For some of us photographers, it is difficult to objectively assess the usefulness of our photography websites. Once our website is up and running, regularly assessing it for ‘basic’ mistakes and potential problems before they take a toll on our website traffic (re: customers) is critical. Also, however, it is important to recognize that it is very difficult for us to be objective.
Many photographers outsource the development, building and maintenance of our websites. (In my opinion, photographers should always build and maintain their own websites – web designers aren’t internet marketers. The websites that they build just sit in cyberspace – without visitors. Also, most web designers build websites to impress other web designers – not normal web surfers) Technology has advanced so that professional-looking photography websites are relatively simple to build and maintain – almost as simple as learning to use a new camera.
Know Your Photography Website Purpose And Avoid ‘Basic’ Mistakes
Even if you outsource the work of building a photography website, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have clear ideas about how your website should look, feel, and operate. Determine in advance what you want your website to do (display work, provide info, and sell photos, or combination of those); determine what level of involvement you can commit to photography marketing with your website; and establish a timeframe or schedule when you will assess your website for ‘basic’ mistakes. Unfortunately, there are mistakes that too many of us not only fail to avoid, but, we actually proudly practice these costly ‘basic’ mistakes.
The basic mistakes that too many of us photographers make with our websites include:
Going online too early – before the website is ready to be published. Far too many websites make this mistake. Your visitors come looking for information. They don’t want to know that your site is “under construction.” Never use an “under construction” page. Only publish the site when it’s ready to be published. Of course, you can publish the website and build it up over time – in fact, that’s what you should do. But publishing a website that tells the world it is “under construction” is actually telling visitors that the website owner is not ready – and there is no ‘real’ reason to remember it or return!
Lack of clarity of purpose – sometimes, we photographers, like other ‘creative types,’ are too creative for our own good. Our websites are pretty, fancy and slick. But, the visitor doesn’t know exactly what we do – or, worse yet, doesn’t see how we can help them! They click away to sites that have clear purpose(s) and are much easier to use.
Bad navigation – once again, some of our websites are too fancy for the visitors. Many websites make the mistake of not having a navigation bar on each page of the website. Maybe it’s because we’re so familiar with the website, we think that getting around the site is ‘common knowledge.’ Sometimes, what we see as ‘simple-to-use’ is too complex (and bothersome) or doesn’t provide enough information for the website visitors. As a rule, website visitors don’t like to get lost on a site.
Failure to respond to email – either you check your email regularly and respond immediately or people won’t come back. Remember, a website is a communication tool. You, the website owner, must communicate. A key way to do so is to respond to emails and request for information. Because of spamming, I prefer to use a ‘contact us’ form instead of providing my email address. However, I use email a lot in my responses to visitors contacting me.
Poor marketing – websites must be kept ‘fresh’ both for humans and the search engines, so you must keep finding ways to make your website search engine listing rise to the top by website ‘freshness.’ Displaying your photography work in online galleries on your website does two things: 1.) It is an easy and effective way to keep your photography website ‘fresh;’ and 2.) It gives visitors to your site a reason to return.
These ‘basic’ mistakes are so common that many of us just ‘duplicate’ the mistakes that we see when we visit other photography websites. We see the ‘basic’ mistakes on so many websites that we, sometimes, assume that the mistakes are ‘normal’ and inevitable. Photographers that know this is not the case are the more successful photographers and visitors regularly use their website. And, at the end of the day, that’s what we want.