Gear doesn't make the photo. But gear can be fun…
This holiday season, as you make your list and check it twice – be sure not to forget one of your hardest working business partners (works 24 hours each day, never takes a day off, doesn’t call in sick) – your website.
Your website isn’t capable (yet) of asking for gifts, but if it could, what would it ask for?
To find out, I spent 24 hours meditating in the climate-controlled white-noise of the PhotoShelter datacenter – listening carefully for any messages from the servers, routers, and switches that bring thousands of photographer websites to the world.
OK, I made that part up. But thinking of your website as a business partner is a good idea. And, as an added benefit, any “gifts” that you buy your website can be considered a legitimate expense.
I put together a list of simple gifts that will let your website know that you appreciate all the hard work. With these gifts, you should expect it to work even harder in 2011.
7 Helpful Holiday Gifts For Your Photo Website
1) Contact info on every page
This is an easy one, and just like a handmade Christmas card, doesn’t require any cash because it’s “the thought that counts.”
Place contact information on every single page within your website so that clients can reach you quickly and easily. At the very minimum, you should include your name, telephone number, and email address. Don’t make it a challenge or a game to get in touch with you.
2) Add a nice logo
Why not add a nice professional touch to your website by adding a nicely designed logo? This can enhance your overall brand, and give the impression that you’re serious about your business.
There are a few ways to go when looking to design a logo. You can try your hand at designing it yourself, or you can use the free tools available online to create one using fonts and stock artwork that they provide.
I am a firm believer in “you get what you pay for,” so if the quality of the those tools don’t satisfy you, then you should consider using a “real” logo design company. Prices for logo creation are all over the place – but a few to consider are The Logo Company (starting at $149.) and The Logo Factory (starting at $395.)
3) WordPress Plugins
If you are using WordPress to power part of your website, consider adding a few of these really handy plugins. Each one of these will make your website run smoother and smarter.
Blog comment spam is a problem for all websites, so rather than just turning off comments entirely, why not sign up for an account with Akismet and let it detect the spam for you? Akismet comes pre-installed with WordPress, and it’s free for personal use. All you need to do is register for an API key, enter that key in WordPress, and you’re protected.
Google XML Sitemaps
Make it easy for Google to index everything inside of your WordPress website by installing this handy plugin, which will generate a special XML sitemap that will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com to better index your blog.
There are a ton of social media and bookmark sharing websites out there, waiting for your content. Using SexyBookmarks makes it easy for people to share links to your website using 88 different social media sites by installing a row of attractive icons at the bottom of each post. Super easy!
This plugin is like a free insurance policy for your blog. WP-DB-Backup makes it possible to easily backup the important data living within your WordPress database – which will become extremely handy should anything ever happen to your database. It does this by exporting the data from your database to a folder on the web server; as a file that you can download from the web browser; or to an email address.
More and more people are viewing your website through mobile devices. Instead of building a whole new version of your website to handle them properly, just install the WPtouch Pro plugin for WordPress. This will automatically create a version of your site that will look (and function) great on popular touch-based smartphones like the iPhone, iPod touch, Android, Palm Pre/Pixi, and BlackBerry Storm.
4) Add 3-5 years to your domain registration
Did you know that one of the factors that contributes to good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the amount of time remaining on your domain name? It’s true. The amount of time that your domain name has been registered, combined with the length of time left before your registration expires is one of the ways that search engines figure out if your website is a serious endeavor.
5) A Facebook “Like” button
As social media grows in popularity, more and more people are using it to find products and services. In addition, search engines are beginning to make use of the valuable information contained in Facebook’s “Like button” database. Installing a Facebook “Like button” is easy and free, and brings SEO benefits.
6) A UserTesting.com account
You might think that your website design is simple, clean and obvious – but what do your customers think? Without sitting behind them in the same room and watching their screen as they use your site, it is impossible to really know.
Not anymore. For $39, UserTesting.com will provide you with a video of a visitor actually using your website, and speaking their thoughts as they use it. This is then followed up with a written summary describing any problems they encountered along the way.
This is a great way to get honest feedback about your website’s ease of use.
Another way to get valuable feedback from your own clients is to use KISSinsights, which is a little comment box that pops up in the lower right corner of your website that asks a question. Ask a question about your website, your photography, or your services – and then use the information to improve the clarity of functionality of your website, products and services.
It’s free to get started (with a limit of 30 responses), and $29/month for a Premium account (which will get you 1,000 responses, customizable surveys, and no KISSinsights branding.)