Expert Advice: Website Dos and Don’ts
Thursday September 5th, 2013
by Amanda Friend
When I was in college, I made my first ever website. It was for a portfolio class, designed to give us a web presence after graduating. Everyone made their website in Flash. I remember staying up all night working with keyframes and tweens in order to create the perfect final product. (For the record, my hard work paid off, and I got an A+).
Not so strangely, that class most likely wouldn’t be taught in Flash now. The web is constantly changing, and what was standard a few years ago is now ancient history. Likewise, we previously had an article about website dos and don’ts, and it’s time to take another look about how you’re presenting yourself on the web.
General Tips: At this point, you want to be moving away from Flash websites and toward HTML5 websites. Try to avoid websites that take too long to load. It’s also good practice to have your domain name and email address be your actual name, so people can easily find you.
Don’t feel like you need to build a website from scratch in order for it to be successful. There are many templates out there (A Photo Folio, Squarespace, and Cargo Collective, to name a few) that both look good and are easy to use. They also offer built in perks like responsive or mobile versions of your website, which are must haves in this world of iPhones and iPads.
Functionality: Does your navigation make sense? Do all of your links work properly? Is it easy to advance in a portfolio gallery, or do you require users to click on every single thumbnail image in order to see it full sized? For the record, the latter there is aggravating. You want to make your website as simple and easy to use as possible. Art buyers are there for your images; you don’t want them to be thinking about how your website works instead.
Web Edit: Our previous article covered this well, but some of it bears repeating. Keep your gallery edits tight, and make sure there aren’t too many images in each of your specialties. Make sure there’s no oddballs, like dated work or inconsistent styles.
Graphic Identity: Specific things to worry about for your website are your color palette, your typefaces used, and your overall layout. It’s important to use your brand colors, but it’s more important that they don’t distract from your images.
An issue I’m often asked about is how to tackle typefaces. Some photographers will use 5+ fonts on a website, while others will be upset if they can’t use the same typeface that’s in their logo for their navigation or body copy. The best solution is somewhere in between this. Rejoice: you don’t need to use the same typeface in your logo for everything on your website! However, make sure everything still goes together well, and don’t go overboard with your choices. For something as small as a portfolio website, two typefaces should serve you well, or maybe 3 if you’re deft in their usage.
Social Media: Do you have a blog, professional Facebook and Twitter accounts, and an Instagram? Great! Are none of them regularly updated? Not so good. Social media can give potential clients a clearer picture of you or your work, but only if you use it properly. It’s better not to have any of the above than to be a ghost on all of them.
I’ve talked with many photographers who are intimated by writing blog posts, or can’t devote that much of their free time to writing a blog. A good alternative to a traditional blog is a Tumblr. You can post your outtakes or behind the scenes work without the pressure of writing a full blog post, but still gives you the option to if you want to. You also have regular blog features, like queueing posts if you want to upload them all at once and schedule them to go public over time.
Other odds and ends: Including a little bio about yourself (preferably with a picture) is a nice touch. Having a mobile version of your website is becoming enough of a must that it bears mentioning twice. Make sure to have a clear contact page, as well as some indication of where you are located. List your full email over contact forms, which are too impersonal.