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Website Development for Photographers

Finding Lost Souls – Customized 404 Error Pages Is Good Marketing

by Christine Churchill

Fast way to scare a customer to a competitor

In the rush to get the new site launched, many sites fail to take the time to create a user-friendly customized error page. Potential customers who mistype a file name or click on a link to a page no longer on the web site are served up one of the scariest pages on the Web, the cold, generic, dreaded default “Page Not Found 404 Error” message! No friendly language, no helpful guidance, just personality-less geek speak to drive the visitor straight to the competition.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…or Key Lime Pie!

A good custom error page takes the bad experience and turns it into a good one. It helps your customer know it’s not their fault they got lost. It takes them to a useful navigation site where they can quickly find what they need. It’s helpful. Comforting. It’s smart marketing.

Think about your experience when you get lost in a multi-storied department store. When you can’t make your way to the Home Goods Department, let alone find a clerk that can help you out, how do you feel? When you’re lost, frustrated, losing time, how do you feel about the store/its manager/its merchandise? A nasty generic 404 page gives the same experience.

Now imagine you’re lost in Home Goods, searching for Beach Gear. Before you have a chance to look for the nearest escalator and store map, a cheery clerk comes up to you and says, “You look lost. Can I help you?” Relief floods in. You bound down the staircase straight to Vacation Island, pick out a bright pink pail and blue shovel and sail off, happy ev…. Ok, you got the point. That, in a nutshell, is the purpose of the custom error page.

Error page checklist

  1. Retain the overall site look and feel to make the visitor feel comfortable.
  2. Use friendly, non-technical language to explain that the page they are looking for is not available.
  3. Be informative without being insulting.
  4. Help the lost visitor to get back on track quickly.
  5. Provide a search option on the custom page.
  6. Include a short contact form on the 404 page 
  7. Include an email link
  8. Design the page to load fast.
  9. Make the file size larger than 512 bytes.
  10. Monitor your logs for error pages.
  11. Think of the error page as a marketing opportunity.
  12. Humor can be effective.Read full article…

How to Create Landing Pages That Address the Emotional Needs of Prospects

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Emotions aren’t generally discussed within the context of landing page optimization, but the fact remains: our emotions impact the decisions we make and the products we buy.

Knowing this, it stands to reason that fulfilling the emotional needs of prospects on your landing pages motivates prospects and can lead to more conversions.

This may sound a little abstract, but luckily there are models that can guide you in using emotional triggers to make your landing pages more powerful.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a psychological theory of human physiological and emotional needs authored by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “The Theory of Human Motivation.”

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

The theory, which gives us an understanding of what motivates us as humans, is considered one of the cornerstone theories of human development and is widely used in psychology, sociology and management training.

But it’s also an effective tool for landing page optimization.

The framework isn’t meant to be a replacement for the landing page optimization tactics you currently use, but it’s a great way to gut check your pages to be sure you’ve left no stone unturned.

Below, we’ll take a look at the various levels of the needs hierarchy and see how other marketers are incorporating them on their landing pages to drive better outcomes (and how you can do the same).

Read on…

11 Ways to Make Visual Content More Effective

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Images are an integral part of the Internet, and they’re getting more important all the time. That’s mostly because images are a key part of human consciousness. Our brains process visual information much faster than text.

Social media and audience engagement is increasingly visually based, not text based. For evidence, think of Pinterest. Think of Instagram, Snapchat, or SlideShare. Think of YouTube, now the second-largest search engine.

There are dozens of studies that document how people share image-based content more than text-based. Earlier this year, eMarketer showed us that on Facebook, photographs crush all other media formats.

According to eMarketer, 87 percent of the most-shared posts on Facebook contain photos.

Moreover, Twitter published data that shows 35 percent of retweets contain photos.

Thirty-five percent of retweets contain photos, according to Twitter.

In other words, the data supporting images as the most viral kind of content is extensive. But trick is how to apply it to your day-to-day marketing. So here are 11 ways to leverage the power of the visual web in your content marketing. All of them are easy — and free or nearly free. And you won’t have to hire an art department.

Read on…

Panda 4.1: Your Content Marketing Report Card?

