Our friends over at SmugMug.com help photographers from all walks of life put their best memories into beautiful and safe photography websites. They have seen every kind of website, from breathtaking portfolios to always-under-construction blunders. To kick off a new blog series of photography website tips and tricks, SmugMug lists the most commonly made mistakes of the website world. Avoid these and you’ll be on the right track toward making a good first impression!
6 Website Mistakes You’re Probably Making Right Now
by Schmoo Theune
So you’ve put your photos online? Great! At SmugMug we believe photos are best when shared, even if it’s only with a few people you really trust. Many of us love to make new connections by building a fully public website but to throw open your door to opportunity (or profit), you’ve got to have the right combination of personality and presentation.
Your personality is ultimately up to you but as website builders we’ve got a few tips to help you get the most presentable, functional, online home possible. We’ve seen thousands of websites by photographers who shoot all kinds of stuff so we’ve compiled a few of the most common website bloopers we help customers eradicate every single day.
1) The Dead-End Hello: Zero Contact Information
This is one of the most common mistakes we see. You may have done everything right and created a beautiful website but what happens if your visitors love your work and want to hire you? So many websites have great photos on them but zero personality, such as an email address, a personal photo, or even a brief bio.
Even if you’re not comfortable revealing your email address or posting a photo of yourself, there’s still plenty you can do to convey what a warm and inviting person you are: a contact form, a story about yourself, or a simple blurb explaining how you became the passionate photographer you are. Words have power. The simple phrase, “I’d love to hear from you,” goes a long, long way.
What you should do:
Some website services come with a built-in contact form that you can add to your site but there are plenty of other services out there that allow you to embed contact forms of varying degrees of complexity, too. You can use a basic HTML “mailto:” link if you prefer to keep things simple but keep in mind that you may receive more spam with this method than you’d see using a contact form.
2) The Oubliette: Ambiguous or Non-Existent Navigation
Unless your website is just one page, you’re going to need a way for your visitors to click around and explore your world. Enter the menu bar!
Menu bars (or navigation bar, navbar – whatever you want to call it) seem simple but so many new site owners don’t give this vital feature enough thought. The result? A homepage that looks great but under the surface lies a navigational nightmare: dead ends, photos that never get seen, frustrated viewers who can’t find what they’re looking for and give up before they’ve seen anything that gets them to stay.
We recommend including the following in your navigation bar:
A way to get back to your homepage
A link to your Bio or About Me page
Your contact link
At least one link that surfaces the bulk of your content, whether it’s a link to a Browse page, your portfolio gallery, or any other way to lead them to dig deeper.
What you should do:
Think like a visitor and pretend you just landed on your website. How would you want to discover the photos and content that are top priority? How many clicks deep do you want your guests to go before they actually see a photo? After they’ve been browsing for a while, is there an easy way for them to get back to your homepage?
3) The Fire Hose: A Million Tiny, Grainy Photos
Show your work in the best possible light. This means being selective and displaying your photos as big as you’re comfortable going so your visitors don’t have to guess at what they’re seeing. Be thoughtful about the content you put front and center; you don’t want your visitors to have to wade through dark, blurry vacation snaps before they see what an awesome wildlife photographer you are.
Don’t get us wrong – it’s totally OK to display your fun snaps if you want. We just recommend that you file that stuff in separate folders from your portfolio so people know what they’re getting into.
About photo sizes: Nowadays, screens run the gamut from mobile phones to huge displays. A smart website will adjust perfectly across the entire range. Are your photos up to snuff? You’ve got to be sure that your photos are large enough to look sharp, especially when viewers click to see them bigger. If it’s image protection you’re worried about, you can always apply a quick watermark so your name stays with your pic. That way if someone reposts it, they’re creating free advertising for you!
What you should do:
Sift through your best photos, chucking out the ones you don’t feel are representative of your current goals or skill level. When you’re done, sift again. Pull high-res versions of those into the most prominent pages of your website (like your homepage and your portfolio) and get ready to wow your fans.
4) The Ghost Town: Broken Links and Images
Does anything look worse than a website like this?
We don’t think so. And broken images are bad enough – even worse are broken links that lead nowhere once clicked: on your navigation bar, contact forms, or even links to other galleries on your site. Whatever the cause, it’s always good practice to be sure your content is accurate and updated because your site is a reflection of you. Nothing says “I don’t care about this” like a b0rked website.
What you should do:
Always be sure to double-check your pages from header to footer, logged in as the admin and logged out as a guest. Either you may have embedded the wrong source link for an image, causing it to break, or you’ve set your privacy settings such that you’re the only one who can see that photo. Or, worse yet, you’ve reorganized your photos so the image links no longer point to the right place.
5) The Rude Alarm: Music on Site
You’ll find all kinds of people on either end of the spectrum when it comes to music on websites. Whether or not you choose to create a mood that matches your photos or let your viewers use their own imagination, we just have a couple of things to say about it:
Many people are already listening to their own music.
Many people browse on public computers or are sitting in shared work spaces.
What you should do:
Be respectful of your viewers’ ears and eyes. If you do choose to put a music or video player on your site, we suggest you give your viewers the option to turn it ON, rather than make them turn it off. This way they don’t scramble around in a panic trying to figure out where you’ve hidden the button, ultimately ending up closing the browser in their desperation to make it stop.
6) The Field of Dreams: Never Shared
We hear from a lot of people who proudly put the finishing touches on their websites, sit back, and wonder why their stats are so low. The answer inevitably is this: just because you built it doesn’t mean they’ll come! You’ve got to tell the world about your website, share the link, spread the word, do whatever it takes to make people aware that your brand-new site exists.
What you should do: Tell your friends, parents, business contacts, and coworkers about your new site. Post the link on Facebook, Google+, and add it to your email and forum signatures. Share images from your site to these social networks and invite people to do the same if they like your work. If you’re looking for search engines to bring you fresh traffic, stay on top of it – give all your photos titles, captions, and keywords, share your photos honestly, and be sure to practice good SEO habits.
We hope these tips arm you with the knowledge to squash some of the common blunders in the website world. No matter what you shoot, we hope you find your own perfect, beautiful, functional, shareable, and safe photo home.