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Selling Online : HolstPhoto.com

Our new series ‘Selling online’, follows on from our very successful ‘Q&A’s for new business bloggers‘ series. Inspired by the post ‘How to sell online in 60 seconds‘; online retailers can submit their website for us to provide custom feedback on how you can sell better online (Good times, people!)

Our first brave online retailer was Lorna of Garrendenny Lane.  Read our first online review here.


Today we will be evaluating the sellability of HolstPhoto.com for owner and incredible photographer Viv Van Der Holst.

First impressions

For a photography site I was looking for the ‘ooo ahhhh’ factor – a stunning website to blow me away, so it was a little disappointing to be faced with so much grey. Let me not deceive you however, Viv’s photos are simply stunning, BUT the general tone of the website I felt didn’t do them justice. There are sites which lead with imagery – take Thomson Travel for example . By filling the background with an idealist tropical holiday shot, the site leaves you with little doubt as to what you will get (Your imagination does the rest!) This is actually something that’s extremely clever – Thomson don’t sell destinations, they sell flights and hotels. They know their target well, and sun, sand and palm trees are more of an enticement than planes and hotel windows ever will be(as lovely as they are of course).

The slideshow on the homepage of holstPhoto.com is captivating, but it doesn’t leap out at you. I believe that enlarging the images and using them in a more imaginative way would take the breath away of any visitor (and increase sales).

I also felt that the colour images were intensely more appealing than the black and white images, and would have suffused the page with colour if used predominantly (much like the tone of the Sony Bravia adverts)

Love the share buttons across pages for easy social media sharing.

There is some text over-lapping at the top of the page ‘Store: Online Shopping…’ and ‘Contact’ which needs to be re-aligned.

The slideshow photograph-style frame is a classic and the cute newborn image is just darling!

Design and Branding – have you ‘wowed’ your audience?

The design of the website is minimalist and subtle. The branding similar, with an emphasis on professional and an understated, classical allure. It may well be the case that Viv wanted the photography to ‘sell’ his services and for nothing else to detract from this goal (would be a wise thought). I have seen though, a number of classy, yet creative logos which give some insight into the personality of the photographer .  I’ve also seen some photographer websites that sell with simplicity and lead with their work .

I tend to find in the trade that many business owners are talked into a website which is neutral and professional, but I’m finding more and more, that edgy, fresh and individual is taking the online world by storm – A selection of beautiful photography deserves a site with an individual twist and I would love to see that happen with Viv’s photography.

A few notes: Some text is all caps in the menus and some are lower case. Consistency in styling is easier on the eye.

Navigation – finding a service

This website is extremely well-optimised and is on the first page for searches on ‘wedding photographer Dublin’ and ‘commercial photographer Dublin’. I would be optimising the website a tab bit more for ‘newborn photography’ (obvious avoiding child photography!) and ‘decor photography’.
Internally, the site is ultra easy to navigate with the core categories as the main navigation and all other types available within the gallery.

When you click on a category you are inundated with options. Great for SEO, but can be slightly distracting for visitors. Consider your target goals and the placement of these goals. If contact, then ensure this is in the optimum placement for visitors. ‘Shop’ is the first thing I see when clicking on the Wedding Photography page, but is this the goal? If not, move it down or use a graphic to differentiate.

Categories are clearly defined within the footer – great for SEO and fluid navigation after scrolling.

Enquiries – making contact

If I click on the email address, I’m taken to a contact page. Slightly confusing, but glad that there is a contact page and that it also includes an email option and phone number. For many, a mobile number can be off-putting. I use one to free up my land line, and I imagine Viv uses one because he’s on the road. An alternative is to publish a landline and forward to a mobile.

Prior to making contact, a visitor may browse for prices. ‘View our prices for your wedding’ takes me to a page with more images, but no prices. I need to click on one of the photos to view prices. It is always best practice to limit the number of clicks to an intended goal.

If I click on ‘book now’ I come to yet another page which discusses distance and further costs. I would keep the additional travel costs as transparent as possible and earlier on in the process. You may find when tracking the booking process path, that the drop off is high on this page. Add to bag and checkout are easy enough.

Payment options are Credit Card and Paypal, with no mention of Laser. If this is accepted, I would definitely mention it. You could also add in Google Checkout (becoming extremely popular) and Worldpay for further options.

After leisurely browsing the website and viewing Viv’s style, I can see that he has a way of capturing natural beauty and has a true photographer’s eye for taking a shot of the perfect moment. The site is polished and professional, but lacks that ‘wow’ factor. If the photography was allowed to lead, I whole-heartedly believe that the sky is the limit!

Images sourced from www.holstPhoto.com

What are your thoughts on HolstPhoto.com?
What you like us to feature a review of your ecommerce website? Comment with the site address below.

6 Comments

  1. Mairéad Kelly

    I agree the grey background doesn’t do justice to the photos and is a little too “serious” for such lovely photographs. I completely disagree with the need to have a landline number in this day and age.  In today’s world nearly everyone has a mobile number and if you have a landline number, are out and about the chances are it will be diverted to the mobile anyway.

    1. Christina Giliberti

      Thanks for commenting Mairead. Someone not scared to be as honest as us (grrr).

      I probably should explain my ‘landline’ comment a bit better – after a number of chats over the years, I’ve discovered that consumers can be put off by a mobile number. They’re worried about scams, high call costs, that the retailer is small and doesn’t have an office, etc. Obviously in the real world, there are plenty of home workers and salespeople who are on the road and would use a mobile number. Appears to be a general perception and a trust factor. For Viv, a mobile would likely be expected, but there are ways and means to forward calls which eradicate the trust issue for 100% of people.

      1. Viv van der Holst

        Hi all, thanks for the feedback on my website, I have learnt alot from it. I have over the last week or 2 been putting more work into it again, as I also felt it was lacking a little but didn’t have an object view on it anymore, so the comments gave me great place to start working on it again. I applied a new template to the site, switched my hosting from Godaddy to Hostgator, which speeds it up x2. I have redesigned my logo, but not sure about it. I have a landline thru my ISP, but no luck getting it forwarded, so not advertising the number at present. Any more feedback is always welcome. http://www.holstphoto.com to check the changes

        1. Christina Giliberti

          Hi there Viv,

          Have you thought about a VoIP number via skype
          or Blueface for your calls? Also, I actually like the sketchy, arty
          nature of the logo, but I’m happy to design one for you if you like ; 0 )The site leads well with images and the new theme and lower sections with images works better than the previous theme. Well done. We’d love to hear how this is impacting on conversions (sales).

  2. Lorna

    A really thorough analysis here Christina, lots of food for thought for any website. I like the grey though, think it allows the stunning photos to really shine. good point about the mobile number too, something I must look into re getting the landline diverted.

    1. Christina Giliberti

      Hello Lorna,

      Its always refreshing to hear various opinions. Design, I find, is quite a personal thing. There you go Viv – the grey can be your foil to ‘lift’ the images. Its an interesting area; colours and harmonising. There is a designer in Cork that I have up-most respect and praise for when it comes to harmonising colours is John Sheahan (www.eggdesign.ie). Slight changes to shades of colours or overlaying colours can have a huge impact.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

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