In 2010 I gave a speech on website design and development at the Picture Perfect event organized by the beautiful Daniel Stowe Botanical gardens. After having to miss out on attending last year’s event due to personal obligations I was invited back again for 2012. I thought this would be a good time to revisit my original notes and post them on-line with additional clarifications and links to more information. I’d be happy to speak to your group, too! Just contact me here.
The audience was diverse bringing together both professionals and enthusiasts, photographers and those in related industries. My speech ran over my allotted 30 minutes and I offered to take my rough notes and turn them into a resource people could use.
While this speech was geared towards photographers, it can be easily adapted to other companies and professionals looking to go on-line. I hope it’s useful and it’s provided free with that intent. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think might use it. The price of use is to give me your feedback. It’s only through your additional questions can the free resources and tutorials I post on-line can grow. Feel free to quote me with attribution. Please do not just copy and paste or plagiarize.
A final note is that There is no one-size fits all speech that I can give. Your situation likely as different as the Picture Perfect attendees. If you have a question, it’s likely other people do, too. Just let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help out.
About Charlotte Website Development
Somebody asked me why a website developer was at a photography convention. The short answer is because I was asked. The longer answer is because the organizers thought there might be some interest in the group. (They were right!)
The Real Reason They Chose Me
While I didn’t ask, there are a few reasons why the Picture Perfect organizers may have chosen me.
1) My company website shows up #1 in Google, Yahoo! & other places for a variety of search terms.
Despite me working part-time as a 1 man shop against larger companies, I tend to do very well in local search engine results. A high ranking for frequently-searched phrases assures you a lot of exposure for your business. If you’d like to learn more about how I do this, please check these SEO tutorials I have created.
2) They may be part of my on-line social network.
3) I am active in the community and may have been referred.
Despite the fact that we are living in the Digital Age, people are still people and business is still based on relationships and face-to-face contact still matters. Any number of places like the Charlotte Better Business Bureau (where I hold an A+ Rating), the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce, or Lake Wylie Friends in Business could have referred them.
You can learn more about me on my company about page. You can see how I got my start in website design on this post. If you’re interested in me personally, I write about travels, adventures, and my own brand of philosophy at Cubicle Warrior. Yes, I sometimes share my bad travel photos there, too! (Don’t judge too harshly!)
Similarities Between Website Designers & Photographers.
Both website designers and photographers have ‘ephemeral’ products. With the advent of digital photography and cameras in every phone people are taking pictures all of the time. Similarly, there are many products on the market that build websites automatically for people. Both of our client bases see something that is so easy to hand them and tend to treat them as commodities. Clients do not see the years of training, practice and diligence in our crafts. Our clients can recognize that your work is clearly superior to their own but believe it’s just a matter of a few small ‘tricks’ before their products are as good as yours.
Another similarity between website developers and photographers is that it is very easy for people to directly steal or “be influenced by” your work. Take engagement photos for example. It’s common practice for the bride-to-be to Google a bunch of similar photos and hand them to the photographer and say ‘I want these and nothing else!’ All the while ignoring your special eye, creativity and expertise. I promise you the same thing happens in website design. It’s a constant battle to decide whether to give your client what they want vs what they really need. Or, in some cases, predict what it is that they really want when they don’t know themselves.
Difference Between Website Design & Website Development.
While many people use these terms interchangeably, I prefer to distinguish between website design and website development. One refers to making a website pretty (Design = Aesthetic + Structure + Performance). The other refers to making a website profitable. Development = Design +Marketing + Continuous Improvement. In other words, website design is a sub-set of website development.
While look, feel, branding, and overall appeal and aesthetics are certainly very important to the user experience, it is only one portion of what makes a business website successful. As I am speaking to an audience of artists with talent for images and layout, I will focus on is the larger set web development where the goals are business related. This brings me to my first point.
Why have a website?
There is a phase I’ve heard that ‘you can have many masters but only truly serve one. A website is no different. You need to clearly identify your goals.
Normally when I speak to small business owners their goals are to get more clients. Here, in a mixed audience, there is a large personal and hobby side as well. While there is always room for personal expression on the web, be certain to clearly identify your over-arching goal for the website before starting.
You really have 2 choices:
- Return on Investment – your site is for profit.
- Personal Fulfillment – your site is for fun.
It may see strange coming from a website developer but websites are not for everyone. Refer to this of 8 items to see if your business should have a website.
How to Build Your Website
In a business sense there is only one reason to spend precious resources, whether it be time, effort, or money on having a website. And that is a return on your investment. Each element and each function you add to your website should be viewed through the lens of ‘will adding this functionality improve my website profitability?’
Building a website is a lot like writing an essay. If you take a little bit of time to sketch out your ideas and then order them in a logical progression, you’ll save a lot of heart ache later on.
First Identify the Need, Then Plan the Website
If you don’t have a need, you don’t have a website. Before starting to build a website take a minute to state your exact needs by establishing your audience and their desires. Next, plan how your website will fulfill those needs.
Here is a list of 5 things that professional website designers do before they ever develop a website to ensure it’s success. Before you build a website, be sure to read that article! It will save you hours of development and thousands of dollars in wasted effort!
Identify Constraints, Technology and Tools Needed
There are no technology solutions, only business solutions.
Discussing technical issues would be multiple other speeches in an of themselves. In this case, I will focus on the technology questions that stem from the various businesses associated with technology. If I were to make a targeted list for photographers, here are a few items I would think you would have to make decisions on:
- Do you even need a website? For example, Should you only use Facebook or MySpace?
- Should you build your website yourself or use a free service like Blogger, WordPress.com, or Google Sites?
- How will you display your images? Will you have a water mark? Is there any way to prevent people from stealing your images once you’ve put them online?
- What are the ideal sizes and file types for web images? How will the size of the images affect speed for users and bandwidth charges for you?
- What kind of functionality do I need in a website? How often will I have to update and maintain my website? How will I accomplish this?
- Marketing: should the website work to market my work? Will I need to market my website?
- How will sales occur?
- How do I walk that fine line between showing my ability and preventing theft?
Quick Notes on How to Protect Your Art
- Any image put on the web can be stolen or copied in some fashion.
- Most people won’t steal your work.
- Fine line of marketing yourself security.
- Don’t ever put your images on someone else’s server.
- Don’t put your data where you can’t get it out.
Remember, Websites do not exist in a vacuum. They need attention and some TLC to flourish. Create a regular maintenance strategy like you would for your house or car.
Follow this up with a marketing / advertising strategy complete with your expected results. Monitor all of your expenses to be sure you are getting a return on that investment!
Of course, the speech ran 30 minutes and I met hundreds of people afterward at my booth. Meeting people led to even more questions and I compiled a list of frequently asked questions that I promised to type up and share with everyone as well.
There are more topics asked than I can write about in a single page. Some are highly-specific to certain situations. I have my notes and I will eventually write them all up. Of course, the more people who ask about a certain topic, the greater the chance that I’ll cover it. If you’d like to join my mailing list and automatically receive the articles I write straight to your email in-box, please sign up here.
(Note: I will never spam you and you can unsubscribe any day.)
If anything else should be elaborated on, please let me know via the contact form or leave a comment below.
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