When it comes to designing a website, people don't always put the thought into it that they should. Some people think I just need a place to put all of my work and people will see if they want to work with me. Unfortunately that's not the case. For me, I came up with set of theories and rules that helped me guide the design of it.
A website is like a resume.
Think about it, when you apply for a job you have this one piece of paper that has to say everything about you and trust me, it isn't the only resume they are looking at. So when potential clients are looking at photographers, they aren't just looking at yours. They are looking at potentially dozens of others. So you need to make sure yours stands out.
Your homepage sells, everything else seals the deal
There's different ways to set up your homepage and each way creates a different look for you and your work. With every step of your website, you need to think about what it says about you.
Slideshow/Gallery: Perfect for people who want their work printed. Great for landscape and editorial photographers. You want your work to look like it would in a magazine or framed on a wall. Basically the bigger you show your work, the better. Show the details of every photo that you wouldn't get with other website styles. (Notable slideshow design: http://www.sondersphotography.com/)
Mosaic: This is where your images show up in little boxes all next to each other. This is great for people who have a large portfolio with similar imagery. Great for people who really know their style or shoot a lot of the same type of subject like headshot photographers or product photographers. This may not be good for people who shoot a lot of different styles or colors. They could clash when next to each other. (Notable Mosaic design: http://www.lindsayadlerphotography.com/index)
Blog Style: This is where you have a series of images from the same set displayed next to each other. This is perfect for journalists, portraits, engagements, and wedding photographers. When you're trying to tell a story, having all images grouped together like this is perfect. Almost like an album you're trying to sell a client. (Notable Blog Style design: http://portolesephoto.com/
That everything else part
So you've gotten people to view other sections of your website. That's great! This is where you put your personality. Are you a fun-loving photographer who loves to meet new people? Or are you the hard-working bad ass whose work speaks for itself? Show that off in your pages. Whether it's through a blog or your About and Contact pages. Coming off as more of an actual person, well... It humanizes you. And guess what? People want to work with people they like and showing your personality on your website starts a connection that you might not even know about.
Go mobile or get out
How many people do you think are viewing your website from a mobile device? Probably close to 80-90%. So why are you still making it impossible for someone on mobile to view your website? Chances are you're reading THIS ARTICLE on a mobile device. So why aren't you going to make your website work well on mobile? You know what I did? I made my website stupid-easy to work on mobile. You got the menu at the top, a selection of photos to scroll down on each section, and it works. It's simple and it works. Oh and my contact section looks good on mobile. No need to pinch and zoom to go to different sections. It's not fancy, but it works and it works on all mobile devices. I don't have issues with Android devices versus iPhones. My website works for everyone.
But Dave, building a website is tough and can be expensive
Well, Other Dave, not really. There's so many different photo portfolio website designers like Squarespace, Format, Smugmug, and hell, even Adobe has their own portfolio site these days. There's so many options. Personally, I went with Squarespace, and it was incredibly easy to set up. There's a bunch of different themes to choose from to fit whatever style you want and every detail is customizable.
This entire article can be summed up in one sentence. Think consciously about everything you're doing. That's about it. Everything you do has a meaning and a purpose. The logo you use, the color choices, the layout, literally everything has a subliminal effect to how people view your website. That's why there's a job called User Experience Developer where people do what they can to make your experience as a website viewer better.