US WHO YOU ARE
If your clients didn't care who took their picture, they would have gone to Walmart or JC Penny, and they wouldn't be searching through website after website to find the perfect photographer. They need to be able to trust the person behind the lens because they are putting some of their most prized posessions- the ones they save when there's a fire- in the hands of someone they may have never met. They are also going to be shelling out a large sum of money to hire you- so the least you can do is tell them a little something about yourself on your website. This applies even if you're a large studio, or a studio with multiple photographers. People just feel like they can trust you more if they know something about you in advance, or can find something that they can connect to, which serves a basic human need to feel safe. You don't have to share your whole life story, but you do need to be human and make sure you include a great, recent picture of yourself. If you want to get really fancy, you can even put a whole video interview on your website.

While many of these things seem quite obvious, I continually see photography and small business websites that fail to acknowledge one or all of these five golden rules. Don't let that be you!! Make sure that you revisit your website from time to time to make sure that you are constantly giving the best first impression possible. If you don't make a great first impression, you may never get a chance to make a second.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for all this info Anne! It's really nice how you have put this info all together for other photographers.

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  2. i love all the information and insight you continually put up here. it is so great. i would really love to have a website with large photos but just can't afford it--yet. ah, one day!

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  3. Hi Anne,
    I'm not sure how I did not know this blog existed until now, but I am certainly glad to have found your sister site. Very thorough and well written. You rock.
    hugs,
    emilie

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  4. You should of added 'speed of the web site'. I have seen some sites that have beautiful pictures, but even with a high speed connection take several minutes to load. After a few seconds of not being able to do anything, most users will be gone.

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