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Cococello is Deb Pang Davis. Independent print and digital designer, educator and soon-to-be-author.

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7 Website Design Considerations for Photographers in 2013

A new year, another chance to evaluate your marketing mothership.

What are some of the most important web design considerations for photographers?

I get asked this question in various forms because heck, imagine hiring a web designer and ending up with a website that sucks or has nothing to do with your big plans for the new year!

Here are 7 important website design considerations for 2013 to help you make the most of your marketing investment for the long term.

1. Focus on Mobile

Seriously. If your site isn’t at least responsive (mobile-friendly), ya better get on it.

Photo by Elmastudio

Photo by Elmastudio

It is and will be worth every penny to invest time and cash to get your awesome content to display beautifully on mobile devices.

I cannot tell you enough how important it is to have a mobile-friendly web site.

Why 2013 is the Year of Responsive Web Design” by Pete Cashmore

What does the term responsive web design mean?

A website that responds to the device that accesses it and delivers the appropriate output for it uses responsive design. Rather than designing multiple sites for different-sized devices, this approach designs one site but specifies how it should appear on varied devices.

Source: Standford University IT Terminology

Basically, your website would adjust to various screen sizes at “break points” so you don’t have to create a million different sites for a million different devices. The industry-standard practice for accomplishing this is to use “media queries”.

Believe me, it is way more cost effective than developing a native app. A responsive website is also better than a website template that merely serves another stripped down template to show your work on a smartphone or tablet.

Why? There’s more to mobile design than just getting content to show up.

A responsive site (properly coded and thought-out) will:

  • Be respectful of content
  • Be easy to navigate
  • Be respectful of context and offer the best experience
  • Display and maintain your brand
  • Maintain the beauty and seductive visual qualities of your website

Be sure to read

2. Edit to Your Brand & The Gigs You Want

You worked your ass off creating that image. You know, that image you just can’t bear to edit out of your portfolio.

Ask yourself: Are you attached to that image because of what it took to capture that image? Are you attached to that image because of who is in that image? Are you attached to that image because your mom loves it?

Go back to your criteria for what makes a kick ass photo. Show photographs that truly reflect your overall brand story and business goals.

Hire a picture editors like Mike or Jasmine. You know, objective awesome people who will give you honest and helpful feedback.

Now ...

If you want travel assignments, show images that will help get you travel assignments. If you want sports assignments, show images that will appeal to clients who need sports and sports-related photography.

Makes sense, right?

So ... what about editing images to themes or emotion rather than literal categories? Risky? Go ahead, take a risk.

But ...

If you don’t know who you are or what you want to do or what you value (hello, your brand), editing is going to be tough.

3. Have a few case studies

I tell my students to have a few projects in their portfolio that present their thinking. 

What makes this gold?

Your clients get to know your thought process and view you as a problem solver and not just a technician.

Here’s a working format (below). Take what you want, leave the rest.

  • Name of Project
  • Name of client
  • The challenge
  • The solution
  • The results

Simple.

You could also add publication date, credits, locations, etc. but remember to keep it short. If you want to add more detail, write a blog post and add a link at the bottom of the case study to that blog post.

Set yourself apart. Differentiate yourself from others by sharing how you think or how you approach an assignment, project, photo shoot.

Beauty and brains. Love!

4. Mind Your Page Load Times & More Pictures isn’t Better

Since 2010, Google has taken page load times as a factor when ranking web pages.

So, keep your portfolio images tight and targeted. Super duper quality trumps quantity any day.

I mean, people are busy!

Are there exceptions? Heck yeah.

Wedding photographers. Brides LOVE looking at images of other weddings. Give ‘em what they want but make sure you can live with what you show.

If you have a lot of images, look into getting an Amazon S3 account and using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) like CloudFront or MaxCDN to save some money, have a back-up of your website assets and deliver content faster.

Be sure to read:

5. Seduce Me with Your Copy, Too

Your work will not speak for itself.

There. I said it.

Photo by Pierre Metivier

Photo by Pierre Metivier

Work with a copywriter who understands content strategy, audience, branding to help you write some killer copy, a killer tagline, a killer about page, killer navigation labels, a killer 404 page.

Copy is part of an overall content (brand) strategy that extends beyond your website. If you’ve been copy averse, give copy a second chance. 

Your work kicks ass but so does the work of that other photographer.

What makes you different? Why should anyone hire you over them?

The people who hire you want to connect with a photographer who is a person, who has social proof, who clearly spells out what they offer.

Great copy paired with great photography can entice like no other. 

It’s important to have layered content, content that complements each other, elevates message to clearly communicate your brand and the benefits you offer your clients.

Your about page just isn't enough.

6. Reduce the Clutter & Be Critical of Features

Present and package your portfolio without complexity and lots of doo-dads.

With every cool feature, ask yourself, why?

Why do you need that music? Why do you that animation? Why include all the social sharing buttons? Why use parallax?

With every piece of content, ask yourself, why? Does it really need to be there? Establish clear hierarchy and prioritize. 

Successful design is knowing when to strip away the excess to communicate clearly, effectively, purposefully.

Focus your message, get clear on your audience and you won’t need the extra accessories.

7. Have a Blog or a Tumblr page

Content, content, content.

If you still don’t buy into the blogging thang, all I can say is that dimension is so much more fascinating.

Share your personality. Share your interests. Share the way you think. Most of all, share content that helps people; that serves people.

With content you will reach your people and win fans and heck, Book Yourself Solid.

I mean hey, even Martin Parr has a blog (which honestly has poor interaction design — sorry Martin!)

A blog helps people connect with you. It’s a lot like those case studies I mentioned way up there. (I really am thrilled you are still reading :)

Bonus: Have more than just an online Portfolio

Sure the world has gone digital but if you’re like me you know paper can still be a magical experience.

Photo by Jonas' Design

Photo by Jonas' Design

I once met a few student photographers who brought only their laptops or iPads to show me their work. They eagerly launched browsers to show their online portfolios.

What happened next?

They weren’t able to connect to the hotel’s wireless connection. Boy, did I feel for them

If you have the opportunity to meet with a client, a picture editor, gallery curator or other very important people in person, a print portfolio can make quite an impression sans internet.

Consider strategically editing your work so you offer a teaser of stupendous images online and more in a printed portfolio. It works in the reverse too!

Imagine your digital portfolio and your print portfolio working harmoniously to your advantage. Both can offer unique but complementary experiences, showcasing your secret sauce.

Check out these supreme photographers who use print and digital exceptionally well.

Got any other tips to pass along? Share them in the comments below!

You may want to check out an oldie but goodie, “9 Things to Consider When Planning Your Website

To Hear Music

Speaking at B&H Photo Video