[for photographers] Website Design for Non-designers Part 1: How To Figure out what you want

I spent a lot of time trying to create a website and a brand without really knowing what I wanted. And when I say spent a lot of time, I mean wasted! I just fumbled around for hours trying to come up with a logo, then a blog background, then packaging, but I had no focus. I didn’t know what I wanted, and I didn’t know what I wanted my brand to communicate to my customers.

I needed to have a little talk with myself. My business would not grow without a brand (at least not into something I liked!), and a brand does not just show up out of thin air. It was time to get to it and get intentional about my brand and my website.

So, here’s what I did to get my butt in gear…

1. Make a list: What do I want (and definitely not want) in a website?

I can’t even tell you how much lists help me. It is the only way I can organize my thoughts and keep all of the things swirling around in my brain under control. I used a lot of lists in the initial planning stages of my website.

If you’re anything like me, you probably stalk photography websites all the time, assessing and deciding if you like the design. We can use that to our advantage.

First, write down everything you think you might want in a website. A great way to do this is by focusing on everything you definitely DO NOT want your website to be.

Maybe it’s just the kind of person I am, but I like to start with all of the things that annoy me 🙂 Try creating a big, old list of everything that drives you crazy about other people’s photography websites. It is way easier for me to figure out what I want if I can solidly define exactly what I do not want.

So your list will start out something like this…

  • I don’t want it to take forever to load
  • I don’t want information to be hard to find
  • I don’t want electric colors that send me into an epileptic seizure

Then, start adding other things that you think you might want in a website…

  • A clean, uncluttered look
  • Light colors that don’t over power the photos but can be seen easily

Do not sensor yourself too much. This is just to get all of your ideas down on paper. We can sort and prioritize things later 🙂

2. Make a list (yes, another one!): Things I love…

I told you I like lists 😉

This list is much easier and will make you much happier. Just list out all kinds of things that make you giddy, that really just make you sigh with contentment.

I would try to keep this in the design realm. Go a little shallow with it. List objects and visual things that just make you happy. List textures, colors, shapes, collectibles, things in nature, inspiring places anything that you think says something about who you are and might connect to your brand.

A small business brand, especially one in the arts like photography, should really be about who you are as a person. Taking some time to reflect with these lists will help you understand who you are and help make your brand and website super personal.

3. Create an inspiration board

This one changed my life! Seriously, this is the thing that let me move past thinking I had to hire a designer. Once I created an inspiration board, all of the pieces started to come together. I even heard about it from lots of great sources (like Promise Tangeman), but I still ignored it for forever!

Just grab a bulletin board, and start tacking up every tangible thing that you can find that matches your Things I Love list. Pictures, fabric samples, patterns that you like, throw it all up on the board.

I would also include a few of your absolute favorite photographs from your portfolio. This will help you make sure that your design flows with your photography style which will create the ultimate brand.

What are you going to do with all that stuff? That is for another post 🙂 which will be out next week.

Try sitting with your inspiration board and lists for a while before you move on to any more designing steps. Moving slowly through the process may actually help you build a better connection to what you want in a website and a brand.

Seriously, take some time and just stare at your list and your inspiration board. See what happens!

P.S. Questions, comments, concerns? I would love to hear them all! Just leave them in the comments!

P.P.S. Digging all this branding talk? Sign up for the email updates in the sidebar and get the posts sent straight to your inbox. Also, check out last week’s post on The Best Time to Brand Your Business.