February 19, 2018

Modern layout and design concepts for photo blogs

A photo blog [also written as photoblog] should not be taken as a collection of photos on a website but a professionally presented portfolio. It must show the talent and best creations of the photographer, look visually appealing, make it easy for the visitor to find what he is looking for. If the blog is used for selling the photographs, the blog should help in the buyer easily find the right photo, know the terms, easily make the payment and instantly take possession of the photo.

A proper layout helps the photo-blogger achieve his goals, as much as a bad layout confuses visitors or makes them unsure about the photographer's terms and the quality of his work.

Before you choose layout that would suit your blog the best, keep in mind that the design must achieve easy navigation (= taking a path to find something) and quick finding of resources.

For achieving intuitive navigation and resource discovery, the back end work of tagging photographs is very important. Many bloggers ignore this aspect and have to spend much more time later on in fixing problems. What you need to do is to make a list of tags which you will use for categorizing your photos. Tags should generally tell the genre of photography, type of photograph and location. (We'd come to the display of categories later, and discuss various content-related matters in a subsequent post. Please visit this post if you are interested in the best way to put tag and make use of them.)

Nothing can beat the 'menu bar' when it comes to navigation. Menu bar is a strip or a list of items that help visitors in finding resources. 

There can be two types of menu bars on photo blogs:
  1. a menu bar with links to photographer's details, other services, terms of use, etc; and
  2. a menu bar with links to various categories and sub-categories of photographs.
Menu bars can be placed on the blog at various places: 
  • A horizontal menu bar at the very top of the visual area. This area suits contact details etc. more than categories, which need a better placement of menu bar.
  • A horizontal bar under the title. If the title is in one corner, this menu bar can be on the side of the title. This is the most visible and desirable place to have a menu bar.
  • If one type of menu bar is kept on top portion of the blog, another can be placed in the lower part - just below the main photo area or as a semi-transparent strip over the photos.
  • A vertical list of menu items in the left side bar is another good place to show the main menus. The vertical menu bar can accommodate many more menu items than a horizontal bar.
    Title, though very important for any website, need not bother you as far as its placement goes. In most cases, the title goes either on top and is centrally aligned or is located on one side.

    One must choose the number and placement of photographs in relation to one another very carefully, because this is what is the main content of any photo blog. I have given three layout ideas* here, with different sizes and placements of photos. There can be more combinations based on placement of menu bar, title and image areas.

    Please have a look at the first and third diagrams. Many professional photo bloggers choose a big photo or a big photo with a few asymmetrically arranged small photos covering a big area of the blog. Mostly the photos (if more than one) are on the same subject. 

    Care is taken that even though photos cover the screen, menu bar is clearly visible.

    When a big photo takes up most of the space, other photos can be used as thumbnails, so that other types of photos do not get completely ignored. If the photographer deals with many types of photography, he can use the main area for the dominant type and use thumbs to give samples of other types. If the photo blogger has a narrow niche (e.g. bird photography), thumbs can be used to give the rich range of photos (e.g. different types of birds, in different actions/moods).

    Some bloggers prefer to place a mosaic of photographs, as shown in the second diagram. Sometimes thumbs representing different categories are displayed and sometimes each photograph shows its story when cursor is hovered over it. This type has the advantage that one can put a very large number of photos. But this makes the blog look a bit cluttered. 

    Though these arguably are the most efficient layouts for photo blogs, a photo blog's layout can be much different. A flip-card style arrangement of photos in a grid, magazine style display in which each photo gets good display and has a big caption and a front-page with a big photo that opens into a proper homepage are some other popular examples.

    The photo blog, even more than other blogs, must be designed with patience. The wire-frame or sketch must be filled with different photographs to see the best visual impact. The play of photos and space must be studied so that while there is no wastage of space, the screen should not look cluttered or suffocating. 

    Finally, it is a matter of choice. Almost all types of layouts that can display photos well - especially the three shown above - work well if these design principles are applied.

    *: If you like a more detailed discussion on the topic, please visit our photo blog series a the given link.

    February 13, 2018

    6 reasons why most social media influencers are fake

    People make money fooling the gullible - and this has been there since ages. You can call such people cheats but a better definition of most such people will be that they are 'guys who arrived there before others'.

    If thieves and outright fraudsters are coming to your mind, forget them. I am talking about smart guys on the www.

