It would seem like a safe bet to assume that most photographers probably have a website already. You’ve seen them haven’t you? The flash based twirly whirly over the top designs that you have to have a lightning fast internet connection to really enjoy, the ones with absolutely no marketing behind them and simply rely on the work to “sell them” and the ones that don’t even say to the person viewing it “hey, why don’t you contact me”. Of course you know the ones I’m talking about. They are template based and all pretty much look the same as everyone else’s. I’ve got one question for you…WHY?
I’ve never been able to grasp the concept behind why a photographer who talks about being “unique” or “artistic” is okay with being one of the many who have been herded into a standard template based photography website with just a couple of customizations. Well, yes there is the money aspect, it’s fairly cheap. They are also pretty user friendly to be able to edit them yourself. Is that enough? Is it enough to completely ignore the fact that there isn’t even a call to action, offer or a strong marketing message to them? Most of the ones I have come across are simply glorified galleries with a contact page.
Over the next few blogs posts, I will be presenting to you a series of articles with my own theories behind GOOD web site design. No, nothing I say will suggest that you go with one of these companies who provide a cheap template based system. In my opinion, they look nice but are completely worthless as a marketing tool. I’m going to talk to you more about web design techniques to implement, marketing methods to include in your design, where to find a good quality web designer and not just a template and how to actually use your website to the best of your ability and really make it work for you!
For this first in the series, let’s focus on the visual aspect of the design. The really great websites out there are more than just a pretty palette of color and pictures to look at. Great websites actually lead your user around the screen in a flowing manner that you intend for them to view it in, are easy to read and most importantly, easy to navigate. This is more than just providing a bar of navigation across the top of the screen or giving them a wall of text to read. Guiding your user to view the website in the way you intend means using all design elements available to you to the fullest advantage. What design elements are we talking about here?
Consistent Theme – Just like your real world marketing efforts, your online marketing efforts (your website) should all be consistent throughout the entire website design. Your website designer will most likely use something called a style sheet that will allow them to define every element of your website on one page and have it apply to your entire website very easily. Stick to all the same fonts, colors, image styles, etc.
Navigation – Your navigation should be obvious in placement, easy to follow and tell the user where they will end up if they click one of the options.
Size and scale – Obviously, the larger something is the more it will stand out. Sometimes, depending on exactly what you are going for, you can even draw attention to the smaller things by simply scaling it.
Contrast and Color – Bold colors or high contrast areas will often times lead the user to the location you want them to be.
Position – How you place the elements on your page, for example, the order in which they appear will determine how your user views your website.
White Space – Empty space is not necessarily wasted space. Line spacing, white empty padding around objects and even plain white space around text can actually enhance and focus on certain areas by giving balance and contrast to your website.
Font Usage – You may have a great font that you love and it works perfectly in Photoshop but keep in mind, fonts are only usable if the person viewing the website has them on their machine. Most people will not have special fonts so stick to basic fonts that everyone has likes Times, Arial, Verdana, etc.
Once you have chosen your designer and are working on the blueprint for your website, keep all of these design elements in mind when deciding on the final layout and you can’t go wrong. Watch for the next part in this series where we will focus on the information you include in your photography website.