If I have to tell you how important a website is to your business, itís probably too late. The best you can do at this point is run as fast as you can down the tracks and try to catch that train.
For the rest of us, the problem is more complex.
A website is something like a portfolio. Itís a demonstration of our accomplishments and a claim of ability. It stands in for us when we arenít present. Better than a portfolio, it can, at least theoretically, be in a thousand places at onceókind of like a book, only you can have as many pictures as you like, and change the pictures any time and as often as you like. If you have FTP capability, you can deliver large, finished files to your clients not quite instantly, but quicker than any messenger.
I built my first website in 1996. It was a white page with my basic information and about two dozen thumbnail images of food. The catch was that I had an image sequence in mind, but I couldnít control where the sequence would start. Someone navigating the site could start with dessert, then go on to breakfast cereal.
My next site was more advanced. Live Picture had created a virtual-reality app for the Web, which I used to create a virtual gallery. The images were on an imaginary white cylinder that scanned like a virtual-reality movie. The only problem: It took an advanced degree in computer science to download and install the plug-in.
My next website was built in Flash, so I had to take the whole site apart to make even small changes or additions.
Eventually I found liveBooks and was impressed by the way its sites are formatted to allow for easy, instant changes, large numbers of pictures, and the flexibility of adding more portfolios to the site. The tech support is great, tooóI always get a quick, accurate response.
I had to give up being my own Web designer, but with the liveBooks team I was able to adapt graphics from my previous site to fit into the liveBooks ďskin,Ē or format. In addition, the format allows for a large image size that loads quickly. Thatís especially important to me, since many of my images need to be larger than life.
Last year, for example, I did a project with WestWayne, a client from Atlanta. I had retouched images on the site by the time the art director got back to the airport. I sent him an email link and he viewed it on his laptop before he even boarded the plane.
LiveBooks is coming out with an important upgrade, scheduled for release this month. In addition to being smoother and faster, it will allow batch uploads and feature sophisticated keyword tools, including password-protected client areas, a direct submission link to Google, and tools for changing the look of the site. There will also be a feature to allow the user to create a portfolio for a specific client and email a PDF slideshow of it.
The great ad writer Rosser Reeves invented a concept he called the USP: Unique Selling Proposition. Each of us has one to get clients to remember us: Quickest, Fastest, Cheapest, Most Elegant Light; etc. An online portfolio is a way to showcase that USP and hone it constantly. Part of my USP is that, in addition to doing appetizing food photography, I have other specialties that give my work context. When Iím asked for a printed portfolio (less and less frequently, it seems), I only send the most relevant work for that particular assignment.
We canít spend all our time tinkering with our websites, so they have to be flexible and easy to manage. My site is my best portfolio. I can direct people to certain areas that are specific to their needs, but on their way, they, hopefully, will get a sense of the scope and depth of my work.
For more information please go to www.livebooks.com .