Website Design and The PHOTO Search

There is one common frustration that many in my industry can agree upon— The “photo” dilemma. It’s an issue that keeps some up at local b-2-b meetings and we’ve all shared in the late night search-a-thons for the perfect image. Most clients neither have the money to spend on quality images (yes, even if the cost is just a “few” dollars) nor do they possess the skill to capture the right photo for the content they’ve provided.

Many of my clients come to the design table with no copy and no artwork. As a published freelance writer, providing the copy is a breeze. I can muster up blocks of meaningful text worth publishing on just about any subject. Someone once told me that if I wrote about Grandma’s disgusting liver and onions it would most likely sound delicious on paper. I’m not so sure about that. But, finding an enticing photograph that flows with the content on—well, that’s a whole different story. What I’ll need is the perfect image to match the colors of her chosen website color-scheme. She said she had one or could get one and would provide one, but she changed her mind. Liver and onions are brown. Great. That should be easy enough. Brown goes with just about anything. Or does it? I look at hundreds, no thousands of pictures of liver and onions and none will work. Too small, bad resolution, bad colors, too much liver, not enough onion…the list goes on. (2 hours later) The overall quality of the image HAS to be perfect. I want perfection. But, perfection comes with a price.

The most time consuming task of my job as a website designer is that of the “photo” search and often the music search (but, that’s another blog) I truly am a bit of a fuss-pot (yes, I did TOO say fuss-pot) so much so that my meter pegs more towards the obsessive compulsive ratings. I will analyze a design, not to death, but to perfection. Locating the best “visual” aid for a website causes me to spend an enormous amount of time on this one task alone. Choosing the photo, designing the logo, tweaking, optimizing, polishing and so on and so forth—has kept me up for days at a time. Maybe it’s due to my marketing background and the realization that consumers are visually motivated. If consumers can be motivated, they can also be UN-motivated. This is always my main concern.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The photographs, artwork, clip art or logos on a client’s website must be the right dimension, crisp and visually stimulating. Once optimized and placed there must naturally flow together with the client’s website content. Most importantly, the visuals should portray the company’s message and reek of branding and integrity. “That’s out of control,” you say? Well, yes–yes it is. But, it’s only far out there if you’re not a website designer and one with an eye for art and a background in marketing. Let the pictures tell the story or even…every picture tells a story. If it was meaningful enough for Rod, it must mean something, and it does. It is simply all about marketing.

Another challenge of website development is rendering artwork that has been provided by your client–suitable for the web . Often it ends up to be a heartbreaking ordeal when I have to explain why the particular photo that the client took with his or her own hands, one that is treasured beyond belief, won’t work for one reason or the other. It’s almost like serving up some incurable health prognosis. I’ve had clients demand to use it anyway. Two months later, once denial, anger and depression runs the course, they call and ask me to remove it promptly from their website.

Now, because I am customer service oriented (sometimes to a fault–I have been nicknamed “Bay Area Graphics & Doormats”) I want to provide the best of the best for my clients. I want them to be happy. Happy with me, happy with their website. Happy, happy. Now, after many years of eating the hours it takes me to find the perfect photo, I clearly state in my website design contracts that if I must search for the perfect photo, I’ll charge @@### per hour. Actually, it’s been there, I am just now beginning to enforce it. It frees me up and now I have more time to uh….scrub my kitchen grout with a toothbrush.

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