As creatives, most of us know the value of a strong internet presence and what that can do to boost brand recognition and our business bottom-line, but we don’t always know how to make the best of that presence. I spoke with a successful web builder and graphic designer to get a glimpse of the most important aspects of boosting web potential for photographers.
If you’re anything like me, you find that the hardest part of running a successful photography business is not actually the photography part. Instead, many of us find that it’s the business part of the business that leaves us anxiety-ridden and ready to throw in the towel. One aspect of business that leaves photographers and other creatives scratching their heads is often their web presence, or lack thereof. I recently reached out to Ismael Burciaga, a creative, photographer, graphic designer, and web builder based in Amarillo, Texas, about what we need in a website as photographers who rely on web presence as both an advertising and networking tool. He gave me some great advice on why hiring a professional is usually a good idea, on what makes or breaks a great website, and, if you must, on how to approach your own DIY web design.
Burciaga got his start in the creative field of graphic design after first pursuing higher education in both the fields of medicine and architecture. During those first few years, getting his feet wet in the design arena, he also developed a love for photography, which he began to pursue several years afterwards with the purchase of his first DSLR, a Canon Rebel. Now, 14 years later, he finds time for photography when he's free, and when he can get a break from running his own marketing agency, as well as heading up his own creatives conference each year, The Circles Conference, the Dallas-based conference which was named #2 conference for creatives to attend in 2018, just behind the behemoth SXSW. Held this month, the conference sold out to over 500 attendees for 2018.
As a web designer and brand developer, Burciaga visits hundreds of websites each year. He says that 95% of the time when someone reaches out to him for web help, they are needing a total revamp of the website that they currently have. And he can usually pinpoint right away what the website is lacking and why a particular client is reaching out to him for web development. “Most websites we see lack attention to detail,” Burciaga says. “You can easily tell when a website is using a theme that was purchased for $15.”
Mobile-Friendly Websites are a Must
Another problem he sees are websites that are not responsive to mobile devices. This can be a killer considering the large amount of website traffic that is served to mobile devices in this day and age. In fact, mobile internet usage has surpassed computer web traffic in recent years, and continues to climb. It only makes sense that your website needs to look just as amazing on a mobile device as it does on a computer. While the everyday photographer or videographer may not even realize there is a difference, mobile-friendly websites are a must-have that a professional web designer will be likely to focus on.
Burciaga says many clients come to him because they have tried the DIY approach and are struggling with non-user-friendly templates. They also often struggle with making a website that is consistent with the way they want to portray the personality of their brand. They are looking to share the heart and soul of their creative business, and much of the time, the cookie-cutter, pre-built website templates found on many DIY website platforms are just too generic for a client who has a certain vibe they want to express. After all, it’s hard to brand yourself to stand out from the crowd with a web template that 10 other photographers in your area are also using. This, along with a lack of website design experience, is why photographers, videographers, and other creatives will find hiring an expert beneficial.
Making Room For Future Development
In addition, an expert, as opposed to many generic DIY web building sites, will be able to build a design that leaves room for future growth. One day you might want to add something such as a storefront for selling tutorials, templates, or prints, or you might need to link to other websites for client proofing and other purchase options. A professional will build your site in a way so that he can later integrate these options seamlessly into what he creates for you now.
DIY if You Must
Burciaga says that while he recommends hiring a pro for a supreme website experience, he understands that there are those on a budget who will seek the DIY route. In these cases, he recommends choosing the best template you can find for your brand through one of the tried and true services like Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly. He says that these can be cheap, quick fixes. “But,” he warns, “they can be hard to update or expand the services of your business.”
Good SEO is Still King
One thing every successful website must take advantage of, whether created and maintained by a professional or built using a DIY service, is Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. Good SEO is what gets you to the front page of a Google search, and gets your name in front of potential clients. This can often be a frustrating and daunting task to take on for a DIYer. “Just make sure you name everything when adding content and photoshoots to your website,” says Burciaga. Adding file names that will direct a search engine to your site by using location names and keywords is a good way to go. And if you’ve been hearing and thinking that the blog is dead, Burciaga will beg to differ. “If you can keep a consistent blog, that’s a big plus, too, because it allows Google to see you bringing fresh content on a consistent basis.”
Do you have any great website advice? Share it in the comments below.