There’s this fancy new term floating around the online business world right now. You’ve probably seen it and drifted right past because it looks like something for tech nerds and coders. But it’s so much more…and we believe it could change the way photographers think about their businesses forever: UX Design. But is UX Design for photographers a thing? And what even is it?
Refill that coffee, girl, and let’s chat UX Design for photographers!
UX, or User Experience, is a fancy way to say something pretty basic. In short, it’s how humans experience something. To say something has “good user experience” means that achieving your goal, whether to design a poster on an application or find the exit sign in a dark movie theater, is simple and straightforward, especially on your first try. And most of all, the best UX Design goes absolutely unnoticed!
An airport with a good user experience would have clear, well-placed signs and walkways wide enough to pass other travels. Product packaging with good user experience has easy to open containers, well-placed directions that you won’t accidentally throw away, and parts packaged so that they don’t break in transit. A website with good user experience guides users toward a clear goal in a seamless, effortless way.
UX isn’t a Silicon Valley buzzword that doesn’t apply to your photography business. It’s a critical concept to understand when designing anything another human uses.
UX for photographers refers to the experience you build for your ideal clients, from the moment they book to the final interaction you have with them. Website flow. Informational emails. Check-ins. Client guides. Gallery delivery. Album design. It’s all part of the experience you give! And it WILL make or break your business.
This article will deep-dive into a few fundamental principles of UX and how you can best apply UX for your photography website specifically. We’ll even provide our own UX for photographers recommendations, too!
1. Think about your clients’ goals a.k.a everyone wants to achieve something
You’ll find that many of these basic principles of UX are oriented around achieving goals.
Humans don’t do anything unless they’re trying to get something out of it. And, when they’re trying to achieve that goal, they’re efficient about getting it done. Think about it—you go to the airport because you want to travel, you buy a dresser from IKEA because you want to store things in it, and you go on a website because you’re seeking information, entertainment, or things to buy.
The cold, hard truth is that no one is just leisurely browsing around your website without a goal in mind.
Now that we have this basic principle down let’s put it to work.
Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer. What are the goals your user, or ideal client, might have when they’re on your site?
Imagine your ideal client saying, “I want to…,” then fill in the blank.
I want to:
- Book a photographer
- Find your prices
- Find out how this photography experience works
- Find your contact information
- Get to know the photographer
- See what albums you provide
- Get engagement session location inspiration
- See if you’re cool with photographing dogs at engagement sessions
Think about everything your ideal client might be trying to do when they visit your website. Write each thing down on a sticky note. Arrange those sticky notes into two categories: “my website answers/solves this” or “my website doesn’t answer/solve this.”
I’ll use an example: our website!
A problem we could solve as a business that we weren’t solving was continuing client projects.
The “I want to” statement looked like this:
I want to…book a follow-up project.
But if someone wanted to book us for more content, they’d have to email or inquire manually. This process involved a lot of friction—a.k.a hoops—a client needs to jump through to get to the final goal. We needed a process that had less friction, and thus the Client Lounge was born: a simple page with everything in one place.
To best tailor the UX of your photography site to your users’ goals, take the “I want to” statement one step further as a “Job to Be Done.”
These Jobs to Be Done read like:
As a [DESCRIBE USER], I want to [MICRO GOAL] so I can [ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE/BIGGER GOAL].
“As a wedding photographer, I want to book a follow-up project so I can attract more ideal clients to my website quickly and easily.”
“As a bride-to-be, I want to find a wedding photographer so I can have my wedding day documented in the style I want.”
“As a senior in high school, I want to get graduation pictures done that showcase my personality, so I’ll always be able to remember who I was when I was 18.”
Try writing out these Jobs to Be Done for different scenarios your ideal clients may go through. And think outside the box! You may find a lot of insight into how you can better craft your UX to serve their needs!
2. Use “good friction” to your advantage
We mentioned friction in the previous section, and we shared that it’s all the steps someone needs to take to get something done. A low-friction experience would be typing “what is string theory” into your search engine, clicking on the Wikipedia article titled String Theory, and reading a short summary. The whole thing took, what, four minutes?
A high-friction experience would be taking the SATs, getting a perfect score, applying to Harvard, getting in, going through four years of school, then writing a thesis titled “The Principles of String Theory: What Really Is It?” and submitting it to your college science journal for peer review. The whole thing took five years, hard work, and a lot of steps.
Looking at these examples from a pure, unbiased UX point of view, the Wikipedia version is much better than the Harvard version. Why go through so much struggle when you can just Google the dang thing and get answers in seconds?
But, if you’re a theoretical physicist working on groundbreaking research and you need to hire talented graduate students to assist you in your work, you would never in your life choose someone who just did the Wikipedia version. You’d select the Harvard version.
That’s good friction. Sometimes, you want your user to have to go through more steps to get something. Because that means they are the right type of user for you.
How can you apply good friction to your photography website?
Start with your contact form.
This form is a great place to filter out non-ideal clients and filter in the ideal ones. Just a few well-worded questions can do you a lot of good.
For example, if you’re an adventure elopement photographer, you might want to work with clients who enjoy being outside and going on, well, adventures. So, one of the questions in your contact form could be, “What’s the last adventure you two went on together?” If the answer is “Lol, Netflix,” you’ll know that’s not the right client for you.
