This first section is the long one… but it is important and will set the stage for all that follows, so please bear with me. I’ll keep it shorter after this!
I’ve been building websites by hand for about 20 years now. My first personal site was quite small but still took several weeks to create all the pages, write the content for each page, and then go back and format the content.
Our first stock library website took nearly four months to code, and another two to test and debug (though some of our early users will tell you the debugging took years not months!)
Either way, the idea that I could sit down now and launch a brand new website in the next 10-15 minutes still blows me away every time I do it! Obviously it takes longer than that to add the actual content, but quite literally I can install and configure the entire website structure in a matter of minutes.
But that speed and convenience is also a trap…
When it’s that easy to dive in and make a start, a lot of people do just that without working out where they want to finish up… and that leads to a confusing website that is hard to navigate, has no real sense of purpose and has no chance of delivering a useful outcome to the visitors or the owner.
So you’re going to hear me talk a bit about Purpose Driven Design here. And I’ll encourage you to pay attention and then slow down for a few minutes to give it some real thought.
- Why are you building your website?
- Who are you building it for?
- What do you want them to get out of the experience?
- What do you want them to do for you?
Now some of that might seem a bit mercenary, but realistically, if you aren’t asking and answering those questions, then neither you or your visitors are going to get what you want out of this.
So htis page is simply here to get you thinking…
Thinking about what’s possible, what might interest your audience, what might get you the outcomes you want from your website. There’s no right answers and realistically it’s a process you want to keep working on even after your site is set up and operational.
So consider this part of your own creative process but also be aware it will become a major part of your marketing plan as well!
As mentioned earlier, with WordPress, everything is modular including the design elements. So you can change the entire design of your website… the color scheme, the fonts, layouts and more… with just a couple of clicks, to install a new Theme.
Similarly you can add specific functionality with a system of Plugins. These are 3rd party add-ons designed to work with WordPress. These provide almost any functionality you could possibly want.
Most of these Themes and Plugins are free!
Many developers offer a Lite version in the hope you’ll upgrade to a Pro version with more features… and you’ll find we do recommend a few Premium plugins for your consideration here and there… but the bottom line is, you can get fully set up and operational without spending a cent on WordPress Themes or Plugins.
So for now I want you to focus totally on your ideal website.
Think about how it will look and the features you’ll offer your visitors. You don’t need to worry about what it will cost or how you’ll actually make it all work. Whatever you come up with, you’ll almost always find a plugin or theme that can do it, and 95% of the time it will be totally free!
So this section is all about possibilities… so take your time and have some fun with it!
I’ll list some of the functions that are particularly useful for photographers, plus there’s some cool features I’ve added to my own sites, and finally a few I haven’t used yet, but could be of interest!
Don’t feel you have to use all of them, but just ask yourself if they might be useful for you to build the website you want, and more importantly… for showcasing your work and interacting with your target audience?
Who Are You Building Your Website For?
This is the one key question you really need to answer before you go too far.
Most photographers never really think this one through, and as a result you see some elaborate photography websites that look fantastic, but don’t actually do anything for the photographer. I consider these little more than high-tech vanity publishing.
The photographer had a vague idea that if they built a nice website, people will just magically arrive and ask to buy their photos. It’s a field of dreams mentality… if you build it they will come… but it very rarely works.
On the other hand, if you start with a clear idea of who you want to visit your website and what you want them to do… then you can design a website that appeals to that audience, one that actually attracts those people, and one that gives them the options they expect when they get here.
Photographers: The first thing you should know and accept is that most of your visitors will be other photographers. The upside is, most photography websites don’t cater to them, so if you do, you can do very well!
Subject Enthusiasts: The next most common visitors will usually be people with an interest in your subject matter. They won’t be particularly interested in your photography, but they can be quite passionate about whatever subject that brought them to your site.
Photo Buyers. Some Photo Buyers will find you but don’t expect too many… unless you have very commercial work in a highly specialized niche, they will be few and far between. So it’s vital that you’re ready to connect with those who do find you, so we’ll discuss that in more detail later.