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It’s nice to get rewarded for doing the right thing. If you’ve been following the best practices for content marketing, you’ve likely just had a big confirmation of your work. And it was the mighty Google that gave it you.

Panda 4.1 started rolling out on September 25th, and continued to roll out for ten days after, affecting 3-to-5 percent of search results. Now that most of the dust has settled, it’s cut some sites organic traffic by an astounding 90 percent, but has also rewarded other sites with a flood of visitors. It’s done all this according to Google’s definition of good and bad content.

Panda, as you may remember, is mostly targeted toward “thin content” sites — sites that don’t have much content, or have content that is not engaging their visitors.

Read full article…

How to Hire the Right Web Designer

Hiring a web designer or design company can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.

Hiring a web designer or design company can seem like a daunting task. Too many speak in nerd and the good ones never seem available to take on new work.

I realize that maybe your cousin is a web designer who builds websites on the side. Or that your friend’s brother in college once updated your Tumblr in exchange for a case of beer. Or that you can, quite easily, figure out web design, programming and WordPress yourself, but you just haven’t found the time.

Web designers hear these types of comments a lot (possibly second only to “make the logo bigger” on mockups). While there’s nothing wrong with learning new things or having hobbies, for the love of whatever god you believe in, hire a professional to design and program your website. Professional, as in someone who does web design full-time, as a job that they get paid money to do, and has done so for a while.

Here’s a list of important questions to ask before you hire anyone.

  • Can you provide a list of 3-5 references I can contact?
  • Do you do this full-time and how long have you been doing web design?
  • What is your process?
  • What is the typical budget range for your projects? how are payments broken down for projects?
  • What is the typical turn-around time for your projects?
  • When can the project be started?
  • What do you need from me before we start?
  • Do your clients see a return on investment? Do you have proof of increased conversion rates or goals being achieved after you’ve done a redesign?
  • Does the price include making the site mobile friendly?
  • Will the site be supported by retina screens?
  • Do you custom design or use templates?
  • Who will own the website design when it’s paid for?
  • Do you offer maintenance or training or post-launch support?
  • Who is the contact person and who is doing the work? is anything outsourced or subcontracted out?

 Read full article…

How to Photograph the Milky Way – Continued

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Setup Your Camera

I am going to suggest some settings that will be a good ballpark start for your exposure. You may not even have to change them for your final exposure but that will depend on things like moonlight, light pollution, your camera, and your lens. We will start here and adjust accordingly. You should be familiar with each of these settings and how to change them. If any of these settings are unfamiliar to you, review your camera’s manual for how to change the setting.

  • Shoot in RAW recording mode
    • RAW image files contain more data than JPEG files and thus allow for greater flexibility in post-processing adjustments.
  • Zoom out to the widest field of view your lens supports (24mm or wider)
    • The wider field of view will reduce streaking of the stars due to Earth’s rotation and will allow us to capture as much of the Milky Way as possible.
  • Manual focus
    • Use manual focus (M or MF) mode on your lens and set it to the infinity mark if possible. We will focus more precisely later.
  • Manual exposure
    • Set your exposure mode to Manual (M)
  • Enable long exposure noise reduction if available.
    • This will reduce grain on your photos by taking a second photograph without opening the shutter to record and subtract noise data from your image. Note that this will usually add additional wait time to each exposure before you will be able to use your camera again for the next exposure. If your camera takes particularly low noise images, such as a Canon 6D, you probably don’t need to enable this feature.
  • Enable the histogram in the image review.
    • This will allow us to see a graphic display of our exposure and adjust accordingly.
  • Use automatic white balance.
    • Many things like light pollution or moonlight can change the white balance of the image so just set it to auto. Since we’re shooting in RAW, we can make adjustments to the white balance later. If you’re shooting a timelapse, a custom setting of 3900K or a setting of tungsten can prevent unexpected changes during the timelapse sequence.

Exposure Settings

The exposure settings that I recommend in a dark sky area are dependent on the type of camera and lens that you are using. Use the calculator below to determine the exposure that I recommend you use initially. Once you take your first exposure, you can adjust as necessary based on your exposure histogram.

Exposure Value:

-8.1 EV (Target is -8 EV)

1184

Note: This calculator is made to produce a neutral exposure in dark sky conditions. Results will appear brighter than natural but exposure can be pulled down in post processing. Astro Lens Score does not factor in camera sensor size.

