02 May 2013
27 May 2008
As I told on my last post in 2007, Opera and Safari browsers were not rendering properly my pages. Moreover on the galleries pages there were still tables and the state of art of the web design literature suggests to avoid the use of the tables, moving to a fluid layout.
For that reason last winter I decided to rebuild my pages trying to optimize both technical and business aspects.
From a business point of view I've chosen Google Adsense and Amazon Associates programs and I've dedicated to these programs some spaces in almost each page of my website. Six main banners and two referral buttons are now present all around the main content, in order to give to the advertisers a place to attract their customers.
Another business innovation was the presence of my mother tongue (Italian) pages, with an Italian homepage and some information pages on Licensing Images, Fine Art Prints purchase and contact information.
From a technical side I basically moved from a table-based gallery to a list-based gallery in which the list items are the thumbnails. I added also two active icons: a magnifier and a shopping cart. The former gives to the user the opportunity to reach directly the slideshow page of the thumbnail and the latter is associated to a PHP function in order to access to a purchase page.
The length/width of the thumbnails was another technical problem I had to face with. I had to distinguish in vertical and horizontal ones.
This is due to the fact that CSS max-width/max-length property is not supported by Internet Explorer 6 and its previous versions. So I had to approach two different classes of thumbnails (vertical and horizontal thumbnails) with exactly the same attributes, except for the width/length that are obviously reversed.
Last technical innovations were the modifications to sibling/relative categories (below the search field) in order to give to the visitors a tool to surf easily through the site (jumping from a branch to another one of an hypothetical tree representing the website) and the slideshow counter, to show the number of slideshow page currently viewed.
Thanks to the siblings a visitor can surf on the website "as on a tree": for example if you are visiting Vermont Gallery you can use the "siblings path" to go "up" to the United States gallery (the parent), "down" to the children galleries (different Vermont slideshows) or to jump to the other galleries at the same level (i.e. some US states or collections).
This feature assures a better easiness for visitors and increases reachability of the site itself.
15 June 2007
As I previously told, I've developed my website on my own. Its first release, no more available, was a simple frame-based html web site. When I decided to develop an on-line photography business, I was looking for a website structure fit for the business purpose. I learned very much studying on Dan Heller's photography business books, two "bible" for the XXI century photographer! Dan suggests to his reader to build a site with one idea on his mind: the purpose of the website.
I already defined a website the new "business card" for an artist so I chose the minimal web structure, using basic XHTML and CSS, because I think that visitors must be attracted by photos and by articles, more than web design.
What I considered first: a website must be "visited" and above all "re-visited".
So I tried to put everything I thought good to enhance web traffic. I chose to avoid flash or similar graphic enhancement. Although extraordinary from a web designer point of view, they cannot be indexed by search engines. And for the most part traffic on a website is above all coming from a search engine query. How many times did we find something just looking for it on the web and "googling" its name or a part of it? Personally I use search engine deeply, both for business and personal purposes.
A XHTML website structure choice can avoid the problem of no-indexing of all pages.
When I was deciding about my photo gallery presentation, I tried to avoid a simple "slide-show", with only photos I mean: from my point of view it could be boring visitors and above all it might be inefficient from a "webmaster" point of view. First, I'd like to give some supplementary information about a shot: apart from usual shot data, such as EXIF date and basic fields (like IPTC ones) as photo title, location, country, artist name, copyright, keywords, etc, I was interested in new info to provide to visitors. So I preferred to put a comment field when I had something to tell people visiting my webpage or to describe places I visited or people I met. This choice has an incredible advantage if I put my "webmaster hat" on my head: it can be a way to increase traffic on my website because a comment is just "text" and it can be indexed by search engine.
Another aspect that must be considered when designing a website is that visitors have to spend the least time while loading pages. In a photo on-line business it is critical. In fact the more the time in loading images the more the possibility that visitors change site!
