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If you post amazing professional-quality photographs to your website and nobody can access them, are they really that amazing? Nobody will know. All that hard work, focus, determination, and artistic ability -POOF – all for nothing. This is exactly what is happening to many very talented photographers. They pour their heart and soul into their art form and then entrust it to outdated technology that doesn’t adequately display their work on mobile devices.
With the proliferation of mobile devices, it’s no surprise that many people do most of their web browsing on the go. Consider the following eye-opening statistics found on visual.ly:
Those are startling numbers, especially if you’re not keeping up with the changing face of the web. Unfortunately, it seems that there has been a lag in photographers adopting the appropriate web technology to showcase their work in a way that accommodates mobile users. To ensure that your site and your photography work are presented in an impactful way, it must be optimized specifically for mobile viewing.
Just building a site for the desktop doesn’t guarantee that the results will transfer to phones and tablets, or even the new smart watches. You do not want interested viewers to open your site on a mobile device and find a helter-skelter layout with distorted or inaccessible images. If this happens, it puts you in a difficult spot – you’re left hoping that they remember and desire to seek out your site for a second time when they’re back at a desktop computer. That’s wishful thinking considering the deluge of distractions we all encounter every day and the somewhat shrinking attention spans of the high-definition, high-speed digital generation. Here today, gone tomorrow, or maybe sooner in the case of your hard work and aspirations.
One of the worst-case scenarios you could be in is with a portfolio site that is completely based on Adobe Flash, leaving you to lose a whole group of mobile users who will rapidly look elsewhere when your site doesn’t load on their device. No one likes seeing a blank screen or a message saying, “This content cannot be displayed on your device.”
It’s vital to give your audience exactly what they want – fast, fluid access to your dazzling work anytime anywhere. If they can’t clearly navigate your web site, it raises questions in their minds about your professionalism and your commitment to viewers and to your art form. This is not a good place to be for a proud, ambitious photographer. The good news, however, is that there are readily available solutions that you could leverage whether you already have an existing site or are starting one from scratch.
The key to optimizing the mobile user’s experience is to have a site that uses responsive web design or adaptive web design. These are two types of site programming that ensure a seamless transition of your content from the desktop to all mobile devices, regardless of screen size. Anything less than that, and you’re severely limiting exposure for your work and jeopardizing your chance of making a significant first impression. Negative experiences can turn into negative reviews. These travel fast in the digital age, and it’s difficult to change those perceptions once they’re public.
Using an adaptive design, you get a site that is specifically designed for particular browser sizes found on most mobile devices. In a lot of cases, the mobile site almost looks like a native app. Problogger.net (also run by dPS owner Darren Rowse) is an example of such a site. With this type of design, the experience on a mobile device is a bit different than that of a desktop, but you could still access the content in a readable format. This results in a fast and easy to read site that is user-friendlier on small web browsers.
A Responsive site is even better in that it is flexible in displaying the same content across a large array of devices while keeping much of the same styles. It maintains a fluid layout by using elements that are automatically resizable and could be placed where they fit best on the screen. This even works great on desktops when you want to shrink the browser window.
A perfect example of a website with a responsive design is Digital Photography School’s own site. If you’re accessing the site from a desktop browser, notice how the site responds fluidly as you resize the window. If you’re reading this from a mobile device, you’re still able to read the content just fine without having to manipulate the browser by zooming in and out or doing a lot of horizontal scrolling.
Updating your site from a clunky old format is quite simple, and the tools are readily available. Most people who have a blog use a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal. These systems allow you to change the overall look and feel of your site by offering different designs or themes. There are plenty of available themes that are already responsive or adaptive right out of the box. These range in cost from free up to $100. A simple web search will reveal many sites that specialize in offering a variety of this type of themes. I’ve had great success using Theme Forest.
In addition to themes that are optimized for mobile browsing, these CMSs also allow you to install plugins that display the same content in a mobile-only theme. In some cases, especially if you already have an existing site, this might be the easier route to take.
At some point, we’ve all experienced the disconnect between the artistic or creative world and the technology world. But in the modern age, you really can’t draw a distinction without suffering the consequences. It’s much wiser to embrace the role of technology in displaying art – in this case photography – and use it to your advantage.
With just a bit of effort, you can make sure that you nail that vital first impression with your fans and give your work the digital stage that it deserves!
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