Bottom of Form

  • The shutter speed is calculated based on the focal length of your lens and the size of your camera’s sensor. Longer focal lengths and smaller sensors require shorter shutter speeds to prevent star trailing.
  • The f/number should generally be set to the lowest possible number, preferably f/2.8 or lower if your lens supports it. Lenses with f/numbers of f/4.0 or higher are not recommended.
  • The ISO is calculated based on your aperture and shutter speed but it’s a little dependent on the noise performance of your camera. Start with the calculator’s recommendation and adjust accordingly.

For a more complete explanation of how to figure out the exposure for shooting the Milky Way, visit my article on the Milky Way Exposure Calculator for a complete explanation of the calculations that are being used.

Focusing in the Dark

I like focusing before composition because it’s generally easier to focus your camera first, tape your focus ring, and then re-compose later. In general, you will want to make sure your lens is in manual focus mode (M or MF) and is focused at infinity. But rather than just setting the focusing ring to the infinity mark (on some lenses) and forgetting about it, we will want to make more precise focus adjustments to ensure the best possible photo quality. Here are a couple methods that I use to focus in the dark.

Being able to focus on a distant artificial light (like your friend’s flashlight) is very helpful when it’s dark out.

  • Manual focus with Live View
    • This is by far the most accurate method if your camera supports it. Enable live view on your camera and use the focus checking or the digital zoom function on a bright star to make the star appear like a pinpoint. I recommend centering the star in the frame before focusing on it to have the most even focus field. Note that you may need to change the Live View settings on your camera to “exposure simulation” or “manual,”  in order to be able to see stars on the LCD. If you cannot see stars in the LCD, try focusing on a flashlight at a distance like in the method below.
  • Auto focus or manual focus on a flashlight that is placed far away (greater than 100 feet or so)
    • This can be an easy way to get your camera to focus at close to infinity in the dark but can be difficult if you don’t have a helping hand to hold the flashlight for you. It’s often best to place a flashlight next to an object in your frame that is at a distance of 100 feet or greater, the farther the better but after about 150 feet or so, it makes less and less difference. Plus, walking back and forth 300 feet just to focus your camera can be a drag. As soon as you get focus confirmation on the lit object, switch the lens back to manual focus (MF) mode to lock the focus at infinity, being careful not to twist the focus ring and mess up your focusing work. A flashlight can also be helpful if you wish to instead focus on a foreground object rather than infinity.

Regardless of the method of focus, make a test shot of the stars with the exposure settings above to check your focus. Zoom the LCD all the way into the image review to make sure that the stars look like pinpoints, if they are out of focus circular blobs, re-focus and check again. Always zoom the LCD into the preview review to check the focus, don’t take the initial thumbnail at face value. Once your shots are in focus, a piece of electrical tape or gaffer’s tape between the focus ring and the lens body can help prevent you from bumping the focus.

Understanding the Histogram and Adjusting Exposure

The settings that you calculated above when we setup your camera should be a good start. Once you are satisfied with your focus and your framing, the next thing is optimizing your exposure. This is where we will review the camera’s histogram information (The histogram is usually available by pressing “INFO” or “Display” or Up/Down arrows when reviewing photos. It really depends on your camera so check your instruction manual.)  Typically we will desire a histogram that shows peaks toward the center of the graph from left to right. See below for examples of histograms for various exposures of the Milky Way.

how to read your camera's histogram

Try to push your camera to the limits of its light gathering capability without compromising quality. Check and re-check your image review, zoom in on the LCD to check focus, review the histogram for exposure information and re-compose your frame throughout the night. Once you find an exposure you like, you can usually maintain the same exposure throughout the night.

Full article…

Homepage Real Estate Allocation

by Jakob Nielsen

Summary: Websites spend too little homepage screen space on content of interest to users and fail to utilize modern monitor sizes. And? It’s worse now than it was 12 years ago 🙁

Corporate homepages are the most valuable real estate in the world. Millions of dollars are funneled through an area that’s roughly one square foot in size — 0.1 m2 — if we consider only the region above the fold. (The top part of web pages gets the lion’s share of user attention.)

