Beauty & The Geek
First of all I’d like to say thank you for all of the positive feedback we’ve been getting about the first Beauty & The Geek feature, I’m really glad that my advice is able to help.
This week I’m going to be talking about portfolio websites. This is something that Karla has been wanting for a long time, even before I met her. We’ve evaluated a number of different services and in the meantime Karla has been using Behance as a way of displaying her portfolio and sharing it with others, as it’s easy to update and is part of a large community of creatives. After trying out several different website building tools and services, we eventually opted for Behance’s own ProSite service, which allows you to wrap your existing Behance projects up into a professional looking website and you only have to update your work in one place.
There are LOTS of different services out there which allow you to easily create visually stunning portfolio websites, with easy to use Content Management Systems (CMS) which allow you to upload your images, drag and drop them into galleries and rearrange them as often as you like. Most provide you with pre-designed templates for your site, some allow you to customise the layout either through an easy to use drag and drop interface, lists of options, sliders, etc, or through more advanced HTML and CSS editing.
I found Behance’s ProSite one of the easiest to customise and also allows for more advanced HTML and CSS updates, but do be aware that if you make changes to the HTML and CSS then you loose the ability to update the sites layout with the easy to use sliders.
Here are a few portfolio website services to get you started. Please note that we don’t endorse any of these sites, they’re just ones that we’ve come across, it’s up to you to try out any service which appeals to you first and find a solution which best fits your needs.
I’m going to leave you with some hints and tips to get you thinking.
Avoid Flash Websites: They may look stunning at first, but there are drawbacks to them. They’re slow to load. The content is wrapped up in a flash video, which means it’s not easily searched and indexed by Google. The images within the site are also less likely to turn up on Google’s Image search! Another big downside is that Apple doesn’t support Flash, also the Android operating system is moving away from Flash too, so think of all of those potential clients who won’t be able to view your site on their smartphone or tablet device!
Focus On One Target Audience: You should focus your portfolio at one, maybe more if they’re complimentary, target audience. Think about the type of clients you want to attract, for example if you want to appeal to wedding clients, make sure that your portfolio showcases your best wedding work. This may seem obvious, however I’ve seen many makeup artists (and photographer) cram their website full of every example of their work that they have, wedding, glamour, creative theatre, body painting, special effects prosthetics and horror! A wedding client does not want to see that you can turn someone into a zombie and likewise a theatre company don’t want to see that you can do glamour and wedding makeup. I’m not saying that you can’t do both, but they should be on separate sites.
Show Only Your Best Work: This is one of the hardest things to get right, as you will be personally attached to each and every piece of work you have. My advice is to keep a gallery of pictures to no more than 20 images or the viewer will get bored. Showcase only your best work, if you have images which aren’t up to scratch but show a technique or look that you’re keen to show off, DON’T include them, re-do the look and get better pictures taken! If you’re finding it hard to pick your best images then ask a friend of fellow makeup artist to pick their favourites.
Second Best Image First, Best Image Last: This may sound weird, but when someone views a gallery, the first image they see will grab their attention and make them want to scroll on and view more. Eventually when they’ve scrolled through your galleries images which one sticks in their mind? The last one…so make it a good one!
The 3 Second Rule: It takes someone 3 seconds to decide if they like your work, after that no matter how many images you show them, you’re not going to change their mind they’ll just move on to the next website. Make sure that your homepage showcases your best work, not a lot of boring text about your skills and services you offer. Your homepage can be a static page, showcasing your best image or images, or it can be a gallery, the one that targets your primary customer.
Make Navigation Easy To Find: The most common place to put navigation links is at the top of the website, as people naturally scan websites from top to bottom, left to right. Logo at top left identifies who you are, then navigation top right to show how to get around, your work in the middle and then anything else like copyright text at the bottom as it’s the last place a viewer will look and on certain devices or monitors may never look as it’ll be chopped off as they may not realise they have to scroll down.
Social Media Integration Is A MUST: Pretty much everyone has a Facebook account now, so make sure that you have a Facebook fan page advertising your work and link to it from your site. A simple ‘F’ logo link can be enough, same with Twitter, Google+, etc. Also think about adding a share button with your work so that people can share work that they like with their friends, it’s all about getting your work out there in front of as many people as you can. A good place to start is http://sharethis.com
Give Pages Obvious Names: Give the additional pages on your site obvious names, such as Contact, About, Prices, Portfolio, Blog, etc. Don’t try and be fancy, as you’re just going to confuse people and ultimately loose work. Don’t hide prices at the bottom of the About page, make it obvious, have a page called Prices. Also think about your target audience and make sure you have pages for each kind of information they’re going to want to find out about you.
Make It Easy To Contact You: Portfolio website services will often give you a choice of pre-made contact forms. Make sure that they’re simple and easy to use, try contacting yourself through it, as you’d be amazed how many times they don’t work and you end up missing out on potential clients while you sit there wondering why no one has been in touch. Also think about including a CAPTCHA of you are getting a lot of spam but choose an easy one as you don’t want to make it difficult for clients to contact you too.
Size Does Matter: There is a fine balance regarding size of images. If your images are too small clients won’t be able to see your stunning work at its best, however if you have hi-resolution images then there’s the risk of people stealing your work. Don’t get hung up on this, between 500 and 1000 pixels is a good size and if you’re worried about people stealing your work, watermark it. Facebook recently upped its image size as it realised that the small images were lost on the new large monitors and devices like the new iPad. Don’t be tempted to go for a fancy site which resizes your content to fit the screen, as it has to resize your images on the fly and this will never look good! Make sure you have nicely resized images before you upload them, that way you’re in control of how they look.
NO MUSIC!: Last but most definitely not least…Don’t add a music player to your site. It may be tempting to try and set a mood with your favourite track or artist, but DON’T! It’s one of the most annoying things out there. People like to listen to their own music when they are browsing the web, or watch TV in the background, they do not want your music suddenly blasting away in the background, most likely clashing with their music! Just don’t do it….EVER!