What your website says about you

There’s much debate in the world of commercial photography, over what is or isn’t a good website, and much of the conversation centres on optimising image format and loading speeds, but there is considerably more at stake when getting into the actual detail of how your own website should work.

We spoke to Brendan MacNeill, an established commercial photographer based in Edinburgh about his new site launch for his business MacNeill, to understand more about why he felt he needed to relaunch his site and what impact it had had on his business, and, as we found out, there were a number of very important elements that went into his new site, all of which have made their own contribution to the final design and the site experience.

Brendan was very conscious of the high professional standards of his own clients, and wanted their experience of him and all elements of his business to have an equally professional feel. This started with the creation of a new logo as a brand for the business, MacNeill, which was then incorporated into stationery, business cards and even email footers – as well as all of his other marketing collateral, and was the starting point for the detail of the site design.

For Brendan, it was all about getting across the high service standards that he offered his clients, and the website design was the ultimate reflection of this. As Brendan himself explained, ‘We all know that commercial photography is a highly competitive marketplace, and given the economic climate, clients rightly expect their photography budgets to work hard for them. For me, value for money isn’t just the quality of the images that they receive at the end of a commission, its the attention to detail that is paid to the whole experience and the service they get from me personally, that really makes a difference for clients these days. This was my starting point for the new site, to make sure it captured the absolute professionalism that is the backbone of my business.’

Creating a brand for a photography business also makes sense in the commercial world, because brands are essentially commissioning the vast majority of commercial photography. For example advertising and PR agencies view themselves as brands, and they are working for other brands – they’re all active commissioners of photography; so a brand-led photography business dovetails well into the existing culture, and serves to further demonstrate MacNeill’s understanding of brand, and the role of photography in brand and marketing campaigns, which has a profound effect on how he approaches his projects and forges his relationships with his clients.

The finished design of the MacNeill site is actually simple in how it works, both in terms of the overall look and feel and the access to the information that is contained within the site. This was designed specifically to make a potential buyer’s experience of the site very strong, giving them high quality information very quickly. However this simplicity somewhat belies the detail that went into the planning of the site.

Social media integration was a key consideration, reflecting the importance Google is now placing on social media from an SEO perspective. An additional benefit was that integrating MacNeill’s own social media strategy into the site helped create a more streamlined approach for him – essential for any photography business that handles its own advertising and marketing.

Brendan wanted to make sure that the site could incorporate a wide portfolio, but was determined that this wouldn’t create any compromise in time efficiency. This allowed him to convey his photographic specialisms in ‘People & Place Photography’ with immediate clarity. Brendan has created a number of image journeys on the site to suit the mood and the time available to the viewer; in addition to his tiled pages, (which unusually scroll down to tap into a more intuitive user-response), he has also created a range of themed areas, such as Coffee Morning, Nude, and £3million House, to give viewers access to a story-based experience.

The site has been designed to be future facing, so getting the site to load properly on an ipad was a key challenge during the development, but was a canny move, reflecting the continuing trends and growth of tablet devices as an essential tool for business mobility.

Building such a considered website has demanded a clear vision and an unwavering attention to detail. Brendan is keen to point out the importance of forging good partnerships with site designers and builders and recognised the significant and valued contribution that his own team had made to the project; designer Oisin O’Malley, and Rick Anderson, who built the site.

But what now? Not surprisingly, with such a creative mind, Brendan has more ideas for the site, but more than that, he acknowledges that it has been a consolidation of his experience and business to date and has set the bar even higher in terms of his focus and immediate plans for MacNeill photography. He points out, ‘A new site almost has the same effect as moving into a bigger and better studio. It gives your business focus and determination a huge boost and has been a real catalyst for the planning behind the next phase of MacNeill’s growth.’

You can visit Brendan’s site here www.macneill.co.uk

Contact Brendan for more information on his work: 07774 806608

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