Is what you want, what they want?

Grover spends a lot of time speaking to photographers, and has a great non-PhotoShelter-specific talk about what photographers want, and how sharply their desires can conflict with those of image buyers (I’d highly recommend seeing him speak if you can).

For example, it seems as if every photo student takes a class on web development, then immediately tries to go out and build their own website. In doing so, they feel compelled to create something unique, which almost inevitably involves Flash and some obscure navigation mechanism. The desire to be unique is at odds with the audience’s desire to find content quickly.

An oft-cited analogy is restaurant websites. Most users visit a restaurant website to find 1) hours of operation, and 2) the address and directions. Yet, most restaurant websites suffer from the arrogance to think that their logo should dominate their homepage, and we should click a few times to find this basic information.

So what do image buyers really want? Here’s a few ideas to ponder:

  • prominent navigation options
  • forward/back buttons that don’t jump around
  • readily accessible licensing information
  • searchability
  • e-commerce

In business, when we don’t have a core competence internally, we outsource. For example, we outsource all our bookkeeping. Our time is more valuable than trying to do everything ourselves. Photography is no different, so when you’re contemplating creating your website, you should consider that there are companies that specialize in creating websites who have thought through the issues of what’s important to your audience, as well as optimizing the code that creates the site. You might have a compelling design, but your code execution might undermine the efficacy. Flash is a great tool, but in the hands of a bad programmer, it can be disastrous.

The chasm between photographer and buyer extends even further. Many PhotoShelter photographers don’t price their images. I’m sure there are a million legitimate reasons why this is the case, but none of them matter when an image buyer is ready to initiate a sale. Having to contact you only adds friction to the process. And everyone has encountered an e-commerce enabled site where they got so frustrated that they bailed out of the process.

So as we enter 2007, put yourself in the shoes of the buyer, and prosper accordingly.

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This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. ron rochon at 7:25 pm

    Why are you recommending Flash. It is the greatest looking, but it is none searchable and for most people even in high speed takes a long time to load up. Good html can get you a searchable and shorter time load. Viewers want to see information in short previews.

  2. Allen Murabayashi at 12:49 am

    Ron, There are ways to make Flash searchable and companies like Livebooks and Neonsky employ these techniques to be picked up by Google. And quite honestly most sites that have excessive load times are simply created by people with a poor understanding of Flash. Believe me, I’m a huge proponent of straight HTML, but rarely is the tool responsible for user experience. So Flash is effective when used properly, and programmed by an experience Flash developer. Allen

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