Editor’s Note: Fabrizia Costa is a portrait and wedding photographer who also helps photographers raise the level of their work and their business through workshops and personal coaching. Her work is all about deep shifts in perspective, seeing things with new eyes, and thinking outside the box. If you’re a professional wedding or portrait photographer, you can join her free Outside the Box Evolution group on Facebook.

You may have heard how important it is to make a good first impression and how quickly that happens when we meet someone, but few realize that we have a chance to stand out or be totally dismissed every minute of every day — even while we sleep!

Our homepage is out there, in the cold deep space of the World Wide Web, open for action and ready to welcome visitors from every corner of the galaxy. Or is it? What actually happens when people land there from outer WWW-space? Is it a cozy hub playing jazz music and serving luscious green drinks with hologram umbrellas, or is it a run-down shack on the edge of a desert with stale crisps and a few weird bugs scurrying about?

If you’re like most photographers, you start thinking of your homepage as a place to stick a big bold photo on, a good introduction to your business in decent grammar, a bold and possibly cool logo and a link to an image gallery or two.

It’s all good and well — but why should I (a prospective client) keep looking at your website? Unless your image is so good it makes me stay, I’ll very easily get bored and move on. Why should I click on yet another gallery? What is it that will make me stay and see more of you? Do you smell that good?

These are the things we have to keep in mind when you want to put together a homepage. Whether you do it yourself or get someone else to make it for you, you have to make sure the right stuff goes up there.

You Have Less than Five Seconds

Think of it as your one and only chance to grab someone’s attention: You have less than five seconds to convince them you’re worth their time (and if they’re younger, you only have two seconds). Which in the cold deep space of the World Wide Web is really, really hard. Nobody has time. People just want information, as much as possible in as little time as possible. Possibly with some entertainment attached. Or magic. Or luscious green drinks. You get the idea.

So, you may ask, how do we do that? Seems an impossible task, but if you take care of a few basic principles, you’ll probably pull it off. So here goes the list of ingredients: take a tall pitcher and add them one by one, making sure you follow the right order (or it will flop).

Your Brand is Your Starting Point

Your brand is not just your cool logo — it’s everything to do with you, your work, your image. It’s how you write, what you say, how you say it. Which colors you use. Which fonts you use. Which images, of course, and how you show yourself to be.

Your brand needs to look well thought out and professional, and everything you put up on your website has to reflect it and seamlessly flow together.

If you made your own logo, get other professionals to look at it and tell you whether it’s good or not (and be prepared to ditch it if it’s not). No logo is better than having a bad logo — that’s the mantra to remember. Choose your colors carefully. Search for the meaning of colors and find something that fits your brand, your mood and your style.

To define your brand, you can run a little exercise.

Think of your business as a person. If you had to describe it in three words, which would you use? And when you’ve done that, ask yourself, do these words resonate with you? Putting yourself into your brand is really important, and if you’re a black jeans and Avengers t-shirt kind of gal, why is your website filled with pink butterflies?

If you’re too far off, get back to the drawing board, pour yourself a drink (any color) and make sure your business aligns with you. Time spent at the beginning of this process is never time wasted. The last thing you want is to have to rebrand a year from now because what you have out there looks like it belongs to your pet groomer.

Once your logo, your colors, your style fit together well, you can bang some awesome images into it. Galleries, oh my galleries. We’ll look at those next week — now go and play with those elvish fonts you’ve been thinking about for years. Oh, that’s for a tattoo, right? Right.

You can read part 2 here.

Read all of Fabrizia’s Photofocus articles.

Fabrizia’s Finding Your Superpowers-a 21 day journey of discovery and transformation workshop starts 7/14/2018. Register now!