Last week I launched a brand new website for The Fount Collective. (ahh! Be sure to go check it out!)
Do you ever get an idea for this big project, and then jump in head first without really having a solid plan on how fast it will realistically get done? (Guilty!!) While launching Fount’s new website took me much longer than I had originally planned, I am so pleased with how it all came out!
I had a conversation with someone recently about the benefits I have experienced in creating your own websites, and why I have chosen the platforms that I have over the years for different seasons- so I thought it would be a helpful post to share with you!
Over the last year or so, I have been watching the new Showit 5 websites pop up and have been drooling over their design capabilities, and especially how that custom design could carry so well over to mobile devices. The Fount Collective, which is a second brand & business that I founded, was in desperate need of a design overhaul this year. It was one of my biggest goals as I began 2017.
My very first photography website was hosted on Blogger. It was a free domain, a free website, and I pretty much knew nothing about everything. Since social media was nothing like it is today, it was a good start in sharing my work and business with the world.
When I finally got my own custom domain, I built a site on WordPress, using a Prophoto theme.
Shortly after that, Showit seemed to be the number one choice for almost every single photographer I followed. At the time, they were building a community- and honestly I think that was my favorite part. When I signed up for a Showit site, I was becoming part of a community of photographers- friends I may never have met otherwise! I was still such a new photographer, so this opportunity to connect and network with other professionals, learn from others, and be a part of something really amazing was very attractive to me. At the time Showit was really the cutting edge for photography websites, so even though it cost much more than I had paid in the past, I decided to invest.
I started making my own Showit site based on a simple template I purchased. I still kept my ProPhoto site for my blog, but was adding Showit as more of a portfolio site. Since I had made my own websites up until this point, at first I decided to still do the same. Showit has always been known for their drag and drop website builder, and as someone who was still figuring out all the tech part of being a photographer, it was a great fit for me.
However, there was a missing piece. A BIG missing piece. I didn’t have a brand yet. After walking through 1-1 mentoring with Justin & Mary, hiring a professional graphic designer to visually create and share what we came up with during that mentoring became a top priority. While I wanted to stay as self sufficient as I could, I had reached a wall where my skill levels couldn’t take me and I needed to invest in help.
I had never had a professional logo or branding of any kind up until this point. It was one of the greatest financial investments I had made in my business. But it not only gave me a professional looking website, I had a professional looking BRAND for the first time- and it definitely made a difference in how seriously people began to take me as a business owner, and how my perceived value grew in the eyes of my clients. I finally started to look like a real photography business that I had been dreaming about. But the best part was that I had begun to build my website on Showit before this designer came in and took over, so I knew a lot about how it worked, and I was able to keep my site updated and make changes as I needed to.
I never gave up my ProPhoto Blog- and in fact, I still use it today. But a few years ago, I was no longer pleased with Showit. They weren’t providing any updates, and my website was quickly falling behind the times of what else was out there. The community started to fall apart in a leadership transition, and it was like everything I loved about Showit no longer existed. The deciding factor in giving it up was that I was still paying a premium monthly payment for it- and I was not ok with promises of updates that never seemed to come while still paying twice as much as more updated websites seemed to provide elsewhere.
So I cancelled my Showit subscription and moved my entire site to ProPhoto. This was limiting in the design, as ProPhoto is really best for a blog, and not a blog AND a website. Or at least, it was at the time. But ProPhoto was a one time payment, so I took advantage of the opportunity to save some money and keep it that way for quite a while.
Then Squarespace came on the scene. It was seemingly everything I thought that Showit has been missing. Better mobile options, fresh looks. Something I could do myself. In fact, my first Squarespace site was for The Fount Collective. We had launched Fount on WordPress but we quickly outgrew what we had built. As I did research on Squarespace, I found that we could spend the same amount of money that we were spending on Shopify for Commerce, by going with Squarespace- and have way more website and design options when we did.
Showit eventually began to overhaul their platform, and their new updates were producing sites that were visually incredible. I’ve kept an eye on their sites for quite some time, considering that when it came time to renew Squarespace, moving over may be a possibility- ESPECIALLY since they connect with WordPress Blogs now. I do NOT like blogging with Squarespace at all. I don’t think the SEO is as effective, the only way to change an image size is to surround it with spacer blocks, we had so many issues with sharing links on Facebook with a featured image actually showing up- my list goes on.
After doing research on what sort of templates I could customize from scratch, comparing pricing, and design capabilities- I decided that I would launch the new website and blog that Fount so desperately needed on Showit 5 this Spring. Truthfully I thought I could build it a lot faster than I did- but Showit had completely changed since I had used it years ago- which was a good thing because they finally had made the updates that I was really wanting!
It wasn’t all unicorns and roses of a launch process, if we are being honest. Moving Fount over was such a huge project because I wanted to be sure that all the blog posts and many of the pages kept their same url so that nothing got lost or disconnected. With Showit, you can’t login to WordPress until it essentially goes live. Because I wasn’t changing the domain name, that meant that the site would have to go live before it was completely finished. (Talk about stressful!)
When I finally had the design the way that I wanted, Showit connected me to WordPress, the site went live, and then I had to frantically hustle to set featured images, load content, and make sure everything was connected properly. I mention this because I knew that I couldn’t login to WordPress until the site went live, but I didn’t plan on setting the featured images for each post, or fixing the excerpts, or any of those things- time I would have scheduled better had I known.
Showit being the ones who migrated my blog for me, while I was grateful to not have to figure out that process by myself, I was given a window of 3-8 days for it to be finished. It only took 24 hours- and while the unexpected speed was AWESOME- it was also really stressful because I just had no idea when I was going to have to drop everything to hustle and fix all the last minute things- all while anyone could have been browsing around an unfinished site.
(And just in case you’re thinking a Cover Page that said Coming Soon would have been a solution- because I was keeping all the page domains and permalinks to each previously published blog post the same, the only page that would have worked on would have been the Home Page itself- any blog post link found on social media would have bypassed the Cover Page.)
BUT- I am so glad that we chose Showit. I love how the site looks, and it really gives Fount the room to grow that we needed. So far there are only a few things I miss about Squarespace.
– I miss the Squarespace Forms. Forms in Squarespace are SO easy to make, and for Fount, we use forms for EVERYTHING. We have transferred our forms over to Google Docs, but so far I don’t love this change!
– I also miss Squarespace Commerce. We are currently using Shopify for a cart system since we sell our printed publication, and will also use the shop feature in the future for our workshop registrations, etc. However, Squarespace Commerce was a little less of a headache, and was included in our website monthly payment for about the same price that we pay for Showit without it.
Other than that, the benefits really compensate for the things that I miss so far. So much so, that I think my next summer project is going to be moving my own photography website and blog to Showit as well. (of course, that’s after I take a good breather!)
Your business website is SO important. It’s often the very first impression your clients are going to have with you- and I can’t even count how many times I have searched for something online, stumbled across a confusing or outdated website, and quickly clicked to the next without purchasing, contacting, or learning more. It doesn’t have to be a 10 thousand dollar website to be professional or to book your ideal clients- but it does have to fit your brand and best represent your work and who you are as a photographer or as a creative. While a professional designer may or may not be the best fit for you in this season, I wouldn’t trade the ability to create my own for the world!
It’s easier to say all of this on the other side of the launch and look back and feel grateful (if you asked me during the design and launch process, I probably would have thrown my laptop at your head) but on THIS side, I can say that I am so glad we moved Fount’s website over to Showit 5, and that I took the time to learn new things to grow my business!
A huge thank you to Krista Jones at The Palm Shop for being so helpful as I navigated the launching process!