Important: before worrying about repeat visitors, you should first optimize your site for first-time visitors, they make up the large majority of your traffic. Make sure you read this guide first: Clarify your photography website for first-time visitors to help drive more business
Now let’s talk about those users that already know your website, and come back again at a later time:
What makes a returning visitor different?
- They already trust your site (at least a little, otherwise they wouldn’t be coming back)
- They’re probably looking for something in particular, just trying to find it as quickly as possible
- They expect the website to look/function as they saw it the last time
Familiarity in web-design
It’s OK to make changes to your site’s design (it’s actually important to keep it fresh).
But there are certain elements that should “look familiar” to returning visitors: the navigation menu, and how your image galleries are structure.
In most cases, they’re probably just looking for some specific images. So they need to be able to navigate to them as easily as possible, using the same path they used last time. Maybe they last chose a specific portfolio from your navigation menu, or they browsed through your collection thumbnails, into a specific gallery, until they saw some images that sparked their interest. Or, they used your site’s search functionality.
Delivering what they’re expecting
When I talked about clarifying your site for first-time visitors, I recommended that your homepage includes some clear options for them to navigate to. Your featured galleries. The most important sections in your site.
Those are also useful for returning users, because they can quickly jump to the specific area they’re looking for.
If you have a very simplistic portfolio site, it’s OK for the navigation menu to do this job, no need to include more elements on the homepage.
The menu and the options you have on the homepage represent a map that returning visitors can use to get to the content they’re looking for.
The importance of image search
If you have more than a few small portfolio galleries, repeat users might want to quickly search for a specific image.
That’s why many photographers include a prominent search box in the header (throughout the site). Continuing the map analogy above, the search box is a great shortcut.
Here’s a nice analogy: think of how an IKEA store is structured. First-time visitors are taken through a path through all the room types, exploring all of their products. But the store also has shortcuts, allowing “experienced” shoppers to quickly jump to a specific section of the store (without following the entire “maze”) and to reach the checkout lines more easily. An image search function is like this sometimes.
Keeping your content fresh
If you let your portfolio collect dust, your repeat visitors will take notice, they’ll be less inclined to come back for more.
Your steps in solving this problem are:
- Regularly add new projects to the site. Even if you don’t have the time to go out to shoot something new, dig through your archives to find some old projects that people might find interesting. It’s new to them.
- At least rotate some of your past work. If you have “featured galleries”, choose some new galleries to become “featured” once in a while. Resurfacing evergreen content is a great option when you’re currently lacking new projects.
This article covers the topic specifically: “Keeping your online portfolio fresh”
If you haven’t done so already, your priority is to clarify your website for first-time visitors, they probably represent the large majority of your website traffic.
Afterward, make sure that repeat visitors have good reasons to come back to the site, and when they do, that they can find what they’re looking for very quickly.