Websites and value

Because of my website consultation on APhotoEditor.com, Rob posted a piece yesterday about what sites he likes, think work, and why. In his post, he mentions (among many other things!) that he likes LiveBooks sites and that they are, essentially, the new standard. To paraphrase him, if you can’t match what they offer, don’t bother trying and just get their products. He definitely did not say they were the bestest thing ever and that no one should bother getting a custom site, but from the comments you’d think that was his position. No, what he said was that LB sites are the standard for good/professional and that there are some better and lots worse out there.

I have to say that in most (not all, most) cases, those who commented about cheap or free alternatives are so not getting what is important in a website that I think it’s not worth my effort to post again in the comments. I did it once and people still didn’t get it. They just won’t open up enough to listen.

You know what? I looked at those sites mentioned in the comments and they look cheap. Some of them work, sort of, most are slow and/or awkward, and most violate some or a lot of the basic “rules” for good photographer websites…rules laid out by the people who use them, i.e., your buyers.

Some are better, some are worse, but overall, it’s like showing up for a date driving a Honda Fit…you look cheap and you’re going to have to work a hell of a lot harder to impress the date. Why would anyone want that?

And no…don’t even try to claim that you’d look frugal…you’d look cheap in a Fit and that is just the simple truth.

This brings me to the other argument about LB sites–some people claim they are expensive. Again, this is a case where people are confusing price and value. LB sites are actually a very good value. To get something similar designed and programmed by an independent pro would generally cost significantly more than what LB charges. The sites look simple (that is good design) and they are so easy for buyers to use that they love them (also good design). For the photographer, the back-end is incredibly simple and efficient so making “collections” is easy, swapping and sequencing images a snap. All of these aspects have value in that they save you time and, I can’t believe I need to remind people about this, your time costs you money (if you can’t bill for it).

When people say I’m shilling for LB, it ticks me off. I’m not. I like plenty of non-LB sites. But when the choice is between putting yourself out to the world with something that makes it harder for you to elevate your perceived value, something that only-half works but saves you some cash right this second, and buying a LB site that will immediately elevate your perceived value in your targets’ eyes, I’ll encourage the latter every time.

Look at it this way, you could buy the Honda Fit for $14K or you could buy a barely used MINI Cooper for $25K or a BMW with about 30K miles for the same. Are the used MINI or Beemer perfect? No, but you’re going to look like you are more successful in them.

And image is a very important part of our job.

3 Responses to “Websites and value”

  1. Bruce DeBoer Says:

    I think your position is a good one. LB sites or those like them are – to me – the common denominator rather than “the standard” of the industry. “The standard” often implies that it’s closer to state of the art than it is. I believer you’re right to say that if you can’t afford a well designed custom site, go with Live Books. If you absolutely can’t afford it, at least make sure the “Honda Fit” site design doesn’t get it the way of enjoying the work.

    I’d like to add, however, that differentiation is more than the work we shoot. Having a well designed site that doesn’t look like everyone else’s is a good piece of an overall marketing plan. A strong, well developed back end can also contribute to a smooth work flow.

    I just upgraded my site and the response has surprised me a little. It’s as if no one has seen my work before, when, in fact, there is nothing on this site that hasn’t at some point been on the old one. It always amazes me how big a difference presentation can make. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of that..

  2. Bruce DeBoer Says:

    Another worthless opinion:

    I think Clay’s portfolio is a classic case where a Live Books site would be an improvement. I simply Can Not get through it. Even with improved programming it is unfriendly and way to slow to draw the nav.

    http://www.claystang.com/

  3. Thomas Pickard Says:

    I read that thread on APE and agree, a lot of people missed the point.

    In many ways the take home message about web sites for me is:

    – the design has to compliment the photos, not the other way around (www.claystang.com) is a good example of where the design seems to overwhelm the imagery IMHO

    – having sites with a certain, sharpish look and a ‘production value’ have an intrinsic value in their own right.

    Does this mean it has to be Livebooks? Of course not. They are just one option of many that offer a fine product – though personally I hate how the thumbnails are programmed (sorry).