Anniversaries happen all the time, and my website officially went live three months ago. And while that isn’t an earth-shattering milestone by any stretch of the imagination, I have learned a lot of lessons along the way as I continue to build the site out and strive to make it the platform I want to showcase my imagery, and tell the stories I want to tell.
Though to be honest, without the help of WP Photo Websites and more importantly Jay Goodrich, it wouldn’t be where it is now. Keeping all that in mind, you might be interested in the top three lessons I learned (and often re-learned the hard way) as I got this little website up to speed.
- Learn to think like WordPress
I’m cheating some as there are really two-points here. First: In order to use Word Press, I had to learn to speak Word Press. Knowing the differences between a Content Slider and a Full Screen Slider, or where to use a Widget and when to use a Plug-In is key to being able to know what to put where. There is a somewhat technical jargon associated with the Word Press platform, so I had to learn to understand the native language to become more proficient in how I used the platform.
And Second: Learning to speak Word Press includes learning to differentiate what is ”theme based”, what is “content based” and what is “page based”. The lesson learned here was to figure out where to go in the Dashboard to find what it is you’re trying to update within your Word Press website. If you’re paying someone to build your website, figuring out how to discuss individual elements of your website will make for easier conversations with your designer, or if you’re doing the creating (or updating) yourself like I am, will make your internal mutterings somewhat more understandable.
- Stick to your aesthetic, but be flexible
A couple of months ago, on another website I write for I suggested that you search out other photographers’ websites as research and reference material. With that past recommendation in mind, it became very important for me to consider just how this website should not only look, but also function. How do I want my viewers to flow through the site, and what kind of experience did I want them to have? While you’ll need to be open to change or adjustment, I learned the first (and possibly most difficult) lesson is to really determine how you want your website to look and flow, and to then craft a path to get there.
If you’re planning on creating a website, I’ve no doubt that the look and feel of your website will evolve as you continue to adjust and refine what you see. Rest assured mine has. The wider array of images you have to showcase will allow you to push the boundaries of what you want to see on your website, and you may also broaden your viewer base as well. There is no way to lose when your portfolio of work is broad and deep.
- Just take the shot
Content — it is what every site requires, and more variety is always better. When I am out in the field, I’ve learned to just shoot everything. If it interests me, or is out of the ordinary, or has some unique quality, or I think it is just “cool”, I point the camera at it and squeeze. Artistically, of course. I promise, when you do it you’ll find a way to use the image. Tying the content of a header image (aka Content Slider) on a particular page should be a design choice, and to accomplish that you’ll need lots of varied images to give yourself the freedom to create the design you want. I know a photographer who uses an image of a line of rural mail boxes as his Contact Page image. My point is that you’ll find a use for just about anything you can shoot, and if you’re trying to create you’re own unique aesthetic, you’ll need to have a wide variety of images that support that design ethic.
Defining the look and feel of my website has been a joy … and a challenge. But a really awesome challenge, one that’s pushed me in new directions and forced me to expand my horizons. And, in some odd way it will make me a better photographer, as I will now have a more complete plan when I create an image and know where it may end up on my website.