January 31, 2008 - 2 comments

Photographers and Web Sites

There’s a rather fascinating discussion about photographer websites going on at A Photo Editor.

With a background working at various newspapers and magazines as designer, then art director and being married to picture editor, I think about photography and photographers a lot.

Making the transition to web from print and enrolled in a web design certificate program, I’ve come to love talking with photographers about websites. I also admit I’m a noobie so while I don’t know the various ins and outs of web development (yet) I’ve learned a great deal so far from some of the best (online and in-the-flesh) working professionals in the industry.

So naturally, Rob’s post and the comments had me thinking and writing and writing.

From A Photo Editor:

Flash vs. Html: I love flash. Photos look better in flash and there’s no way around it. There’s an argument floating around about using html so google can read/rank your website better that people seem to be confused about. It’s not so people can find you by name it’s so that people can find your images with google. If your photos are embedded in flash then the search engine doesn’t know you’ve got a killer photo of Richard Branson and when my Creative Director does a google image search to trounce the lame Corbis images I presented yours will not be in the results. Thats a problem. I think you will need a stock and a portfolio website to solve it.

There are other problems with flash as well, like incompatibility and deep linking issues but I still think the image quality trumps all that shit.

 

FLASH

From what I learned about Flash so far, metadata can be added to movie files (.swf) in the CS3 version. Search bots generally have a hard time indexing flash movie files so making sure to create some html content that search engines can index is important. A movie file without some html is like putting a needle in a haystack. Why bother having a web presence if no one can find you?

Flash and better image quality: Perhaps that is true and I think Laurie McGinley makes a good point that that this is probably more perception of the overall experience:

Maybe the comment “photos look better in flash” has more to do with the aesthetics of flash. It is easer to use smooth transitions between photos, animation and non-standard fonts in Flash than in HTML.

Technically speaking, there is no difference between how a jpeg is displayed in flash and how it is displayed through a page coded with XHTML/CSS unless you allow Flash to re-compress your jpegs. Then your photos would look worse in Flash.

As a designer, I love how flash can retain typography, move elements and retain the look of transparent layers. Since flash can display a greater range of typefaces, effects, the packaging may create an environment where images are perceived to look better. Packaging is part of personality. Personality is part of marketing and branding. Presentation is a big deal.

The downsides in my experience with Flash:
Painfully slow load times: Not all Flash-based websites are slow and most photographer web sites have been really slow. If a colleague I respected recommended a photographer and that photographer had a painfully slow website, I waited. It was usually worth the wait. If I went the path of Google and randomly discovered photographers, painfully slow websites killed a good portion of the day. Not a bad thing when I had time. I enjoy looking at pictures. Either way, forcing myself to wait because the job demanded seeing all options is a killer.

Small click points (areas): I no longer have the eyes to deal with 7 point type and small navigation buttons and areas. If my cursor needs to be exactly in the sweet spot of a 7 point text navigation “button” and I fail, my user experience will be frustrating. What happens? I bounce.

It's Not Just About Tools

Flash, (X)HTML, CSS, AJAX, Javascript, PHP... These and many others are the tools of a web designer/developer. All are legitimate when used appropriately and with care.

The key discussion a photographer should have with his or her website designer is not only the tools used to design and develop but also the goals of the site. Ideally, knowing and understanding this first will help finesse the choice of whether to use Flash, AJAX, Javascript, CSS, (X)HTML, Ruby on Rails, or any other language. It can help answer whether to incorporate a blog, or any of the social networking tools. It can also determine whether you are found through mobile devices.

If SEO is important to you, (if not, it should be) try to remember that as my interaction design professor recently said, “The home page is dead.” Meaning: The home page as the only way a user (your future client) enters (finds) your site is old-school. Allow people to enter your house (your site) so-to-speak through the windows, doors, chimneys, etc. And, remember to think about SEO at the beginning stages of your design; not toward the end as an add-on. How metadata, title, and H1 tags are incorporated will make a huge difference.

With regard to constantly having to go to the designer to update content, that is no longer the case. A CMS (Content Management System) big or small is an option that allows for a photographer to update as needed. A good web designer will have asked whether the ability to update your content is important to you.

Another important concept/methodology to keep in mind: Web Standards. This is what I have bought into as an aspiring web designer. Accessibility, Stability, and Usability. It just makes sense.

Flash may be the standard for photographers today and giving programming languages such as PHP, Javascript with CSS and (X)HTML is worth investigating.

One commenter, Flash in The Pan, at A Photo Editor says:

It’s about the pictures; not the technique!

Content is King. I agree; however, the technique can either elevate content making it visible; force it to disappear or restrict it never to be found.

Published by: dpdavis in Design, Photography

Comments

Marlyse Comte
February 9, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Flash has it’s beauty, but for several reasons it can become a major hinder block for your site. Home pages that are entirely written in flash – including navigation – do not reveal a lot to google and will not report any updates to your site etc. and on slow connections the loading time can become a major hassle and not inviting as it should be. Used intelligently though flash can contribute a lot to your site and give it that special edge.

Deb
February 9, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Thanks Marlyse. I completely agree with you and I hope photographers will keep this in mind when thinking about their sites.

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