In a piece I wrote a short while ago about some of the myths concerning professional photography, one of the flagrant fictions included the following:
“Myth: A nice website will bring in all the clients a photographer could ever hope for. It doesn’t quite work that way. A nice website will make a client’s visit to it an enjoyable experience, but you have to have a client to begin with. And you don’t get them just because you put up a good collection of shots on a slick-looking site. Your website needs text also; it needs to be optimized for search engines. Who you are, where you are, what you are. It’s the only way people will find you online.”
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The underlying idea was that you’re going to have to put in a lot of work, pay a lot of attention to detail when setting up and maintaining a successful photography website. You can’t just throw up a cool looking template and be done with it.
So, for those of you who are interested in a bit more elaboration, I present to you 6 features of a successful photography website.
1. Responsiveness. Slow, unresponsive websites are the worst. Nobody wants to navigate to a website and suddenly feel like they’ve time travelled back to 1993 where they’re using a AOL and a dial up modem. Make sure whatever service/host/template you are using provides for a smooth, snappy experience. Don’t let potential clients get away because browsing your site was a frustration beyond what they were willing to bear.
2. Mobile Version. It may not seem like something that would matter much at first, but mobile browsing is well on its way to overtaking desktop browsing. With that in mind, your website should be adaptable to mobile devices; without this feature, people using mobile browsers are not going to have an optimized, responsive interaction with your site.
3. SEO. Speaking of searching…search engine optimization (SEO) is a big deal if you want the Internet to know you even exist. There are quite a few factors that go into this, but it is essentially a way to enhance the visibility of your website via search engine indexing. (Grab our guide on the topic – The Mini Guide to SEO For Photographers)
4. Image Security. People do steal, unfortunately; not just cars and purses, but online images too (a recent case of online image theft involved well known Indonesian photographer Hengki Koentjoro who had one of his images swiped, altered with an Instagram filter, and entered into a photo contest. The stolen image won). Be sure to take advantage of whatever protections are made available by your web host, which will typically be copyright notices/watermarks.
5. Blog. This is how you stay engaged with your audience. Whether you’re selling images or not, it helps to maintain a slightly more personal side to your work. And it’s better to have the blog integrated within the website to create a nice little ecosystem.
6. Social Networking. Sharing is good. Think of all the things you’ve shared with others by clicking those Tweet buttons, Facebook “Like” buttons, Google + buttons; make sure your website allows for comprehensive social media integration. You may find that others are just as share-happy as you.
This, of course, isn’t the ultimate list of features; depending on what the goal of your website is, you might not need all the features listed here. Or you might need them all plus things like a store/shopping cart, private galleries, a newsletter subscription, and high resolution downloads. Take some time to figure out what you need, then do the hard part: make it happen.