We just finished building one of our best websites yet for a local restaurant called Captain’s Quarters.


CaptainsQuartersWebsiteThe client was ecstatic about the results which made me start thinking about what made this website build so successful for us and the client.  Two important website design elements stood out on the project, great photography and designers.  First off,  a big shout out to our great designers, my partner Brad Howard and Mark Malik. The second element was all the great photography this client made available to us.  It literally took me days to sort through all the photography and categorize it for the designers to use.

I know what you are thinking as a small business owner, “I don’t have the budget for professional photography and I don’t have any designers on staff” so this doesn’t help me.  Well, here is a few tips on how to incorporate these two important elements into your website without breaking the bank.

Good Designers

  1. There are a ton of graphic design freelancers out there who will do work on the side on the cheap.  Search sites like elancer or vworker.  
  2. Ask to see their portfolio of work and make sure to look for designers that have a lot of experience designing what you need.  Some designers specialize in web, some just in logo design, and some focus on illustration and print. Find out what they love to work on.  Although most designers will tell you “I can do it all” there is usually an area of design they prefer.  Remember, designers are artists and when they work on something the love they usually produce the best results.
  3. Compare and contrast designers’ portfolios and see whose designs appeal to you.  Every designer has a style and eventually you will come across one that really fits your vision.
  4. Ask for the per hour rate upfront and an estimate of how long they think the project will take.
  5. Ask to see how many design concepts they will present to you (preferably at least two).
  6. If you have any thing in your head that you already know you might want, communicate it upfront and CLEARLY so the designer isn’t chasing his or her tail.  My experience tells me that those clients that give up control and tell our staff to just “go for it” and trust us are the ones that are most happy with the results just like Captain’s Quarters.  My recommendation is to let a designer do what they do best. Outside of dictating colors that might go with your brand, the hands off approach is always best.

Good Photography

My partner’s famous line to me when a client provides us with bad  photography, taglines, content, logos, or copy to work with is “I can’t make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t”.  That is one of our inside agency jokes, but it is so true.  Here are some few tips to help you, help us make chicken salad.

  1. If you don’t have any photography, buy some stock photos or let the designers buy it on your behalf.  There are a ton of websites that sell stock photos such as Shutterstock or IStock. There are also free stock photo websites like Stock Exchange. Of course you have Google images to search but remember you don’t necessarily have the right to take those images and use them for your own business.  That could get you in big trouble so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are looking for a general image (flowers, animals, foods, etc….).  Plus, you get what you pay for and sometimes taking photos from Google Images or even a free stock photo website aren’t that great in the end.
  2. Buying stock photos and the right to use them is cheap.  You can buy photos for as low as $10-$35 a picture and they are yours to use on all advertising materials (website, brochures, etc…)
  3. The higher resolution the photo the higher the price when it comes to stock photography.  I always recommend buying the highest resolution possible so if you ever want to use the image for advertising piece besides a website you can.  Remember you don’t necessary need high resolution photos for a website but you definitely need high resolution photography for print materials and large format items (banners, brochures, posters, billboards, etc…)
  4. Besides stock photography, we love to see original custom photography.  Freelance photographers are great and cheap.  Pay them by the hour and have them come in and take some product shots or business shots.  It really makes a big difference.  Check out these product shots of a simple envelope.  We recently worked on a project for an envelope company that was trying to launch a new type of shipping packaging system.  We convinced the client to get some great photography to help promote the product.  It was hard to make marketing materials of shipping packages exciting but with nice photos we could do it.
  5. Last but not least, if you don’t have the money in the budget for custom photography, but you have a nice camera (NOT a smart phone camera) try taking some photos yourself.  Better yet, maybe you have a friend’s who hobby is photography and in exchange for taking some nice photos for you, you will give them a shout out on social media and credit on your website for the photos.

Let’s keep in mind that this blog post is not about what makes a website great, it is about what makes a great website design.  A SEO (Search Engine Optimization) expert once told me that he didn’t care about the “arts and crafts” on top of the website he only cared about the plumbing on the back end and the content.  I wouldn’t disagree with that.  We all strive for great SEO so our business indexes better on search engines and prospects find us on the web, but it is always nice to have a little eye appeal to keep our visitors browsing once they find you.