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Maximizing the Impact of Your Website Re-Design

Published: 11/06/2019

Dean from Grand Rapids, MI asks:

“I’m going to be re-designing my website in the next little while to replace the dinosaur site I have up now. What are some of the key things that I should be thinking about?”

Thanks Dean. I'll begin my answer by highlighting a key fact in the field of web design: Visitors to any website are remarkably quick to judge a site. In fact, research done by Google, in partnership with the University of Basel in Switzerland, found that it takes about 1/20th of a second for website visitors to determine whether they like your site or not (and thus, whether they’ll stay or leave). In other words, they’re going to make a snap judgement almost instantaneously.

The fastest and best way to address this dynamic is to simplify your website. Please understand that the human brain craves order and simplicity. There are LOTS of ways to simplify your website--ways that have been researched and tested for validity. They include:

1.  First and foremost, simplify your navigation menu.

  • Keep the number of menu items to 5-6, and certainly no more than 7 (use drop-downs if you need more links in there).
  • Each word in your navigation menu should also be simple, recognizable, and to the point. For instance, the word, "About" is more recognizable and comfortable than something like, "What Makes Me Tick."
  • The navigation menu should stay visible on the site, regardless of which page the user visits.
  • Your logo should link back to the homepage.

2.  Improve readability.

One of the best ways to do this is to take advantage of "white space". It's been proven that having appropriate white space in text-heavy sections of a website decreases "reader fatigue" which increases the likelihood of the viewer staying on your site. One way to increase white space is to use headings and sub-headings (much like I've done here in this post). If you want to make certain key words stand out, then use bold or italics.

3.  Make it easy for the prospective client to get core information about YOU.

When preparing for my first coaching session with a client who wants to have me examine their website, I often see three critical questions that are not answered: What do you shoot? Where do you work? How do I get in touch with you? IMO, this info has to be listed on your website as these are not only vital bits of information, they are also indirectly connected to your brand.

4.  Speed is vital!

In a world in which viewers give us 1/20th of a second before passing judgement on our website, there is no excuse for having photos with snail-like download speeds. User abandonment rates go way up if this happens. Needless to say, your photos need to be re-sized appropriately.

5.  Make your website mobile responsive.

Recent research in web design has found that "85% of adults think that a company’s website when viewed on a mobile device should be as good or better than its desktop website." In fact, this research went on to state that "mobile devices are projected to comprise 63% of global internet use by the end of 2019." So this is clearly a non-negotiable requirement for any website re-design.

So there you have it, Dean. This is only a small sampling of the fundamental elements of good web design. I'm also sure that our readers will offer much more input in the comments than I could cover in a brief post.

Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.

 

5 comments on “Maximizing the Impact of Your Website Re-Design”

  1. Good start.
    On the page speed, there is a lot more going on than just photo size. Using HTTPS, google pagespeed module, lazy loading and proper caching can allow you to have large photos while still having a fast site.

    Also SEO. If your page can't be found, then it doesn't matter how well it looks or it's speed. Searching for you site name does count, that will allows show well. You need to rank for what people will use when they don't know you exist. There is a lot to SEO, my suggestion is to do some googles search and start reading. Use the time filter to only get results from the last year, further back are less useful.

  2. Great topic! One other thing to consider when re-designing your website is, who is going to do the work and what platform do you want to use? Are you going to be designing everything yourself on a website builder (Squarespace, Wix, WordPress, etc.) or are you going to be paying someone to design your site for you?

    At the end of the day, that just comes down to opportunity cost. Do you want to spend the time (if you have any free time) to build or re-build your own website? If so, is it worth it to spend 10, 20, 30+ hours to build out your own site, or is your time more valuable where it makes more sense to hire that out?

    I know FolioWebsites.com offers both options, build your own website or custom web development. They've also got tools for photographers including public/private albums, photo delivery, pay to download albums, and terms and conditions checkboxes for all photo delivery albums.

