Professionally speaking, Parade (www.getparade.com) has been a lifesaver for my business. At WPPI in February 2007, I was immediately drawn to Parade's booth. Their presentation was amazing. Both their brand and their products were strong, fresh, and current-exactly what I was looking for for my own online presence.
Prior to discovering Parade, I had been working with other companies and designers on a Flash-based website that would work for a busy photographer like me who needs the flexibility to easily, quickly, and portably update my website with my newest images and info. In the past, without a template to work with, much less any sort of usable website management tool, I'd found updating a website to be frustrating, cumbersome, and time-consuming-and often with poor results to show for it.
On the contrary (and much to my delight), Parade has a smart, refreshingly clean and simple user interface, allowing anyone to create, update, and edit their website anytime, anywhere. From their template designs and user interface to the features that they offer with all of their templates, it is obvious that Parade is designed and developed by professionals who clearly know what they're doing-and for whom they're doing it for. I love the big buttons, drag-and-drop interaction, and the bulk-upload capability. And the fact that their website management tool is completely Web-based (with no downloads, installation, or configuration required) means that I can update my site just as easily from a location shoot on the other side of the world as I can from the comfort of my own living room.
The reactions I receive from both peers and prospective clients alike have been overwhelmingly positive. Anyone who sees my website comments on how beautiful and easy it is to navigate. This is extremely important when the majority of people today "shop" online prior to making any sort of personal contact, and you only have a few moments to capture their attention and make a memorable first impression.
I have seen a significant increase in the number of inquiries coming into my business directly from the website. Because Parade allows me to post unlimited galleries (and an unlimited number of images in my galleries), I have been able to showcase numerous online galleries covering all aspects of my photography, which immediately expands my potential market reach. In addition to galleries, I can also create as many content pages as I wish to provide necessary information such as pricing, bio, testimonials, etc. The contact form has been used by so many people, and the emails go straight into my Gmail inbox; it's a helpful and professional tool that allows me to correspond quickly and efficiently.
My site and search-engine rankings are also enhanced with a full-featured blog, which comes as a standard feature with Parade. The blog gives me the opportunity to post images from recent shoots, share my thoughts on life and photography, and keep clients up to date on what I'm up to professionally. The management suite has a tool that allows me to add metatags for keywords on search engines and track Google Analytics about my website. Another standard feature is the ability to create secure, password-protected proofing areas for each of your clients after a shoot, which can boost the level of professionalism and convenience photographers are able to offer their clients.
Parade's stellar customer support makes me actually want to interact with them. Their staff is available by phone or email and is friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, and prompt (usually responding within 24 hours or less). This level of customer care is hard to come by these days-and often nonexistent-so I especially appreciate this.
My website looks better than ever, and I owe much of my business success during this past year to Parade and its outstanding product.
Ryan Mlynarczyk of Conscious Photography (www.consciousphotography.com) has been in the wedding and portrait photography business for more than two years and has more than seven years of photography experience. He just completed a year of the MFA photography program at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.