We see a lot of photo websites as we bring you dvafoto, and looking at work online is often a frustrating process. Here are a few things that I think every photo website needs. Each one of these is something that has prevented us from easily linking to work online, and if it’s made the process difficult for us, you can be sure an art buyer or photo editor won’t put up with it. Search engine optimization has a role, but this list is mostly intended for photographers looking to improve the user experience for people who want to see their portfolio. Read the comments on this discussion about a photographer’s work at metafilter to get an idea of what many people think about photo websites; at least 35 of the 40 comments complain about the website interfering with or completely impeding their viewing of the photographer’s work. Your viewers should be paying attention to your photos instead of fighting with your website.
While some of these are more important than others, these are things that your photo website absolutely needs:
1. A website. This should be a no-brainer. Flickr, blogspot, lightstalkers galleries, and other free solutions make viewing pictures a pain. Each of these tools have their time and place, but their function is not to be the best showcase of your work.
2. Your photos. This, also, should be a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how often I’ve had to search for pictures on a photographer’s website. Sometimes, the whole website is hidden behind a page that says “enter” or something similar. Sometimes, the photos are hidden behind words that don’t mean anything to me, such as “people,” “places,” and “things.” With that, I might expect portraits behind the “people” link, but what about “places” and “things”? The casual viewer of your website should not be confused about how to see the types of photos they want to see.
Minimize the number of clicks it takes to get to photos, while you’re at it. I’ve seen some websites where it takes 4 or 5 clicks to see even a single photo. Most people will just give up. Loading time for the website or individual photos is also a concern. Many flash websites take forever to load, while others take forever to move from picture to picture. Often I can only stand to sit through the wait of 2 or 3 pictures in a gallery before I give up.