  3. Know that if you use a template from a hosting company, you are tied to that site and will have to start from scratch if it becomes necessary to move providers. Always read the fine print when you sign up for hosting. Some companies offer a "too good to be true" price and it is indeed too good to be true. At the next renewal you may find prices doubling or tripling and the domain you got through them belongs to them and not you. At least sign up for your domain with another company such as namecheap.com or networksolutions.com so if you need to move your hosting, you keep the domain you've worked hard to build a reputation for. WordPress, Drupal and other frameworks as handy as the content (photos, test, graphics) are independent of the Theme, the overall appearance. If you find a theme you like better, it's very easy to at least give it a test drive.

    Keep it simple. You need to be able to add, remove and modify content yourself as needed. You shouldn't have to call a web designer to update your pricing page or to swap some photos in your portfolio. If you want booking calendars, IDX feeds an other embedded dynamic content, expect things to break every so often. The more complex you go, the more money you will have to budget for outside services to keep the site functional.

    Maintain your passwords and be the point of contact for all web services. If you are going to use a designer, don't let them use their email address and phone number be what's registered with the domain name company and hosting service. You need to be receiving all of the notices yourself so you reminders about upcoming renewals and policy changes get to you. I had to spend a whole day on the phone to help a friend preserve his domain name and website. His web designer retired and they may have also had a falling out so when his website went down, it turned out that he wasn't on the paperwork. We got it resolved, but if a domain name expires and gets scooped up by a troll, it could be thousands of dollars to get it back. The longer you have had the name, the more money they will ask for.

    Test your website over as many operating systems and devices as you can. Microsoft tends to insist on its own "standard" so you want to make sure that if you are using Word to type up your content, you aren't getting unusual characters when somebody using MacOS, iOS or Android look at the site. Different browsers may parse formatting different as well.

    You site isn't going to be a destination for your regular customers since you are selling a service and not a tangible product. Once you are doing work on a regular basis for a client, they are just going to call, text or email rather than going through your website. Slanting your content to hook new customers is a good approach with one page that existing customers may reference to check up on pricing, ToS, licensing, etc. Chances are that even if you have a calendar that informs customers about your available time slots, they are likely just going to call and ask anyway so you may be using the site more than they do. I have my calendar on my phone, iPod and tablet so I can look up my schedule without having to pull up my web site.

    Hosting companies often have service tiers. The lowest tier puts a ton of web sites on each machine which can mean slow performance. A middle tier will have fewer sites on each machine and so on. The ultimate is where you site is served by it's own computer which is more expensive and more capability than you will need. Storage space is often a factor between tiers. Web sites don't take up that much room, but it's nice to be able to host your files for the customer to retrieve from a server with your domain name. It's cheaper than signing up for another provider such as DropBox and you maintain control over the files. A good rule of thumb is enough server space to host about a months worth of jobs as a minimum. That should allow for agents to download the photos again after they have lost them for the third time without having to bother you. The space that comes with my plan lets me store about 4 months worth of jobs. I just delete the oldest ones when space gets tight.

    My bottom line advice: A domain with Namecheap if they can offer the Top Level Domain (.com, .net, .pro, etc) that you want. A host with stable pricing and not just a low loss leader that jumps in a year. The use of WordPress for content management. The ability to host your customer files for retrieval.

  4. Thank you for this post, and the comments, Ken you are a font of great suggestions and information!

    I just worked up my first website, after reading up here about things to keep in mind, and elsewhere too of course.

    Went with Squarespace, and just told myself if they try to jerk me around with a big rate raise in a year, I’ll hopefully have learned the basics of designing a site (from a template, no heroics), and just get back out there and make a new one. Forewarned is forearmed, I hope, and attitude is everything!

    It can be a fun process, learning how to rig something together and playing with portfolio pix. It’s a learning curve but like so many things (including RE photography!), the resources online are rich.

    Also, I realized late in the process, Squarespace has live chat reps who will gladly walk you through whatever hitch in your site-building giddy-up you run into. Haven’t needed them again, but that was a great relief, knowing it’s available.

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