Having gotten a lot of great questions from photographers over the years, I thought it would be useful to share some of the best ones (and my answers to them) with you as well.
I started the ForegroundWeb Newsletter for the sole purpose of helping photographers build a thriving online presence, and I know that this process is riddled with questions along the way.
Besides getting questions via email, writing articles on my blog has also brought in some great questions like this one:
I’d love to do this on a regular basis: the new ForegroundWeb Monthly Q&A. I’ll try to do it monthly at first (to also leave room for more detailed articles in between).
Here’s how it works:
They can be about anything related the photo websites:
- layout/design decisions
- not sure how to size/compress images
- improving an existing site or starting from scratch?
- what to write about on your blog?
- concerns about plugins or site security
- SEO questions
- anything really
2. I’ll give you my answer (usually within 24 hours). Every few weeks I’ll gather the best ones in this Q&A series so other photographers can benefit from them. I might even do full-length articles on them, depending on the topic.
3. Answer questions yourself. If you have anything to add to any of my answers (or can answer from a different perspective), jump right in! I’ll share relevant notes with other photographers so everyone can benefit.
To start things off, here are some examples of frequent questions I’ve received on the blog and via email (including the one in the screenshot above), along with my take on them:
“Adding text to the homepage helps SEO, but what if you’re using a fullscreen homepage (slideshow)? They have great impact visually, but would you recommend them and how can they be improved for SEO?”
First of all, I’d really assess if the fullscreen homepage is really worth it. It’s obviously a game of compromises: you’re trading usability for visual impact.
Some of the times that’s not really needed, and you can “get away” with just a strong slideshow or static image, while still having content below that (text and links that act as portals to other sections in your site). To make this decision, you need to get an understanding of who your target audience is, and what browsing preferences they have.
And probably the best recommendation I can give you (if you have some technical knowledge or a developer to help you) is to test things out: do an A/B test and compare the results in Google Analytics. Don’t just assume a version of the page is better, get proof.
But let’s say you’re still keen on having a fullscreen homepage. This web-design practice is popular with wedding photography websites, or with general portfolio-type websites (where the main focus is on impressing with images, and not on selling or blogging).
In this case, you have to commit to your decision of not having text on the homepage, and stick to the tools you do have to “tame” SEO:
- Make sure your SEO title and meta description for the homepage are perfect
- Have a clean & clear navigation menu so visitors can find it easy to jump to other pages without any confusion
- Work on the site’s performance (which in turn affects bounce rates and SEO)
- Compensate for the lack of text on the other pages: make sure you’re properly describing what your site is all about in the About page, gallery descriptions, etc.
And finally, don’t worry about it too much. Google is smart about it, ranking happens for the entire site as a whole. So if you’re doing a good job with SEO on the other pages (and also off-site), your website will still come up higher in search results, even without text on the homepage.
What I don’t recommend is having hidden text in the homepage source code (just for SEO purposes). Once again Google is smart about it :-)
“Is it OK to have a song play automatically on the site, if the design is fairly artistic?”
No. I highly recommend against auto-playing music on websites. No wonder Google Chrome allows you to quickly identify noisy tabs.
“Not even if […]”
“How do I know if my site’s homepage is good or bad?”
Besides trying to get feedback from friends/clients and looking at other sites for inspiration, here are a few notes on what constitutes a bad homepage:
- doesn’t give a clear indication of what the site is all about (type of photography you do, who you are)
- doesn’t “tell” the users what next actions they can take
- shows really old content (like displaying galleries or blog posts from 3 years ago)
- too crowded/confusing (white space is a critical part of design)
- too much text (get the message across in as few sentences as possible, eliminate the noise)
- too short. Displaying just a slideshow on your homepage can be visually powerful if you know what you’re doing, but most of the time it helps to have a least a paragraph of text or a tagline, letting people know who you are and what you can do.
- content in the wrong order (important elements should be at the top, it’s what people see first)
- no easy way to access recent content (forcing people to dig around to find your latest work)
“What’s best for a photography site: white or black backgrounds?”
I personally recommend going with white.
People do say that black makes images “pop out” more. And that might be technically right. If the surrounding area is black, your iris will open up slightly to accommodate the lack of light. You will perceive the image as brighter than it actually is because your iris is a little more open.
But white text on a black background is usually less readable, hurting the eyes, so it might not be worth it.
There’s also the issue of familiarity, people are used to seeing white backgrounds, that’s what they’re most comfortable with. Try to impress them with the quality of your images, not with the color around the images.
Your turn: ask me anything.
I’d love for this to become a regular segment on the ForegroundWeb Newsletter, and to provide a valuable “repository” of answers from the entire community of photographers.