for Stock Photography Now
As one can see, there are many difficulties in this site that make it less user-friendly and usable than its target audience expects it to be. The site has also likely "bitten off more than it can chew." It is trying to compete in a market dominated by several successful and well-known pay stock photography sites such as Getty Images, Digital Vision, Photos to Go, Photos.com, and a handful of others. That's a lot of sites to consume in the quest to be "the best source of top quality visual content for graphic and web designers ranging from the novice to the creative professional."
This isn't to say that Stock Photography Now can't be successful; only that I don't believe it can compete in the market with its current positioning. It just can't fully serve the market. If the site is any measure, Stock Photography Now doesn't have the resources to compete in the entire royalty-free stock photography market. I also believe that Stock Photography Now may be a one- or two-person business (certainly less than five). It is with this belief that I make the following recommendations. (I attempted to contact the business, but I did not receive a response.)
1. Refine the line
As noted above, Stock Photography Now's photos have some standouts (I particularly like the Glass series), some that I believe will do well in competition with the rest of the market. I would guess about half. Among the photo's subjects, they also focus on objects and nature. This, then, is where Stock Photography Now MUST start.
Weed out the photos that are unlikely to sell, and focus only on those photos that are much more likely to be useful to the target audience (graphic designers, magazines, book publishers, advertising and design agencies, television and film producers, government and not-for-profit organizations).
To test the pulse of the stock photography community, it may be possible to acquire market statistics to determine the kinds of photos that sell and how often. Even if the top sellers do not match the best of Stock Photography Now, I believe it is still possible for the business to succeed.
To succeed, Stock Photography Now must define a niche for themselves, much as Apple Computer (the most obvious) and other businesses have. They must focus on what they do well, and do that very, very well -- with a religious fervor. The niche should encompass the best photos of Stock Photography Now and focus on what the business photographs best: objects and nature, it would seem.
In this way, the business can create value for visitors and customers. It is this value that customers purchase, not just photographs, and its consistency.
2. Re-define the business
The re-definition of the business may also entail renaming the business to clearly align the "new" business with its "new" products.
Once Stock Photography Now has defined its niche in the market, selected the type of photography on which to focus sales, perhaps chosen a new name to accurately reflect its renewed focus, it is time to rebuild its web site. This will entail leaving the old site behind and building a new site from what has been learned, just as I've recommended for the business.
3. Re-build the site
The new site must take into account the experience, sophistication and expectations of its audience. The site's designers should review other successful stock photography sites (some were mentioned previously in this article), define what they feel makes the site successful concerning design and functionality, and then improve upon those characteristics and features for the new Stock Photography Now site.
The designers should review the tenets of effective web and information design (many good books are available, among them a few by Jakob Nielsen), and follow these "rules" so that the visitor's experience becomes invisible, transparent, so the visitor can focus on reviewing and purchasing photographs. In general:
- screen real estate must be used wisely, to get as much content above the fold (bottom of the browser window) as possible to keep the visitor moving smoothly to their selected destinations in the site.
- Navigation should be consistent and above the fold, too, effortlessly accessed. As a general rule, no destination should be more than 2 clicks from the home page.
- Give visitors thumbnails and entice them to purchase as soon as possible.
- Choose a color scheme of 4 or 5 coordinating colors (there are many pre-determined color schemes available on the Internet) to create the mood and atmosphere of the site. If the site is to be exciting and new, bright colors should be used.
Identifying and following these tenets will measurably increase usability and user-friendliness.
As a transitional measure, the existing Stock Photography Now site can be updated to improve its usability and friendliness. Of course, new coordinating colors should be adopted.
- The page banners must be reduced in height, and the unused space at the top of the screen beside the banner can be made useful by moving the statistics into the space.
- The page banners should also link back to the home page instead of bookmarking the site.
- Links at the bottom of pages can be moved to the tops of the pages (possibly aligned right and with an arrow to indicate that the text is navigation).
- Link colors should be changed to differentiate links from regular text.
- The site's flow should be changed to place visitors immediately at the categories list, to encourage them to immediately browse the photographs.
- The poorest photographs should be removed from the site.
Thumbnails should accompany the series links; visitors can make selections from these "samples" and view the entire series. The thumbnails should be linked to open larger, watermarked images in new windows, and possibly these larger images can be used as comp images and, therefore, provide much greater value than the thumbnails alone. Thumbnails can remain the same size, but should be placed into three or four columns, whatever space allows, instead of two, to reduce scrolling.
The ad placeholder
The ad placeholder should be deleted and that space opened up for content since no ad ever appears in that space; the site's purpose is not to sell advertising but photographs, and the placeholder undeniably shouts "under construction."
The problems that plague the Stock Photography Now site must be solved beginning at the business's foundation. Rather than compete in a market where it is the underdog in nearly every respect, Stock Photography Now might take Seth Godin's (SethGodin.com) inspiring principles to heart, and redefine their business mission, purpose and goals, and become a "purple cow," a standout in the royalty-free stock photography market.
For Stock Photography Now to be successful, I believe that it will take more than a makeover of the web site. It will take a clear understanding of their place in the market, a clear mission to fit very, very tightly into that place in the market, a clear definition of success in that place in the market, and a clear, firm commitment to the renewed business model.
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