How is this valuable real estate allocated? Very inefficiently. Most pixels go to waste.

A homepage has two main goals: to give users information, and to provide top-level navigation to additional information inside the site. However, these two goals accounted for only 36% of the screen space across a sample of 50 homepages.

A third important homepage goal is to tell users the site’s purpose and where they are relative to the Web as a whole. Sites typically accomplish this using a logo and a tagline. On the sample sites, these elements were sometimes much too big; on average, however, sites spent an appropriate 3% of space welcoming and situating the user. Even including these elements, however, the sample sites allocated less than half the screen space to useful pixels.

Saddest of all? These statistics are even worse now than they were 12 years ago when I conducted a similar exercise:

  • In 2001, 45% of the screen was useful (content, navigation, or logo/tagline).
  • In 2013, 39% of the screen was useful.

Read full article…

 

How to Photograph the Milky Way

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Wide field landscape astrophotography is an impressive form of photography, and it’s accessible to nearly everyone.

Astrophotography in its simplest form is increasing in accessibility, especially with today’s affordable, large sensor, high signal-to-noise ratio digital cameras. In my opinion, there are few photographs that have as much existential impact as a nighttime landscape against the Milky Way.

Equipment

There are a few things that you will need. Here is a concise checklist of the most helpful things:

  • Digital Camera with Manual Controls
  • Wide Angle Lens
  • Tripod
  • Flashlight or Headlamp
  • Intervalometer Remote Timer (Optional)
  • Smartphone Star Map App (Optional)
  • Dark Location at a Dark Time of Night

Digital Camera with Manual Controls

It is a common misconception that you need an expensive camera and lens combination to make a great Milky Way photograph. Pretty much any Digital SLR (DSLR) or camera with a Micro 4/3 sensor or larger is more than capable of photographing the Milky Way, especially when paired with the right lens. DSLRs are the most common high performance cameras available and they offer an excellent price-to-performance ratio. If you’re interested, I  personally use the following camera systems for the photos on Lonely Speck:

Even the Canon EOS M, which can be found for less than $300, is one of the cameras I use for making the photos you see here.

Fast Wide Angle Lens

A “fast” wide angle lens is the most important piece of equipment that will make your Milky Way photograph the easiest to make. The important traits are a low aperture f/number rating and short focal length. The lower the f/number rating, the faster and better the lens will be for really dark shooting conditions. Most digital camera kits come with the ubiquitous 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. The minimum f/number of that lens (at 18mm) is f/3.5 which is a little bit “slow” for Milky Way photography. You can squeeze by with a slower kit lens like the common 18-55mm, but keep in mind that you will actually see a tangible difference with a faster lens that has a lower f/number rating.

Milky Way over Mt. Pinos, Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye, Defished

Read on…

Breaking Web Design Conventions = Breaking the User Experience

by Katie Sherwin

Bucknell University’s Controversial Redesign

When Bucknell University redesigned its website and broke away from some long-established conventions, it generated a lot of buzz in the higher-education web community. Applauded by some and condemned by others, the design has been hotly debated on Twitter and on blogs. And sure enough, attendees in my University Websites course wondered about it.

Bucknell University's redesigned homepage

Conclusion

Bucknell University isn’t alone in its desire to stand out and create a modern look and feel. Many websites in all kinds of industries do this, hoping to stick out among the crowd and impress their users. Moreover, when designing a responsive site that works for multiple devices, it’s easy to ignore the different demands of those individual devices and produce a design that works poorly on some.

Unfortunately, the reality is that too often, resources are spent on making the site look great or creating an innovative widget, and usability is neglected until the very end of development (if it’s even ever looked at). Ideally, you’ll be doing testing throughout the project, be it testing your information architecture, creating and testing wireframes and paper prototypes, and conducting usability tests with real users on all the devices that you’re targeting with your design, all with enough time before the launch so that you can iterate your designs and test them again.

Any budget that has room for an expensive glossy redesign should also have room for usability testing. As demonstrated in this article, a single day of user research easily identifies the worst design flaws. This tiny investment protects you from wasted investments in trendy design that will damage your business goals and lose hundreds of times more than the cost of user testing. Instead of guessing what customers want, find out. Then design for your users, not for glitz.

Read full article…