Two things must be discussed: tables and images. I tried to avoid tables, expect for some pages, because a CSS layout is more efficient, considering a loading speed parameter. CSS layout can help webmaster also in positioning objects in a html page and it is very powerful in order to design the site. Probably it is not so immediate to use because it is not WYSIWYG, but once used we cannot work without!
In fact you can decide an "object" structure and then you can control through an external file (.css) how your browser will "render" the page. Working on CSS file is also an advantage when you want to perform a multi-browser simulation, in order to correct possible rendering problems that may occur when a html page is loaded with a browser. I found CSS approach very powerful and I still use it when I develop my web pages. For example I use Mozilla Firefox browser and I test my site using MS Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari for Windows, but for the last two browser I have to work a lot more to solve problems I have in rendering. But working with CSS file I can proceed only on external file, avoiding to work directly on the main webpage.
The most important part of my website is obviously the photo gallery. I decided to use a simple and basic slideshow structure, with info displayed under the picture and three/four button to browse the slideshow and to access to "license an image" or "buy a fine art print" order form.
It was the most difficult aspect I had to manage with: photos are the main asset of a photo business and how you show them to customers is very important.
The database I am using is IMatch and it is a programmable dB which contains a certain number of scripts that can be customized in order to fit photographer needs properly. Day-by-day I realize how much powerful IMatch is. It is fully customizable, there are good scripts useful especially for people that don't have a Computer Science degree and I chose a middle customization for this website release. Thanks to these features I was able to generate all my galleries, update all IPTC fields, etc. and I have to find out more in order to coordinate photo dB features with other dB, such as business management dBs.
For the "shopping cart" features I realized that a simple "PHP" query was the appropriate choice at this step. Customers are requested to fill a form and then via e-mail contacted to finalize order and to be informed about payment options. Future features will be implemented when business grows. PHP is an open source scripting language that I found quite simple to my purposes.
In the future I want to focus mostly to IMatch dB and how it can be a valid support to my business growth.
24 May 2007
Just about two years!
Yes, two years ago I was introduced to Digital Photography and I realized that I was lucky! I was taking an opportunity to change my professional and personal life and to do a job regarding something that really I love: photography.
As I described in my biography I always have taken photos: for fun, for art, for everything. And everywhere, like everybody. Honestly speaking I don't know anybody that has never taken a photo during all life.
Photos are part of our life, our memory, and the way everybody chooses to tell stories or trip adventures, to describe a journey or to remember his parents, his children, his loves.
But photography as business is quite different. Migrating from a career to another one is not easy, especially in a country like Italy, very "conservative" from this point of view. But when I decided to try to do that I was not really "conscious" about how fascinating but also how difficult this challenge could be.
First of all it is "everything" except for … taking photos! Probably my previous experience as Project Manager is helping me in managing this business. For example it's helping me to realize my website. I confess a thing: when I was a student at Catania's University (TLC Engineering) I hated Programming and everything regarded with it. But the interest in developing a code for myself, something very important with me and with my activity as photographer, broke my barriers!
The fact is that we are in the Internet Age and if you want to do a widespread business you need a website. But if you know how to design a site probably you can turn it to you personal advantage. Because you perfectly know what you want from your site and you'll be responsible of your first means of communication.
Yes, a web site is above all your "business card", where you can put photos, reportages, articles, forms for mailing list, etc. So I learned how to design my website, how to write an HTML code, how to use CSS, how to manage a form with PHP and how to create dynamic slideshow using your dB tools.
Then you have to start-up your new business! Photography as a business? I told to myself, trying to understand if it is more an hobby than a business. Why not! Obviously I spend days and days shooting with a camera and optimizing photos with my computer. But a business is a business so I am also studiyng all business stuff! Market Analysis, marketing, promotion, database management, site management, business plan, budgeting, taxes, etc.
As a student of project management teachers usually do an example: you can play different roles in a project like someone who wears different colored hats.
The same now: photo shooting, site development, financial budget, dB management, all different features so different hats.
That's the most difficult part of this job: managing all in a effective and efficient way, "organizing" properly time and resources.