6 Important Considerations For Building Your Photography Business Website
Surprisingly many photography businesses jump into design and hosting considerations before they consider fundamental questions about the goals and functionality of the website. Yet these fundamentals should ultimately influence the design, layout and platform of your website.
Conversion Strategy: What do I want the website to do and what is the user journey
It’s a given, of course, that your website will needs to present your image portfolio in a visually appealing way. But you are foremost running a business (albeit a creative one); and it needs to do much more than that. Start by thinking about what you would like website visitors to do before they leave your site. Yes, you want them to sign up to a wedding or family photography package (and that does indeed to be as enticing and easy as possible). But it’s unlikely that they will do that on their first visit (think carefully about the stages of the buyer cycle or funnel).
You could hope that they return to the website in a few days. Or better still, you should deploy a call to action (CTA) that means you get the chance to proactively engage with them (an email or telephone call) and persuade them to return to at least the website. What is the best CTA for your client base and how do you offer this persuasively? Prospective wedding photography clients might be happy to send you an enquiry on their first visit; but potential headshot clients might need the enticement of a special offer. Do you need a specialist landing page? What needs to be on it? Would you like the ability to change and test the landing page yourself?
With your conversion strategy in mind, now consider what you would like the user journey to be? Remember that different visitors will enter your website at different points in the buyer funnel and at different points of your website (home page versus landing page – or perhaps a blog page?). Is it important that they are always drawn to your portfolio first? Or perhaps a nice presentation of your client reviews is paramount? How will you organise the menu structure to make this happen?
What branding personality do I want to convey on the website?
You will have already considered this in depth, and it is not strictly a website building issue. But it will influence the choices you make relating to how you will convey professionalism, trust and creativity – and the degree to which you, as the business owner, will be in control of them.
Should I Build the Website Myself or Use A Professional?
This will of course, depend on a number of factors, including:
- The time you have;
- Your technical expertise/confidence;
- The extent you would like to be involved in the building process;
- The complexity of the website (although photography businesses tend not to need full e-commerce functionality);
Notwithstanding these considerations, it is worth emphasising that it is no longer the case that a bespoke website built by a professional developer/designer will necessarily stand apart from a website self-built by a business owner. The first reason is that websites need to be mobile responsive, so this limits the out-and-out creativity that a professional designer may bring to the table. Second, the technology, design flexibility and ease-of-use brought to DIY solutions has increased immensely in recent years.
The other factor to bear in mind is that, if you get a fully bespoke website built by a third party, you are less likely to be able to adapt or evolve the site yourself in the future. Will you be at the mercy of maintenance and development costs, and possibly delays. Does it matter if the particular developer disappears?
If I don’t hire a professional, should I use a self-hosted solution or website builder?
There are now a number of online website builders/tools such as Squarespace and Wix which allow you to create very professional websites. (Example of a similar service specialising in photography are theimagefile.com and Photoshelter.com). Although you will probably need to pay monthly subscription fees, it is a good way for a very new photography business to get up and running quickly. The main drawback is that you will be limited on the website’s complexity and functionality. You won’t even be in control of technical issues such as page load speed, SEO and site maps.
The more involved alternative is to purchase web hosting and build a self-hosted website using a platform such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. (You can read our article on the benefits of using WordPress for small business websites HERE). This is not as complex as it sounds; and even if you have no experience in this area, there are numerous, easy to follow, tutorials online. Many web-hosting companies even allow one click installation of the WordPress platform.
Which Template Or Theme Should I Use?
Assuming that you have decided on the WordPress platform for a self-hosted website, the next step is which template to use. Again, it should be stressed that using a WordPress template (theme) does mean that your finished website will look like an off-the-shelf old-style template site. There many free themes available but we recommend looking at WordPress Photography specialists Imagely.com and also Elegant Themes and Theme Forest premium templates. They have live example of the template to give you a useful visualisation of its design quality, layout and flexibility.
The other variant on this is using a premium WordPress theme such as Enfold or DIVI which allow you to build a high quality, mobile-responsive website in exactly the way you like it. It’s not far off drag-and-drop system so you will have complete control of the design and functionality now and in the future. And it’s not necessarily a question of building from scratch on a blank screen: they will allow to load a sample themed site (eg photography portfolio) and amend it from there.
Should I Take a Hybrid Approach?
Of course, the route you take to building a new website doesn’t have to one or another. A popular solution for photography businesses is to first sort out the hosting and (possibly) the theme. Then ask a professional to build the website and then train you how to use the WordPress CMS in the future (either to simply manage the site’s content or be able to make wholesale design changes to the website). That way, the heavy lifting is done for you, but you will stay in control of the website’s evolution.