    Take the example of old SEO people. The made huge money by just repeating a keyword ten times in the 'keyword meta-tag' of their website/ blog because search engines thought that such websites/ blogs were highly relevant for that keyword and thus placed them on top of search results.

    There are hundreds of such examples. Let's take a fresh example before we come to 'influencers'. Fake news has spread on social media to such an extent that Facebook, Twitter and others are blowing their horns to tell what great actions they are taking against it. Before the tech biggies can take credible actions against the fake news spreaders, the fake-news would have served its purpose well.

    Now, social media influencers. There are thousands of social media practitioners who show off their new-found identity on the www and also in the real world. You visit a class on making money through blogging and you'd find them; they are there on tutorial sites teaching their techniques; they are even in social gatherings, flashing their visiting cards as social media influencers!

    Good or bad, the social media influencer is a 'big' guy!

    Who is really a social media influencer?

    A good working definition to go by will be like this: A social media influencer is the one who has high reputation on the web and has a big number of followers who believe him and therefore their  opinions are likely to be influenced by his recommendations.

    By this definition, big bloggers who get a good number of comments and social shares on/for his blog, Facebook entities with multi-thousand followers and thousands of 'likes' on their posts,  Twitterati with enormous number of followers, and similar big guys on other social networking and bookmarking platforms are indeed 'social media influencers'.

    But there is a catch. No, many catches! Let's now count them:

    1. Most followers are fake.
    It has been found that a good number of followers of many world leaders are fake. Most politicians have fake follower numbers on Twitter. During the last general elections in India, some politicians' followers rose overnight from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands and most of them were found to be from Ujbekistan and other countries least relevant for Indian elections!

    2. Many followers have been bought or are mutual back-scratchers.
    People who want to show the world they are social media influencers work on many fronts, and buying followers is part of their strategy. Besides outright fake followers (discussed above), one can buy 'real' followers whose accounts have been created at the back-end of tech teams. They keep creating a large number of accounts and even keep maintaining them once in a while so that they look natural and real.

    Many links also come just by following others. Many of the guys who claim millions of followers on Twitter also have millions of people followed by them. The idea is to keep following others so that some of them follow back; and later on unfollowing those who did not follow back.

    3. Most followers are dormant.
    People follow celebrities when they visit their accounts by chance or by way of curiosity or when there is some controversy or big news about them. After than the followers lose interest but they do not 'unfollow' them. Moreover, only a small percentage of people on social sites visit their accounts regularly.

    I did a small check just now: I picked up 10 top world leaders and checked their 50 Twitter followers for number of followers they had and how active they were on Twitter. As apprehended, over 90% of all of them had lower than 10 followers and had not tweeted for the last 20 days.

    4. Messages are lost in the crowd.
    Some genuine followers might be visiting their accounts regularly. But, if they follow thousands of accounts, they will be able to see only the messages of a few people which are current at that time. Other messages would have gone down the drain.

    5. Some statistics does not mean much.
    Some people add all types of numbers to show their 'influence', and these numbers include hits and visits on their blogs over time (hits are just junk; visits would include own visits and also spam), numbers on stat counters on their sites or blogs (their base can be artificially kept at a high figure and they can be tweaked manually now and then), and so on.

    6. Numbers are OK but do the followers care for his opinion?
    Finally, even if their numbers were big after all discounts, do the 'followers' listen to them? Followers are generally people who are interested in the person's activities and views, not his disciples. They care a hoot for that person's recommendations unless the person in question is their political leader or religious head.

    I have also found that a large number of politicians and journalists are followers of politicians of all hues. This they do so that they do not miss any statement made by that politician, not because they like his ideas.

    When it comes to political decisions, I do not think followers matter much. One, because of the reasons given above, and two, because not all genuine followers also belong to his constituency or will go to vote for him.

    Buying decisions are also seldom taken based on following, except in rare cases.

    The only social media influencers who seem to have influence on a section of their followers are the preachers, highly credible thinkers, top politicians and celebrities with real fan-following (charismatic actors, players, singers etc). But here too, such social media followers are already their true followers and the followers are already influenced - and in their case, social media is just 'preaching to the choir' or influencing the already influenced.

    February 10, 2018


    Next Is Best

    I write about SEO, Digital Marketing, Product Reviews etc. At nextisbest, I counsel young individuals on career choices. I successfully run this blog to help and share my experiences.
    - Vikas Singh