What’s the use of driving targeted traffic to your photography website only to have users bounce (fail to click) or leave unsatisfied? In this post we’ll focus on the user experience, a powerful way to keep users engaged and happy when they interact with your site. Search engine optimization (SEO) focuses on getting visitors to your site by way of search engines. User experience (UX) focuses on keeping users engaged with the site once they land there.
You need to apply both SEO and UX effectively to have a successful web experience. One that meets the goals of your site and the expectations of your visitors. To do this we’ll look at a photography site from a user’s perspective and explain how this impacts their behavior and perception of your business.
1. Aesthetics matter
As a photographer you know the power of aesthetics. And as such, the visual presentation of your site is the first impression that a user has of your business. All your experience and skill as a professional are great, but if they’re packaged in a less than optimal looking site your perceived professional value will be affected. Having a visually appealing site shows that you care just as much, if not more, about your professional work. A site that uses tasteful typography, strong branding, and relevant icons will be easy on the eyes and keep the user engaged. Anything that helps in the readability of your content and images such as a well structured layout will also improve the visual experience of your site. Naturally, people like to use things that present aesthetic value. To create a positive impression form and function must work in conjunction.
2. Eliminate distractions
To keep users focused and engaged with your content it is good to eliminate non-essential elements on a page. A photographer’s main content is visual. But having too many elements on a page can distract. Keep everything centered around the photography. Graphical elements should be kept at a minimum and can function well if applied tastefully to support the images. Unless it is absolutely necessary, music should not go on your website. Music is used to evoke emotion, but not all people respond the same way to a tune. And it could lead to a potentially unpleasant situation if a visitor to your site has his speakers turned up full volume. If you absolutely need to have music on your site make it optional and place an ON/OFF button somewhere on the page that’s not too intrusive. This way the user can decide if she wants music or not.
3. Clarity is essential
Users should know precisely what you do. Are you a child photographer, a wedding photographer, or both? You may know your business inside and out but that is not the case with your visitors. Include copy that supports your photography and describes your business well. This can be achieved with a clear and concise headline on the homepage. If you offer different types of photography make sure categorization around the site is clear. Each page on your site has an objective. Use each for its intended purpose and no more. Together they tell a story that communicates your value to the visitor in a cohesive manner. Not being clear up front could mean a loss of interest, increased bounce rate, and ultimately loss of clients.
4. Make it easy to navigate
Your website was created for people to find you, but are things easy to find on your site? The navigation is the most important element on a site because it takes users to the different sections on your site. Things like navigational titles that confuse users can hinder the user experience. Instead use simple and clear wording that the most basic users can understand. Words like Pricing instead of Investment, and About us instead of Company or Business for navigational terms work better. The most important pages on the site should be accessible from the main navigation at all times. And always make it easy to return to the homepage by placing a home navigational item or icon. Because your photos are the main attraction make the portfolio easy to find. The best way of keeping a user informed of where they are on your site is by highlighting navigational elements or placing visual cues that describe the current page. An effective navigation with clear wording must be always clear and present to guide the way.
5. Keep it consistent
There are millions of websites out there and each has its own unique style. Claim your little corner of the web by establishing a cohesive presence throughout the pages on your site. Consistency helps to establish credibility and trust. If your website’s pages morph into different colors and shapes as the visitor navigates away from the homepage, the user will feel disconcerted. Your branding and navigation should always remain consistent to give the users a sense of place and unity. The only things that should change from page to page are the main content and the secondary elements. If you have a portfolio and a blog, make both follow the same look and feel. Otherwise users will think that they’ve navigated away from your site. By keeping the style, the navigation, and the branding consistent your site will provide a fluid experience to your users.
6. Optimize for fast response
We all know how frustrating it is to have a slow internet connection. This experience is made worse when a site is not optimized for best web performance. The good news is you can improve this with simple tweaks. To start you can optimize images for the web so they load quickly. Photoshop and most imaging software offer an optimization feature that you can use. If the images need to be of great resolution use a preloader that informs users that an image is being loaded. Regularly check that your server is functioning properly. And if things are still slow you may want to check site traffic and resource usage on your server because you may have reached server bandwidth capacity. Let’s face it, no one likes to wait for content to load online, and shaving even one tenth of a second from load time can go a long way in making your site more user friendly.
7. Know your target audience
Who will be looking at your site? Art directors, brides, or magazine editors? This is critical knowledge because the visual language you use to communicate depends on your audience. The look and feel will vary if your clients are in high fashion or in the soccer mom league. This also applies to wording and photo selection. Use copy that is understood by your audience. And exhibit images that best represent your body of work to your ideal client. Keeping the content and messaging relevant will keep the user interested. By doing your homework about your audience, users will be better served and their experience on your site will be a pleasant one.
There are things that you can control which can dramatically improve your website’s user experience. By keeping an eye on things such as visual presentation, persistent navigation, and consistency you’ll help users find their way around your site with grater ease. And by eliminating distractions, using clarity in your communication, and knowing your audience you’ll keep users focused and engaged with your work. All these elements working in tandem will help your site make a deeper connection with your users and also help you reach your professional goals as a photographer.