Right from the start I knew it’s the most important job I could possibly be doing for the now and future life of our business. Sales is all about experience and relationships forged with old and new clients in new and creative ways. Your website is your business persona. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get the perfect website? I said yes!
How often it is that we forget that only about 10-12% of our time as photographers and videographers is spent with camera in hand. Like any small business, the time spent in outreach to find, attract and close the sale with clients is the thing that will make or break our businesses. We are in the business of art; this is not a contradiction in terms. And we know we’re in a time of flux; a reference in Time magazine at the beginning of the year noted that the photographic industry was one of the hardest hit by economic downturn.
Here’s a repeat of my criteria for my theme template search:
- simple, impactful, architecturally uncluttered appearance
- multiple interesting photo display functions
- great video portfolio as well as stills
- absence of flash-based type or image motion that jump all over the place
- easy to follow documentation understandable tot he beginner
It’s easiest to get my thoughts about cost out of the way first.
I did research photo templates reviewed as top 10’s for photographers, but did not find any really interested me. Only recently are there templates that speak mainly to videographers. “Free” templates mostly did not have the needed functionality for both blog and portfolio. Same for the WordPress themes from, and hosted by, WordPress.org. I found them too basic, and too blog oriented for my arty aspirations.
I reluctantly rejected the industry-specific templates that require you to host directly with the design company. I’ll admit they look great. Really great. Probably because they’re designed specifically for imaging pros. I fell in love with their samples, and the extraordinary lure of “just one click to entirely change the appearance of your site”. In your search, I urge you not to pass by Photocrati or Photobiz with their interchangeable looks and all-in-one e-commerce functionality. This approach of highly managed sites can be a real problem solver and time saver. But remember that you’re just renting, and if you leave their mandatory hosting, you lose your site. There’s no discount for multiple sites, so I calculated my five sites would cost about $1K per year plus in some cases, significant set up fees. Not economically feasible for us. Especially since the user still has to modify the template styles to suit, create content and do all the maintenance.
The same cost concern goes for the excellent Marathon company, a staple in the consumer imaging community. We love them, but again, hosting cost, while reasonable, and good service too, covers one domain only. So I came to the painful decision I was on my own to select a hosting company, select templates and totally design my own. I settled on HostGator (http://www.hostgator.com/), with BlueHost (http://www.bluehost.com/) being a close second. Both are big companies with lots of options, but not too big, and I loved their attentive telephone service, as well as the inexpensive add-ons like spam filtration utilities and plenty of email addresses supported.
I should also mention that we couldn’t be without Smugmug! Use it as portfolio only as we have been doing, or for client viewing, e-commerce or even as your one and only website. I love the sophisticated and variable appearance. I rearrange it frequently, just like a department store shifting stock for a new visual. If you look closely, there are all sorts of functions to improve SEO by adding titles and linking to social media. And the HD video function, with available large size windows is a must for us. Other video posting sites are just beginning to catch up technically. Only drawback: a 10 minute video limit, because so often our shorts run to 11-13 minutes. I had a hard time initially with learning the Smugmug system, but that was my inexperience. I find the documentation is first rate. They’ve thought of everything, and have good customer service too.
Once this scary decision was made, I got a tingling sensation that becoming our own web designer was a rather sexy proposition. Definitely control freak heaven! And don’t we artists love control.
Next installment: Getting serious about choosing templates