This month I cover design & usability concerns for grids of images, thoughts on hosting server location, and recommendations for custom fonts in WordPress.
Every month, I’m answering your questions about photography websites, business, marketing, SEO and more.
You can ask me anything. I’ll try to answer withing 24 hours, and the most useful questions get featured here on the newsletter too. Need any help with your website? Don’t hesitate to write, I’m all ears.
Thanks to Chelsea, Jack, Maria & Andrew for this month’s questions. Check out my answers below, and jump in with your own thoughts by sending me a message or leaving a comment below.
“Is a grid of images bad for mobile users?”
Full question: “Hello! I just read January’s Q&A which highlighted the grid layout for home pages. Doesn’t this put website owner at a disadvantage when their audience views via mobile? The grid just becomes a long long line of photos on someone’s phone.”
It’s not necessarily a disadvantage for mobile users.
First of all, it depends on how the grid is built. Some sites shrink the thumbnails appropriately so they fit 3/row or 2/row, here’s an example from famous photographer Joe McNally:
Secondly, with a little CSS knowledge, you can restrict the number of images that show up on small screens (to 10-15 for example), so the page doesn’t become too long.
And finally, even if the page would still load 1 image per row, and it will be a longer page of photos one below the other, I’d argue that that’s not worse than seeing one single image. At least mobile visitors can scroll to see a selection of the photographer’s best images (to get a better feel of his specialties) instead of seeing just one single image.
“Is a grid of images too busy?”
Full question: “I had been thinking of doing a site that would have a single fairly large image displayed which would change out possibly every 3 or so seconds to a new image, thus showcasing my work in that fashion as the sites that I have seen which have multiple large thumbnails displayed on the front page always seem to look very busy and cluttered to me instead of clean and simple from a design point of view. Please don’t take my opinion of what I prefer to see – the wrong way.
I did check out your examples, and all though they are sites with great photo work on them, I felt each one seemed to feel overloaded and cluttered by bombarding me (the viewer) with so much information at once. I don’t know if this is because they are people and lifestyle photos or what.
I’m a product photographer and I felt that if I were to set up my site in that type of fashion, it would appear that I’m trying to show everything that I have shot in the last ten years instead of focusing on featuring maybe 20 to 30 of my best and newest images. Your thoughts?”
I understand what you’re saying, and definitely respect any opinions different from mine.
It’s possible that we also have different design tastes, and a different tolerance level for what’s considered a “busy layout” :-)
I guess that my preference for more-images-at-once stemmed from dealing with photographers with separate photography specialties (= them trying to bring together multiple skill-sets into one site), where showcasing range immediately was important.
But if you have a single main focus on the site, a specific niche that you want to master, then I definitely see the power of showing a slideshow of large images. That’s visually impressive.
It depends on the range of images you want to show.
Let’s say (and this is just a theoretical example) that you shoot wine bottles, but also shoot cars for commercial clients. You can’t just show a picture of a wine bottle on the homepage, you have to showcase both. Whether you do that through a grid of thumbs or a slider with large images, it comes down to preference :-) As with many things in web-design, it’s a compromise.
“Does it matter where the website is hosted?”
Full question: “I am a wedding photographer in the UK in Eastbourne, and one of my main keywords is “Eastbourne Wedding Photographer”. Well if you search on Google.com for that keyword I am number 6 however if you search on Google.co.uk , where all my clients are, I am only 9. This gap has been worst in the past but with my link building work I have improved from number 52 to number 9 in a couple of months. (FYI, my domain will be 1 year old next month and my international targeting is set to the UK on Webmaster.)
The thing is that I have just found out that my domain is hosted in Denmark!! not in the UK.
QUESTION: Is this why I have a discrepancy on Google? If so will this eventually disappear or do I have to change my host provider and make sure my domain is hosted in the UK?
I hope this makes sense ;-) Many thanks in advance.”
First of all, in my tests your site ranks at different positions in google.com and google.co.uk for that phrase. When searching on Google be sure to use a private browser tab, or at least use the “hide private results” option in the top-right of the Google search results page:
The location of the hosting server pays no importance on SEO, no worries, Google probably doesn’t care about that.
The only possible influence it could have on SEO is indirectly, through the speed of the site. If your target visitors are from the UK, then it’s good that the hosting is also in Europe (doesn’t have to be in the UK specifically; it’s fine to not be across the Atlantic).
So as a conclusion, don’t worry about the server location. It’s great that you have that in Europe where your target audience is from.
And it’s normal for there to be a discrepancy between google.com and google.co.uk positions. There’s simply a different level of competition, different semantics, different search quantity levels, and any number of other factors in Google’s algorithms. I recommend just focusing on one location and making sure it goes up.
“How do I use custom fonts in WordPress”
Full question: “If I own a WordPress site and want to use a different font to what is built into the theme, what is the easiest way to do this and are there any considerations I need to make?”
First of all, many modern WordPress themes come with their own font controls (in their “Theme Options” section), usually referencing the great Google Fonts library.
If your theme doesn’t have such options I’d look for a theme version update (if available) or even assess the quality of the theme. If you find any other limitations with it too, you could consider switching to a more modern theme (though that could require extensive work).
Back to fonts: the simplest way to add custom fonts to your WordPress site is through this plugin: Easy Google Fonts.
It’s easy to use and quite powerful (look at the impressive ratings & reviews the plugin has). Another good plugin for this would be Google Typography, and they both use Google Fonts as a source (which should be all you need really). Typekit users have their own plugin here.
If you’re particularly picky about your fonts, you could also upload and use custom fonts using a plugin like Use Any Font or take the manual approach if you have some HTML/CSS knowledge (instructions here).
Not critical, but once you use new fonts, you could disable the theme’s old fonts for performance reasons. But that’s not always directly possible within the theme options (and might require advanced development skills instead).
Your turn: ask me anything. I’d love for this to become a valuable “repository” of answers from the entire community of photographers.
You can help with that by getting involved:
1. Ask questions. Send them to me via email or on Twitter (@foreground).
2. 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.