Showing posts with label websites. Show all posts
Showing posts with label websites. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Photo Lovecat Website Critique 2013

Due to the overwhelming interest last year, we ended up hosting two website critiques and the reception was great so we decided to do it again this year!

What:  Website Critique
When:  March 5th, 2013

I will be hosting the live critique along with Anne and Jennifer helping me in the chat while we view and chat about what submitted sites are doing right and what they could do better.

What we need is some submissions so this is where you take a deep breath and send your URL to us at photolovecat@gmail.com

We also need some comments here to let us know what time would be best for you?  1PM EST or 3PM EST?

PS:  We're thinking about doing a Google Hangout during WPPI for those of us who aren't going.  If you are interested, comment and let us know!  This will be more of a relaxed environment where we chat about whatever crosses our minds, be it pity parties because we can't go or celebratory parties because we're too busy to go... or gossiping about what that crazy person said on Twitter about WPPI.  We won't be there to host a real party so come to the virtual one instead we're calling IPPW.  I may even have some videos to share from past WPPI's...

Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista, travel nut, deal hound, photo theft evangelist (she runs Photo Stealers) and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Website & Branding Critique Webinar - Photographer Website Best Practices

Thanks to all who attended our Live Website & Branding Critique Online this week! We had awesome people in the chat room who were very helpful and friendly to those who were having their websites critiqued. It's not easy putting yourself and your business on stage for everyone else to see and criticize, but so far the feedback has been very positive and helpful for everyone who joined in! We couldn't do it without the courage of our lovecat audience putting their own work out there for us to critique in front of everyone. For those who could not make it, I have to say that the slides are such a SMALL fraction of all the things we discussed. However there should still be plenty of solid tips to help you grade your own website experience. To view the slides, simply click through the slideshare presentation embedded below:


We also got the NICEST thank you note ever from Michelle- whose website we reviewed live in front our a webinar audience of 65 people....

"Dear Anne, Corey Ann, Jennifer and Christine,

I'd like to thank you all so much. It was the first time I have ever really put myself and work out there and you made it wonderful experience.  You were very honest and gave me much insight as to what needs to be changed.  I took two pages of notes and couldn’t keep up with the side bar of comments but I truly appreciate everyone’s input.  I know from Facebook Anne, you were concern about presenting the information to us well and you did.  I did not feel offended, just had my eyes opened to what others truly see.  Lots of work to do this week and just grateful and thankful for you ladies.
Have an awesome day!
Warmest wishes,
Michelle"

I can't thank our lovecat audience enough for THEIR contribution in making these webinars so helpful for ALL of us!

Many people asked if we would critique their website after seeing the live critique done online, and our answer is YES! We decided on offering two possibilities, depending on what you're looking to get out of it.

OPTION 1:
Cost: Free
Privacy: Public (no privacy)
Timeframe: Whenever we feel like it (could be one week, could be months from now)
Details: Email your website to photolovecat at gmail.com with the heading "Public Website Critique Request" and one of our editors will volunteer to do a blog post critique of your website to be shared publicly here on PhotoLovecat.com.

OPTION 2:
Cost: $250
Privacy: Private
Timeframe: Agreed upon before payment
Details: Email your website to photolovecat at gmail.com with the heading "Private Website Critique Request" and one of our editors will contact you with more details.

We wish that we had the time to critique everyone's website for free, but realistically, we have businesses to run and bills to pay. Time is the most valuable resource in our business. We volunteer our time here on PhotoLovecat when we feel we have extra to give, so please do not be offended if we cannot critique your site in our spare time- we love to enjoy friends and family in our spare time too!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

Over the weekend I noticed a dramatic increase in the amount of facebook freakouts over gas prices. What do people expect? It's a LIMITED resource and there's no where for costs to go but up- that's just basic economics- and yet people continue to be blissfully ignorant that their own reliance on this non-renewable resource is the REAL problem.

I've seen people suggest not buying gas for a day, or not buying gas from certain companies, but that's not going to solve the problem-

It will only hurt the small business owner trying to make a living and provide for their family.

Those small business owners are your clients- do you really want to hurt them?

