Tam Nguyen Photography

New York Beauty and Fashion Photographer

Tips on Designing Your Website/Blog as a Photographer

Posted on May 6, 2012 in Personal, Technology, Tips

Tips on Designing Your Website/Blog as a Photographer

I browse quite a good number of blogs and websites daily. What I notice is that while some websites have good content, they have horrible representation as a whole. Some are difficult to navigate, some are just too convoluted with junk, and some don’t even rank as high on search engine result pages (SERPs) as they should. Today, I’ll give you guys some tips on DOs and DON’Ts while designing your website, and more specifically, designing your website as a photographer.

DON’T: use flash on your website. Ever. At all. This is one of the biggest problems I have. Flash is slow, insecure, and hard to navigate. While it may (debatable) deliver eye-candy to your viewers, it takes away the ability to browse around as a user. Moreover, search engine crawlers cannot detect Flash contents, so whatever images or tags you put up, they don’t get indexed, thus lowering your search engine optimization (SEO) scores. The worst of all is when you have music playing in the background. Please, I don’t want to listen to your cheesy taste of music. I can’t even stand it when Youtube videos automatically play, don’t make me have to hunt down your tab and kill it.

DO: stay with advanced HTML, CSS2 and CSS3 tricks as much as possible. Instead of relying on your viewers to have the latest version of Flash, or to support Javascript, make sure things will look and work correctly even without Javascript and Flash. When in doubt, assume your viewer’s browsers can only support HTML and CSS.

I have NoScript set to block everything, including Flash and Javascript, the minute I visit a website. Remember, eye-candy isn’t going to do you any good if no one sees it.

DON’T: have your websites/blogs take too long to load. The attention span of internet users are anywhere between 3 and 5 seconds.If your website takes longer than 7 seconds, you can expect your visitors to lose interest. I personally have a 10-second-or-so limit. If I have to wait for more than 10 seconds for a website to load, I’m closing it, regardless of how good I think the content may be.

DO: use tools like Web Page Test and Pingdom Tools to benchmark your website. This also goes back to the whole Javascript deal: some websites have way too many plugins that would slow things down, some have reference to third-party media files that no longer exists, so the browsers take a long time to verify that. Trim down the fat that’s not necessary. If you post images on your website, make sure the quality isn’t at maximum, nor at full resolution. If an image is less than ~1500px at its longest side, you won’t be able to notice the difference if the quality is lowered down to 80%. Don’t take my words for it; conduct a few tests and see for yourself.

Another way to make your website load faster is to use a content distribution network (CDN) to host your static files (images, CSS, Javascript). That way, your web server isn’t the only entity that’s doing all the work. Moreover, most CDN service providers have servers all over the globe, so your international visitors can also benefit from it. I personally use Amazon Cloudfront, which costs me around $1.60/month, and I have at least 300-400 visitors a day. You can do the math based on how much traffic your website has.

DON’T: put too much stuff on top of your website. Assuming you only have about 3-5 seconds to impress a visitor, and your website takes too much time to load, it doesn’t leave you a lot of room to work with. And by room I mean “the fold”. And by the fold I mean the approximation of where things are cut off before they have to scroll down. In the early days, people believe that everything had to be above “the fold” to catch a reader’s eyes. Things have changed, people are used to the concept of scrolling down, you no longer need to cram a gazillion things above the fold.

DO: while it’s wise to design your website to be clean and aesthetic, you need to keep in mind that nice pictures always attract more attention. Aside from the [simple and intuitive] navigation on top of your website, you should at least post a thumbnail that’s related to the content. This is how you keep your visitors interested while the rest of the content is being loaded.

Below are a few more general tips on designing your website as a photographer:

DO: be social. Nowadays, social networks really have a strong influence on your customers. Make sure you have a nice and simple way for your visitors to share your content. This doesn’t mean that you add a gazillion of sharing buttons on your website. Take a look at your Google Analytic reports and see which social networks are sending you traffic, and then add sharing buttons for those networks. Again, stay away from Javascript as much as possible. On my blog, you can share any given post using the buttons below without enabling Javascript.

Tip: always assume the users to be lazy. To encourage more sharing, you want to place the social buttons as close to the main content as possible. Our eyes are used to the “top-down, left-right” flow, so make sure those buttons appear where the eyes generally go. With respect to the position of the main content, the four corners usually work very well.

DO: clearly state where you are based out of, and make sure your contact form and/or information are correct. You want your future client to know exactly where you are, and how to get in touch with you with the least of their effort.

There are a lot of tips on the Internet on how to design a blog or a website in general, but I wanted to give you some tips on designing it specifically as a photographer. One biggest key point to take away is: design it not for you, but for your future and current clients. Put yourself in their shoes, and ask yourself the question, “If I were to visit a random website, what would I really like (and hate) to see?” Be objective and honest as much as possible.

1 Comment

  1. Pingdom May 9, 2012

    Thanks for the mention. Pls email us your real postal address and we may send you a little something 🙂

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