After writing the short piece below, I decided to go in-depth and expand on the topic.
In trying to help as many photographers as possible, I reached out to the editors of the hugely popular Digital Photography School and they gladly allowed me to be a guest writer on their site.
The article that I had prepared for them (titled “The Future of Photography Websites – Understanding and Adapting to Trends”) was in fact so large, that we had to break it down into 2 parts:
Topics covered in the 2-part article on dPS:
- The sheer number of online users
- Choose a niche
- Differentiate yourself & show your personality
- Use quality platforms and themes/templates
- Learn to prioritize and simplify your website
- Focus on your audience
- High-speed internet is becoming the norm
- Make your website fast, people expect that
- Make your pages easy to skim through
- Have a clear site navigation, people want to quickly jump from one thing to another
- Mobile devices are omnipresent and powerful
- The old adage: stop using flash on your site
- Make your website mobile-friendly (responsive)
- Once again, make your website fast
- Content-consumption rates are increasing (a lot)
- Make your site easily shareable
- Keep the content fresh
- Consider offering an email newsletter
- People are searching more, not just exploring
- Don’t ignore text content
- Allow (and track) image searches on your site
- Search engines are looking at user satisfaction as a huge ranking factor
- Social media websites come and go
- Web platforms and tools are maturing, and eCommerce is exploding
- Design aesthetics are changing
I was recently interviewed on a photography podcast and the topic got to the future of photography websites.
In my experience, here are the trends I’m currently seeing in the web-design industry:
The big ones:
- A lot of design trends you might already be aware of:
- responsive design
- simplicity (not just flat graphics, but minimalism, focusing on the essentials and removing the fluff)
- big bold typography
- Blogging is becoming huge. WordPress now powers 23% of the internet, and it’s still growing. (More impressive WordPress stats here).
- Site performance. The technology is there, broadband connections are spreading fast, browsers are getting incredibly powerful. No more excuses to have 10s+ loading times.
The not-so-obvious ones:
- SEO strategies are losing some importance. Google is becoming more and more “human”, and the shift is towards using a more natural language instead of stuffing keywords everywhere. Write your meta tags just like you’d be explaining the page to a friend, and Google will appreciate it.
- Niching down is becoming important. This is caused by the large number of amateur photographers coming in, “flooding” the internet. It’s obviously been an explosion in recent years. They are basically forcing pro & semi-pro photographers towards differentiating themselves by niching down: either through the type of photography they do, or through how they market themselves online. And how you build your website is a direct effect of that. Separate websites (or pages) for specific photography types. No more jack-of-all-trades websites, because you’re not impressing your target audience.
- Storytelling. The story behind those images. The way you shot those landscapes. Great sequences of portraits that make sense together. Blogging to give context. You get the idea :-)
- Image theft detection solutions are getting smarter. Tools like TinEye are gaining tracking and might soon make regular watermarks obsolete. But I don’t think we’re there yet. In the meantime, you can use services like PhotoClaim to find stolen images.
- More photography eCommerce solutions are starting to appear. Since photography is a growing market, existing “players” like PhotoShelter are getting competition from WooCommerce (the biggest eCommerce plugin for WordPress) with their new Photography extension, and the popular NextGen Gallery also now has eCommerce.
- This is also causing some photographers to shift from hybrid solutions (part image-management, part blog) to more unified web solutions all on one single platform. That’s because WordPress is getting better at managing/selling images, and photography solutions are adding blogging to their “skills”.
- The end of geography for some types of businesses. Read this interesting short article from marketing expert Seth Godin. There are obvious exceptions (local-based services like wedding or event photography), but selling prints and licenses is becoming“more international”.
- Placing more value on your own website. This is not to say the social media accounts haven’t seen an explosion, but they are starting to be considered just marketing hubs. There’s no ownership there, they can always get sold or shut down their services. A website is like real-estate, it’s like renting vs buying. Sure, a personal website is more expensive than having cheap social media or Flickr profiles, but it’s an investment, it becomes an asset that you control.
- Focusing on the user is becoming hugely important. That means:
- not focusing on Google that much (once again, writing for humans pleases Google most)
- not focusing on what YOU like (as the website owner), but instead understanding what the target audience likes/needs
- creating a smooth user experience (fewer slideshow images, clear calls-to-action, clear contact info), everything to keep the user on your site and build trust
It seems like the perfect time to end with this quote from another Seth Godin article:
“The only reason to build a website is to change someone.
If you can’t tell me the change and you can’t tell me the someone, then you’re wasting your time.” – Seth Godin