Professional photography is a visual industry. The presentation of your photography is just as important as the photography itself. You have your work printed by a professional photo lab because the quality of the presentation matters – why should your website be any different?
Just as canvas prints shape the first impressions of new or potential customers who walk into your photography studio, your website creates that first impression for people searching for your services online (and people ARE searching for you, but we’ll get to that in a later post). So what do potential customers see when they come to your website? Is it a professional, polished representation of your work, or is it an afterthought thrown together and forgotten years ago?
Allow me to illustrate this with a personal example. I got married a few months ago, and of course we hired a professional photographer to capture the event. As we looked for the right photography studio, we ruled out several simply because we weren’t impressed with their portfolio or the way it was presented on their website. If your site makes a poor first impression, you won’t get to make a second one. We simply would not entrust the photography of the most important event of our lives to someone who didn’t make an impressive first impression. Weddings, baby pictures, anniversaries – we hire professionals to immortalize the most important events of our lives. We want to be confident in the quality of your work.
Hopefully I have made a strong case for having an effective website, but what does that actually mean? A beautiful, elegant design that captures your brand and the quality of your work? Sure, that’s part of it, but it’s not enough. I won’t go into much detail on what a “nice” design looks like, because design is very personal, subjective, and varies by target market. Instead, consider the following:
A great design goes a long way. However, there’s far more to an effective design than a nice look and feel.
Let’s assume you have an attractive design and have made a strong first impression. The visitor wants to know more, or wants to contact you. An effective call to action should visually scream at the user: “THIS IS WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO NEXT!” Ask yourself this: a potential customer has just landed on your home page – what action do you want them to take next?
An effective call to action starts with an active verb: Contact, Make, Book, Request, View – in each case, you are telling the user to take a specific action. You want them to learn more or contact your photography studio.
The call to action should also visually stand out on the page, so that the user can’t help but notice it. A link buried in a navigation bar or below a paragraph of text isn’t going to cut it – think of the flashing lights and neon signs of the old Las Vegas. You couldn’t help but notice the signs that really stood out.
To assess the effectiveness of a site’s call to action, we simulate eye-tracking to determine where the user’s eye is likely to go. You can use Feng-GUI to get a free and basic eye-tracking test for your site or a pay-site like Attention Wizard for something a little more comprehensive. In an effective design, the “hot spots” on a design will appear over a call to action or the company’s contact information. By including a call to action and matching eye-tracking alone, a company can greatly improve their website’s ability to convert.
Stay tuned next week for when we discuss how to optimize your website for the search engines. Be sure to subscribe to the photo lab’s blog so you don’t miss the rest of the series. You can get updates by RSS or receive each post by email. Stay tuned!
This guest post was submitted by Kyle Claypool, a web presence management expert. He will be representing the United States as the US Technical Expert at the upcoming Website Design WorldSkills competition in London. Kyle is part of our marketing team that manages our professional photography lab’s website.
This post is so right on! We are working to move our site beyond being just an online portfolio.
We would appreciate feedback on what we have now and how we can improve it.