If true change is to happen, it needs to start with people getting out of the gasoline game all together. By reducing our individual usage of non-renewables, we create less demand, and large companies are forced to invest new sources of energy which are both renewable and sustainable. The fact is, most of the big energy companies already know how limited their supply is and they're getting desperate to keep providing in a profitable way in order to tide over the general population until the demand decreases. One way to force people to move more quickly is to make the current supply much more expensive to access. In the meantime, profits may soar, but demand will decrease, and people will get angry that they have to change their ways. The oil companies are not the problem- they are merely creating supply for the market demands. The people creating demand are the problem. We live in a society in which we can vote with our demand and our money-

If you want to see change, you need to be a part of the solution.


To be part of the solution, you need to educate yourself on the alternatives available to use in your home and business life. Some people don't even know where they are currently contributing to the problem outside of the gas pump- which is just one small part of the oil equation. Here are some great resources to help you understand your alternative options:
• Greenpeace: 10 simple ways to use less oil
• Matador: 50 ways to use less oil
• EIA: Renewable & Alternative Fuel Options

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Do I really need a mobile friendly website?

Here are some StatCounter stats about ways that people are viewing some of my websites, based on the last 500 visits. While we tend to think we need to move quickly to the next biggest thing because it's always flashing across our TV screen and other people are freaking out about it, we're better served by analyzing the hard data of what's actually happening:

From AnneRuthmann.com - audience is generally people interested in hiring me.
Browser Statistics

From My Blog - audience is mostly people who find me via google searches, and through referring links from other websites.
Browser Statistics

From PhotoLovecat.com - audience is mostly photographers and people searching through google.
Browser Statistics

My guess is that the few iPhone and Android user hits I get, may actually be other photographers, rather than clients doing their photographer shopping on their cell phone. That doesn't mean I don't plan to pursue a non-flash version of my site in the future, but that I'm not over-eager to make major changes right now while the market is still young and mobile views are still quite low in comparison. If I see the mobile device figures jump to 10%- you bet your butt I'm switching. My guess is that by then, there may be an even newer technology which allows flash to be viewed on mobile devices, or creates an entirely new platform. Is this helpful to you? Do you ever notice what people are really using to view your website?

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Photography Website Best Practices



Hi! I'm Lara Swanson, and I'm a couple of things:
These three hats have brought me to an interesting place: I've seen a lot of wedding photographers' portfolios, and I know how to make them better. :)




The Typical Photographer Portfolio
The average wedding/portrait photographer excels at developing an online presence and actively promoting their site across the web.
  • s/he typically has a BluDomain site and a ProPhoto Theme on her blog.
  • s/he connects with her clients by posting personal (often quirky) information in her bio.
  • s/he tweets and incorporates her Twitter feed into her site.
  • s/he owns a rockstar-branded camera or lens bag.
  • s/he has some sense of how many website visitors she gets per month.
  • s/he semi-regularly reads other photography blogs, particularly those who are in her area.
  • s/he has been reviewed on a wedding website (The Knot, WeddingWire, etc.).
  • s/he is working on SEO for her online presence.
  • s/he has a set dozen images that are her absolute favorite images, and posts them across social media sites.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am nearly all of those things. :) And, having seen those things everywhere else, I've decided to combine my web design knowledge and how tired I am of looking at them into some best practices for you!


The Process
As cofounder of a wedding resource for same-sex couples, I look at a lot of wedding vendor portfolios to review them to be on our site. I've inspected three dozen of them in March alone. Interestingly, we have more photographers on our list than all of the other categories combined.

As a web developer, I've studied the user experience, information architecture, SEO, and generally how people use websites. There are a ton of interesting articles to read (like how web users scan websites, they don't read them) but I'll focus on our portfolios for now.

Your online portfolio is something that should get clients excited and inspired, and help them connect to you on a personal level. I've been taking notes of what I've seen - both good and bad - and wanted to share with the community some best practices to follow when building your site that will help you achieve these goals.