This is an instance of good friction because the user had to complete an extra step to achieve their goal. Your contact form could be as plain as an email address and a first name. But you gather more information because you’re seeking ideal clients, and, by going through a bit of “good friction,” they find out if they’re ideal, too. Someone might read that adventure question and say: “I’m eloping in a city; this isn’t a good fit,” and then choose not to inquire.
And that is good friction (or, as we like to call it, Positive Repelling) at work.
3. Write your website for skim readers
UX Research has shown that users’ eyes track in an F-shaped pattern when looking at a website. That means they pay attention to the headline, the line under it, and then start tracking downward. But, with enough well-written, intentionally-placed headers, you can actually get your users to track in a layer cake pattern, meaning they read the headers and part of the body text.
Check out this sample of a layer cake skimming pattern (blue dots represent where the eyes tracked) below:
To get the correct information across to skim readers, Adobe recommends “front-loading,” or putting the most essential pieces of information first, so people catch the important bits while their eyes track downwards. One way to do this is to write with strong action verbs that emphasize a clear action (Contact, Click, Go, Ask, Book).
Try looking at each of your pages with the F shape in mind. If someone was scanning downward quickly, what would they catch? More importantly, what would they not notice, and how can you adjust the page to serve them better?
But it’s important to remember: when people are looking for something very important to them, especially when they’re investing a lot, they will read the content.
Think about the last time you planned a big trip or purchased an expensive item. How much did you dive in? How deeply did you research? For an investment as significant as wedding photography, the users further down the funnel (a.k.a. more interested in booking you) will likely read more and more as they get more intrigued.
The trick is winning them when they’re less intrigued—when they’re skim reading. Well-placed headers with intriguing copy can do that.
4. Analyze your “information scent”
Information scent is how people using the internet or a web application decide where to go next. If the information scent is high, meaning they really think that’s the way to go, they click it. If the information scent is low, they will keep looking.
Think of information scent as how you “sniff out” information when interacting with a web interface. Suppose you’re looking for “summery, strappy sundresses” online, and you click on a website with “sundresses” in the meta description and an image of a girl wearing a sundress on the hero image. In that case, the information scent is high, and you’ll probably keep going.
An example in your realm: you’re a wedding photographer. But your hero image, or the images above the fold of the page, doesn’t show a single picture of anyone in a wedding dress. You might have decreased the ability of a user to “sniff out” the correct information.
Because little things—like the description of a link or the images used on the page—all serve to increase or decrease the information scent. And if the scent isn’t high enough, the user will bounce, leaving your page to go somewhere else.
And the icing on the cake? The brand voice you infuse into every detail.
Think of UX as the building blocks, the things you need to make your product or service actually work, and brand voice as the delightful addition. This graphic perfectly illustrates how this works:
Use writing, images, and buttons to make the information scent strong. But infuse your own unique brand voice to make it even more effective.
(By the way, we love talking brand voice around here. Check out this blog, Branding for Photographers: Building a Business Identity.)
5. Map out your ideal client’s journey and cater to each step
What happens when a client finds your website for the very first time after a quick Google search? That’s as simple as it can get. They land on your home page: boom. Done. I’m sure you’ve laid out a home page with buttons and well-crafted information (and if you haven’t yet, let’s talk).
But what about if they find you via some other means? What about the client coming from Instagram? Is your location clearly listed in your bio? Do you say what you do and who you serve? And where does that link take them?
Look at the places your ideal clients are entering. Where would they reasonably go next? Here are a couple of entry points to consider:
- Word of mouth —> Google search your name
- Instagram post —> Look at your bio
- Pinterest pin —> Visit the link in the pin
- Google search a keyword —> Find a page that corresponds with that keyword
How are you capturing your ideal clients at this critical first stage in the journey? Draw a map on a piece of paper. It starts with a goal, then an initial action, and then spirals into many following actions, all guided by that primary goal. Your website, and all the content you have around your business online, must have a seamless journey from point to point.
You’ll find some interesting things while doing this exercise. You may end up somewhere that got halfway there but doesn’t have a clear next step—say, a blog post that came up in a keyword search but has no call to action or button to book at the end. Or, you’ll find that you need to design a specific landing page for people coming for one thing. For example, maybe you offer business branding photography, and you need a landing page that caters to traffic coming from LinkedIn.
The complete user experience of your website goes far beyond just your website itself! It’s all about guiding your users to the next best step, like a well-made map.
Whew! Just like that, you’ve made it through our very first deep dive into UX Design for photographers! I’m sure this felt a bit like running a marathon, but having even a basic understanding of UX Design puts you in rare company as a business owner—and the things you can do with this information are endless.
That’s why we have decided to invest more energy into this arena! Over the next several months, we’ll be creating a TON of new posts and resources on the subject. So, stay tuned for more! And until then…?
Want to dive deeper into UX Design for photographers? Here are some resources to get started:
- 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design: a classic article first published in 1995 by Nielsen Norman Group, a powerhouse in UX research.
- UX Writing: How to do it like Google with this powerful checklist: a breakdown of a famous talk given by UX writers at Google, with lots of graphics and a step-by-step process of how UX writers tackled a piece of copy.
- UX Writing Guidelines: A simple, brief guide from Adobe on UX writing basics.
- Writing is Designing: Words and the User Experience: A book on how to write great web copy is really about designing a whole experience. Full of actionable ideas and interesting practices.
- UI Breakfast: UX/UI Design and Product Strategy: A podcast with interesting interviews with professionals from all over the UX industry