For now, when we talk about the Purpose of your website… keep those three audience groups in mind.
- Who is most important to you?
- What can you offer each of them?
- What’s the best way to connect with each of them?
- What features and functions will keep each group coming back for more?
And if you plan to make your website profitable, one way or another, you need to be thinking about what they might spend money on… either to buy off you, to buy on your recommendation, or to make it worthwhile for an advertiser to pay you for space on your website?
Again we’ll talk more about all this later, but for now just be aware of these ideas and make it a point to think about your website from the perspective of this audience.
Features & Functions For Photography Websites
OK, this list is not meant to be exhaustive… it’s just a few options to give you a feel for what’s available…
Photo Galleries: WordPress has a basic media gallery built-in, but there’s a load of alternatives with a lot more features, so once you’re up and running you can try a few different plugins to find one that’s a good fit for you.
Portfolios, Slideshows & Lightboxes: these take your photos to the next level by creating a more interactive experience for your user. Most will have loads of ‘effects’ but you’ll usually find less is more when it comes to showcasing your work without overpowering it.
Ratings, Comments and Feedback: depending on your audience, you can add all kinds of functionality to that to let people post their comments, rate your work, share it with their friends and more. This could work well if your work is focused on a niche subject with a passionate following…
User Submissions: In fact, you can even let people share their own photos on your website. I’ve seen quite a few pros do this now, so they can then offer their feedback to the visitor, creating a loyal community, generating traffic, and no doubt selling some product in there somewhere!
Newsletters: If you are serious about making money from your website, you’ll want to be building a mailing list. A regular newsletter is easy to set up and a great way to keep in touch with your visitors… and generate income if you occasionally recommend other people’s products for a commission.
Social Tools: If you’re active on social media, you can connect your website to automatically announce your new content on your social account. Alternatively, you can embed your various social account feeds right on your websites. Want to get the word out? reward your visitors for sharing your content on their own accounts.
Retail Options: You can easily create a shopping cart, where visitors can purchase your products or services… great for prints, paper products, digital products and more.
Fulfilment Sites: Alternatively you can create an account on a retail fulfilment site and set up some photo products that your visitors can purchase. Create a gallery of the same images on your site and link the two… your visitors go to the fulfilment site to purchase and they do everything else!
Affiliate Marketing: This can be as simple as adding some ad banners to your site, or writing product review blog posts etc. You can take it further though and use plug-ins to create a complete Amazon shop, selling cameras, books, electronics etc, hand-picked by you for your specific audience.
Subject Focused Sites: A lot of photographers soon realise they can reach a much larger audience if they focus on some of their specific subjects rather than their photography per se… which in turn gives them more monetization options.
Authority Sites: By focusing on the single subject… and publishing a lot of words and photos of that subject… you build authority, which can move you to the top of the search engine results, and position you as a go-to photographer in your field. (This is the best way I know to have stock buyers coming to you!)
Create a Community: You’ll some of these tools in use on this site, but the possibilities really are endless… you can create your own Forums, Q&A Boards, Membership sites, Chatrooms, Polls & Surveys and more.
General Functions: Of course there’s lots of simple functionality you can add with plugins as well. Things like Contact Forms, Events Calendars, Translators, Ad Managers are all covered if you need them
Admin Functions: There’s all kinds of tools available to handle Security, Stats, Backups and Performance. We’ll show you our preferred options but there’s plenty more if you want to experiment.
OK, so hopefully you’ve got a feel for a few of the things your website can do for your audience… but there is a catch!
There is a performance price to be paid for every feature or function you add, so you can’t go crazy here and just add everything, or your website will be painfully slow for your users.
As with most design projects, less will usually be more when it comes to your website, so you need to be looking at this from your users perspective and thinking about the services you want to offer them, and which extras are going to add the most value to their experience.
Hopefully you’ve got a few ideas to get you started though, so make a few notes and we’ll look at some more practical design steps next.
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