When building your wedding photography website (or any website for that matter), there are always 2 people to consider:
Your Visitor and You
What your visitor sees is called the “front-end” and the “back-end” is the admin area of the website where you, the owner, manage the site.
Both are extremely important to consider when figuring out the best way to exist online as a professional wedding photographer.
In this post, I'm going to focus on some key things to think about from a visitors point of view and in another post I will talk about the “back-end” features you, as the site owner, should be looking for in a functional website.
First Things First – Who Are Your Visitors?
On a wedding photography business website, you have two different types of visitors you need to cater to.
Person #1 — A prospective client — This is someone looking to hire a wedding photographer. Simple enough.
Person #2 — An existing client — This is someone who has hired you (yippee!) and part of your website is designed around “giving your client what you promised them”. We'll get into that in a minute.
Sure, friends and family of the lovely couple are also visitors but if you take care of Person #2 (capital P) above, these other visitors will be taken care of as well.
OK…if you have an existing website, use this list to ensure your site is optimized for the desires of Person #1 and Person #2.
If you don't have a website yet, use this list to help you decide how your going to be able to build a site that meets the desires of Person #1 and Person #2.
(Note: I will be setting up a blog series which will walk you through the exact process of setting up a site that meets all of the following criteria. Make sure you don't miss it by subscribing to my newsletter. Spoiler Alert!! If you just can't wait, the whole process starts by signing up with smugmug. This link will get you started and you'll save 20%!)
Ahem….back to the post.
1. How Long Does it Take a Visitor to Know What Your Site (and Business) is All About?
This one is mostly for your prospective client type visitors. A client who you've got a contract with already, won't back out of the deal if your homepage and your website is a bit messy.
But for making those first impressions with people that have likely never met you, the design of your site is pretty darn important.
It's tough to think that most of the traffic that comes to your site will only stay on it for a couple of minutes or even just a few seconds. I mean, you've poured your heart and soul (and time and money) into your website — the least they could do is visit every link and every gallery!! (Just kidding, of course…..only you would do that)
But don't worry. It's just the nature of the digital world we live in. And you, as a business owner, can do some things to help keep your visitors around.
Optimizing your “visitor experience” can be simple. And it starts with the homepage.
Your homepage needs to clearly communicate your message – in as little time as possible. You don't have to spell everything out, but here's what needs to be “said” by your homepage:
- I'm a wedding photographer
- You need to check me out
That's it. The goal for your homepage is to make this kind of connection with a visitor…..
“If you're looking for a wedding photographer, you've come to the right place. If you're not looking for a wedding photorapher, you may go now. No hard feelings.”
To make that happen in 3 seconds you could have some photos (like a slideshow), your name and a tag-line that says something as simple as “I'm a wedding photographer in the xyz area.”
Please don't use your professional wedding photography website to:
- advertise (especially via google ad words……gross….)
- be everything to everybody (something I've struggled with for a long time with my photography website and am still in the process of “fixing”)
In my experience, simple design and branding is best……but by all means, there are lots of great examples of wedding photography websites that you could find that really capture your attention.
2. Is All Your Key Information Just a Click Away?
So you've made the connection with your visitor through your homepage, now you need to provide key information to your prospective clients.
If you've found someone interested in hiring a wedding photography, what do you think they would want or need to know?
- Where is this photographer located? (so important that you might want to have this info on your homepage)
- What do his/her photos look like (portfolio anyone?)
- What's this photographer all about (uhh…About Me page maybe?)
- What are his/her services and prices?
- Who's worked with this person in the past? (testimonials)
- How do I get in touch with him/her? (kinda important to land gigs, eh?)
It's simple stuff, but don't over -look any of those pieces or you could loose out on some business.
Bonus: To get someone past the “His stuff looks really good, but I'm just not sure…” it's really important to show testimonials. Marketers call it “Social Proof” and it works amazingly well. I'll write a post about this another time.
3. Are You Showing Off Your Gorgeous Portfolio?
On both your homepage and your portfolio page, your photos need to look amazing.
Bigger is better. Cleaner is better too IMHO. The goal is for your visitors to have an emotional reaction to your photos and to give them confidence that you are the right person for the job.
Your portfolio should make their jaws drop.
4. Are Your Pages Loading ……………….s…..l….o….w……………… or Lightning Quick?
This is more important than you might think. People have no patience for slow-loading pages these days. Especially with images on them. Every page on your site needs to load lightning quick so you're not giving your visitors ANY excuses to leave.
Seriously. Go find a slow-loading photo site and see how frustrated you get.
5. Is Your Site Easy to Navigate or a Maze?
This is another one of those “no-brainers” that a lot of website builders forget. So many people build these incredibly complex sites that I'm convinced were built only to please their owners!
For everything you do on your site, you need to think about the needs of your visitors. Don't get too clever on this. Know what they want and give it to them in as simple a way as possible. Period.
Here's a helpful tip — If you feel like you're guessing what a visitor might want, I'd suggest you stop and take a different approach. What about asking your clients what they want and how they experience your site? And maybe get some friends and family to put on their “looking for a wedding photographer” hat and get them to give you their honest feedback.
6. Can Your Clients View Their Photos in Their Own Galleries?
OK…on your website you need to have it set up so you can make promises like this in your contract…
As part of my wedding package l will give you an online gallery where you can:
- View all of your gorgeous photos (not just a handful)
- Easily share your photos with your friends and family through email and/or social media
- Choose to password protect your gallery
- Purchase high-quality prints and other fancy products like stretch-canvas, cards and even whacky things like mugs and mouse pads!
- Purchase digital downloads of individual images or even the entire gallery if you want to
Yep. People will pay good money to have that kind of accessibility to their photos. Make sure you give it to them.
And it's not as hard as you might think! (Remember that tutorial I said I'd was going to give you? I'll be walking you through the whole process of getting a site that does all of this for you from scratch…so don't get too overwhelmed)
7. Is it Easy for Your Visitors to Buy Photos and Other Stuff on Your Site?
This is not the time or the place to debate the pros and cons of simply handing over all your images on a disk to your clients or protecting them and forcing your clients to purchase all prints through you.
That's a whole separate blog post that I'm just itching to write…..but not right now.
I do think, however, that selling your photos (or at least having the potential to sell your photos) on your website is important.
If you do want to sell your photos online, then consider this from your visitors perspective:
- What is the shopping cart experience like for your customers? At the very least it should be “bearable”. But if it's “pleasant” there's a good chance your customers will come back for more.
- Does your shopping cart take your standard credit cards and is it all secure? Save yourself the migraine headache, and be sure of this.
- What products can you offer your customers? High quality prints are a must, but what about digital downloads, specialty prints like canvas, and other products like cards, mugs, and mouse pads?
- Do the products come with a guarantee? If not from you, then from a 3rd party?
- Who handles customer support issues? Hopefully a 3rd party can do this for you too.
That's It! Now What?
So next up I'll be writing about setting up a wedding photography website that has YOUR needs in mind.
And after that…I'm going to give you a complete tutorial that will walk you through the entire process of setting up your very own Wedding Photography Business website.
I'm supper excited about it and wish something like this was around when I got started.
You won't want to miss my next post and the tutorial, so be sure to sign up to my mailing list and you'll be the first to know when it's all ready.