The Key
Most of these best practices fall into the same category: don't do something for the user that they didn't choose on their own. Did they ask to play that music? Did they ask to have their window resized? Did they ask for a list of every single city that you work in? If the answer is no, well, read on:
The Best Practices
  1. Organize your images by category. Your portfolio should make it clear to the potential client what kind of work you do; having multiple galleries with a spectrum of work in each will just be confusing. They want to see your aesthetic, and they want to see it based on the type of photography (weddings, portraits, commercial, etc.). If you just do weddings - just have one gallery. Think like the user will think - do they want a maternity session? A session for their dog? Wedding photography? Organize your galleries by what your web visitor is looking for.
  2. Do not resize their screen or force the portfolio to open in a new window. It may seem like a good idea to force the user's window to be as big as it can be, but this is incredibly annoying for the user. Often users really like to be in control of their window sizes, what opens in new tabs, etc. See The Key above.
  3. Do not play music automatically. Turning on music automatically will annoy the vast majority of users, since it's not something they chose, and it's often difficult for them to figure out how to turn it off quickly. If you really want to have music playing, make sure that the on/off button is visible on the page, and the user won't have to click multiple times to get there.
  4. Be succinct on your About page. Well I guess we should start with: you should HAVE an About page. On it should be some brief sentences on who you are and why you do what you love. It should also help you stand out from the crowd - why do people want to work with you? What makes you different? But this page should be no more than two paragraphs long, and definitely shouldn't scroll.

    Quirky here is fine - it's what engages you with your prospective client. But don't put things that others put in their bios - look around at your competitors to see what they said. Empty phrases like "I love what I do!" don't help; give concrete information ("I am also an EMT", "I love grasshopper pie").
  5. Make sure the Contact page is clickable from any other page. You want people to be able to get in touch with you. I also recommend that you include your email address and phone number directly on that page, and don't force users to always submit a form to get in touch. This breaks too often, and it's good to provide a backup in case one of your current clients has lost your contact information.
  6. Make sure a link to the homepage is clickable from any other page. This is one of the most basic pieces of usability - people are trained to click a logo in the top-left corner of a website to return home. Make sure it's there, or they'll exit.
  7. Your navigation should be easy to use. This is a more subjective guideline, which you can test by asking a few people to check out your site on their own and giving them goals. How difficult is it for them to get to your second gallery of images? How difficult is it for them to find information about you or your prices? Do the colors of your links blend in with the background once they've been clicked? (I've seen three this month that become unreadable!)
  8. Use gender-inclusive language. What if a groom is perusing your site, and finds language about how this is the bride's day, how you make bride's dreams come true, and you request the bride's name on the contact form? There are many grooms out there whose responsibility it is to find their wedding photographer. Similarly, same-sex couples may value the effort in inclusive language. Use "clients" or "couples" - they flow just as nicely as "my bride and groom".
  9. If you don't include your entire pricing information, mention where your pricing starts. This is an item that's up for much debate, but potential clients will value having at least an estimate of what your price range is. I've heard from a lot of couples that they won't contact a vendor who doesn't give any information just because it makes them work for it. (When thinking about usability, remember "Don't Make Me Think"!)
  10. Don't write obviously-for-SEO language. If you start getting keywordy, you start looking spammy. Plus, search engines will notice anyway (in a bad way) - they value content that is obviously written for your user to read. This means listing out every state you've photographed a person in, using the phrase "destination" everywhere, etc. I've written other articles on good SEO for photography portfolios if you're not sure where this leaves you.
Those ten best practices will yield a usable portfolio and a very positive experience for your prospective client. Be sure to also track the number of people who contact you after you implement them, as well as the visit length and depth (number of pages per visit) so you can make informed decisions about how to make your portfolio the best it can be!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Easiest Free SEO Analysis Tool Ever

Created by the incredibly talented group at HubSpot.com, this free online tool will evaluate your website's Search Engine Optimization based on the automated methods that they've found to be the most valuable. It will also follow up with tips and links as to how you can improve your SEO. This is just one example of how creating a valuable free or sample product can create viral buzz and collateral for your business. A big High Five to the people at HubSpot who "get it"!!!

The Website Grader



http://website.grader.com


Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years in the corporate & non-profit world before pursuing her passion for photography. When not behind the computer or camera, she can be found exploring the world with her husband. Follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Great Website Templates for Photographers

As a follow up to my post about the Golden Rules of Great Websites, I thought it would be valuable if I mentioned a few companies that are producing template based websites that make it super easy to create and maintain a great website. A great website is an investment in your business, and whether you choose to create a custom website, or something based on a template, a great website can make the best or worst first impression of your work. The following list are companies who have built their business around providing websites that are easy to update and manipulate, giving owners greater control over their presentation without requiring knowledge of web coding or programming.

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.