Sunday, November 28, 2010

"I am more interested in thriving photographers than thriving Flash developers..."

A quote you can definitely use...

This retort was to a discussion on Flickr about web design. You can find the totality of it here. The italics are me quoting someone who took issue with my statements in a post above.

I have strong beliefs and they have to do with photographers becoming successful... period. I have little to gain from my positions other than the deeply held understanding of how the web works.

"Two main appeals of Flash to photographers are the better control of the layout at any screen resolution (as opposed to HTML tables or CSS positioning),"

Well, that may be your opinion, but I have not had the opportunity to meet too many photographers who were interested in "better control of a layout" - unless you mean full screen viewing. And you well may mean that. And that is fine. I think I was pretty clear in stating that: "Flash can be used to make beautiful presentations and galleries," so you may choose to argue the point where I agree with you, but... well - whatever.

Having big-ass pictures on the screen and worried about stolen images is - well - a terrible conundrum to me. Yes, it makes the ability for Gramma to take your image a bit more difficult, but then, I am not really worried about 'Grams' taking my image. The people who could cause me real irritation are way too savvy to be deterred by mere flash. As a matter of fact, I had a discussion with a photographer about a year ago who was telling me that people couldn't steal his images cause they were Flash. So I did a nice little screen capture, printed a lovely 8x10 and sent it to him.

So go ahead and protect the image from Unca Joe, I will stay concerned about art directors for magazines who grew up with this stuff and are gonna get what they want. Hell, Flashgot will snatch entire image galleries... and it is a free FF extension.

"Well, this is wrong on many levels. A Flash site might be called a tool, not Flash itself. If you insist on calling Flash a tool, than it's an application building tool, and it should be judged as such. Flash has long ago grown into a general-purpose Web technology, and quite a powerful and already mature one. "

True. But then we were discussing PHOTOGRAPHY sites, were we not? Of course Flash is a fantastic tool for application construction. Linking with multiple DB's and its ability for realtime calling of information is very nice. I have designed several flash applications for business.

Not for artists or photographers. For them, the site is NOT a tool. It is a hindrance. (Aw shit, here I go again. Swore I wouldn't do this anymore.)

As an art director, I love to be able to bookmark individual images. Sharing that image with clients is how assignments get going. Being able to isolate the specific information is also very important.

A. Link to the image (non Flash)
B. "OK, go to this site, then click on "people" then scroll to "on assignment" then click seven images in... the one with the blue hat..."

See also this well documented piece from Photoshelter. There is a similar survey done by the editorial photographers association (sorry cannot find link but will look later today) that bore out the findings in the tight market of editors and magazine AD's.

They didn't give a damn about 'animation' and 'sliding thumbnails' - they want to get in to the site, see the images, contact the photographer (its just so convenient to have to retype the photographers email into your system because the photographers site is Flash so no cut and paste...) and make a call.

Another consideration that I like is the ability to modify the page. In Flash developed websites for photographers the general approach is like in the print world. It is 'finished' - done. The design is then static as well as the information presented. Static.

Of course there are all kinds of tools for updating the flash site, but adding in a couple of "stories: or a press release or a link to an article is - well, costly. Flash developers can make twice minimum wage I understand ( :-). So the photographer has to live with the design for a couple of years to make the investment worth it.

In addition, we hear about all the 'mirror' sites and 're-purposed content for IOS' and such. So what? Mirrored info is still, technically, against Google's TOS. Will they crack down? I dunno... do you? Does anybody? Run the risk if it is worth it to you.

As to SEO: While SEO as we know it will probably be done in the next 24 months, there is still a lot of energy being expended in finding stuff on the web. Google, Bing, AOL, Yahoo... all billion dollar businesses based on being able to find stuff.

But Flash developers say... ah, screw that finding attention, we'll build an html site that the SE's will find if they actually crawl the site to begin with. Since most of the last available tools SEO has to work with is content, searchable, relevant content, a flash 'mirror' site with 'welcome to my website' just is gonna fail.

Yeah. That's a tool?

Not one I am likely to endorse. An HTML website in CSS will be able to be modified quickly, from colors to layout without changing the content. It is searchable, it can be 'liked' on Facebook (who served more outgoing links in September and October than Google... just let that soak in...), it can be referenced, discussed, shared and commented on.

That - is a tool.

As far as clarifying what I said... the platform for the galleries can be flash. I love Dripbooks and Slideshowpro for delivering images. But that is NOT the platform for the site itself... in my opinion.

"...but the very low value attached to actual skills in using it...."

Well, OK. I choose not to insult those who come to my websites by saying it is a great site, but you are too stupid to use it. That seems to be what you are saying, but I may be reading more into it.

"That homeless web designer featured in the BBC 4 doc..." is someone I know very little about. That he is a web designer is something only he says. I wonder if he was any good. I wonder if he had any skills that would be considered valuable. I am very aware of the terrible, atrocious, downright lousy websites that are on the web... and many of them were built by "web designers"... so, excuse me if I don't give much credence to this sob story. I am doing pretty well, as are most of the folks I know in web design.

I find that we are where we are because of the choices we make. Period. Simple... and yet frustrating cause it is so easy to blame someone/something else for where we are. And that is both bad and good situations. (The world is currently engaged in a massive collective desire for a "do-over" and we will all bear the anguish of that stupid set of decisions... there are NO do-overs. Ever.)

"...maybe it's time to just forget about all the effort invested in this craft, and move on to something else. ..."

For him... yeah. For me, naww. I have too much to do and have been around the press for many decades. I know how they play to the sob-story and uneducated masses of hysterical blame other folks first crowd.

Build a site any way you want. It is hardass work being in business these days. From photography to design to development. Competition is fierce.

Same thing in the Pizza business, my bud tells me. So - we aren't alone.

If I was a photographer in a large to medium market and depended on getting my message out with the fewest available funds, I would work hard on SEO, SM and developing multiple points of entry for clients to find my work. Creating a portal with a minimal 'mirror' thing is - well, counterproductive in my mind.

I once had a photographer challenge me at a meeting where I was discussing this topic. His hand went up and he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm... "Jimmy Williams has a flash site, and he does OK with it."

He was of course right. Jimmy Williams does have a Flash site. He also has an LA rep, NY rep, London rep, Tokyo rep and a client list most of us would dream of. I explained that spending hundreds of thousands on marketing meant he could have any kind of site he wanted.

And I also said... "Yes, Jimmy Williams has a Flash website, but with all due respect, you aren't Jimmy Williams."

Now if you think that having a website built by the same people who built 'so and so's' website puts you into their league, I am not going to be the one to burst that bubble.

A website is the MOST important part of any photographers marketing strategy. Having a cheap or free one says a lot, and not any of it good. Having one no one can find means more dollars expended on traditional ways to drive business. Losing out on the possible assignments that could have been assigned because your site has NO content and is hidden from the SE's makes no sense to me at all.

Sure I step on Flash developers toes sometimes. I am way more interested in seeing thriving photographers than thriving Flash developers. I really am.

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